Group Exercise At Assessment Centres
When applying for a job, particularly as a graduate, you may be asked to attend an assessment centre to take part in a group exercise. This later stage of the interview process is designed to test communication skills and assess how well candidates work in a team.
What is a group exercise?
Group exercises take place in assessment centres and involve candidates working in groups of 8–10 to complete a task or solve a problem.
Each team is assessed throughout the process and every candidate is observed to see how they behave and perform within a group situation. This gives interviewers a good idea of how you work with others and how they envisage you fitting into the company.
Typically, the exercise starts with each applicant being given details of the problem or task and having time to think about how they would approach it. They are then put into groups and must voice their ideas and work together to find a solution.
The exercises are usually short and you may be asked to take part in several throughout the session, working with different combinations of people.
If the group can’t come together in person, the exercises may be carried out remotely. This involves each candidate accessing an online video calling tool to ‘meet’ their interviewers and peers. In this instance, the tasks or problems presented will be designed to work virtually, and the teams will be observed by an assessor who sits in on the session.
What competencies does a group exercise assess?
A group exercise gives your interviewers the chance to assess very particular skills. They are:
Candidates need to demonstrate that they can work well alongside their peers. They must show that they have the social skills to communicate confidently, without being either overbearing or shy.
Concentrate on being an active part of the team and speaking up when you have something to say. The interviewers will be observing how people interact and what roles they take within the group.
Some candidates naturally possess leadership skills and will try to steer the group. Others will sit back and take stock of the situation, offering a valuable contribution when relevant. Both types of people are needed for a team to work well together, so do whatever comes naturally to you.
A group interview is not the time to let your nerves get the better of you. If you’re too shy to speak, your interviewers will assume that you have nothing useful to add.
That said, assertiveness is not talking over people or raising your voice to get your point across. It is the ability to command the attention of your peers to put forward your ideas considerately.
Interviewers want to see who in the group is innovative, so this is your chance to make an impression. Be bold in offering up new ideas to find creative solutions to the problem posed.
Problem-solving is a key component of completing the group exercises effectively. Every stage of the process requires solid analytical skills to generate the best end result.
In a group exercise, it becomes clear who can use analysis and critical thinking effectively and interviewers will be looking out for these skills.
What are the different types of group exercise?
The candidates are given a topic or subject to discuss; often something relevant to the type of work the company undertakes. Sometimes a random topic is chosen to provoke opinions and encourage active participation, particularly if it presents a moral or ethical dilemma.
Alternatively, the topic of discussion could be a current news event, so make sure you are well read in the lead-up to the exercise.
Group case study
As part of a case study exercise, candidates are presented with an example of a business case relevant to the company, including relevant documents, evidence and data.
You will then be asked how you would work through the case as a team. This allows the assessors to see how you manage real examples of the work you’ll be expected to do if you get the job.
In a group exercise that involves assigned roles, every member of the group will be given a job role, much like they would in a company. Every member gets their own brief which explains what their particular role entails.
They then have to stay within the parameters of their own role while coming together as a team to produce an outcome. This is a good reflection of a real situation where different colleagues work together on the same project, all offering different skills and approaches.
Usually an informal group exercise, an ice breaker is used to introduce the candidates to one another and to overcome the awkwardness that sometimes comes from being in a pressured environment.
Interviewers know that people work better when they feel comfortable with their surroundings and colleagues, so an ice breaker might be the first exercise of the day. An example of an ice breaker group exercise is to build a tower from craft supplies.
If the assessors want to observe the leadership qualities of a specific candidate, they will assign them the role of the group leader. This challenges the chosen group leader to manage different personalities, delegate tasks and oversee activities when under pressure.
If you’re chosen for a leadership role, be confident and embrace the responsibility. A common mistake is to take on too much of the work or to micromanage team members. Avoid both of these pitfalls by delegating work and trusting your peers to fulfil their role to a high standard.
Tips for performing well in group exercises
- 1. Be confident. You get one chance to show how well you can work as part of a team, so make it count. Be yourself and let your personality show. Work on managing your nerves and doing the necessary planning beforehand so you feel well prepared and confident on the day.
- 2. Be assertive. You won’t get any extra points for hanging back and letting other people speak over you, so stand your ground and get your voice heard without interrupting or talking over others. Make sure your ideas are heard but don’t become overbearing.
- 3. Show you’re a team player. If you have natural leadership skills, demonstrate them in a respectful and encouraging way. If you prefer to get on with the task in hand without having to manage other people, make sure you are a driving force behind presenting a solution. You might be a great communicator and can bring quieter members of the group in to share their ideas. A team needs all kinds of personalities to work well, so be yourself and play to your strengths.
- 4. Stay positive. Negativity within a team can be toxic and damaging over time. Stay upbeat even if you’re finding the situation difficult. By encouraging your teammates and boosting morale, you’re adding an important element to the group dynamic.
- 5. Focus. Your aim throughout the group exercise is to show that you can work with a team to achieve a common goal. Although the communication and teamwork aspects of the assessment are vital, if you also display a commitment to getting the job done – on time, and to a high standard – you stand the best chance of success.
How to prepare for a group exercise
There are ways you can prepare for a group exercise, even when you don’t know what will be involved. To get an idea of what kinds of tasks you might be asked to carry out in a case study exercise, research the company to find out the projects it takes on and the types of clients it works with.
It’s advisable to stay abreast of the national and global news in the lead-up to the exercise, so you are well informed if presented with a discussion about current affairs. Pay particular attention to topics relevant to the industry you’re applying to work in.
Become familiar with the structure of group exercises to help you feel prepared, so you can be relaxed and confident on the day.
Most importantly, have confidence that you have earned your place in the group, so demonstrate your skills and let your personality shine through.