Welcome to Selection Methods a workbook in the Futures by zed18012


									                    OTHER SELECTION METHODS

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Welcome to Other Selection Methods a workbook in the Futures series of
workbooks, which help students choose and prepare a career route after
graduation. Like the other workbooks in the series you can dip in and out
doing the exercises which are most relevant to you. You might want to
include the exercises or the output in your personal development plan or e-
portfolio. The aim of this workbook is to introduce you to a range of common
selection methods used by employers to select graduates for jobs.


OVERVIEW OF SELECTION PRACTICES IN THE UK                                    3

WHAT ARE EMPLOYERS LOOKING FOR IN SELECTION?                                 4

PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING AND EXERCISES                                           5

IN-TRAY EXERCISES                                                          16

GROUP EXERCISES                                                            20

PRESENTATIONS                                                              24

INTERVIEWS, INCLUDING TELEPHONE INTERVIEWS                                 28

ASSESSMENT CENTRES                                                         36

The most common selection methods used are described in sections 3 – 7
and a combination of these will be presented if you attend an assessment
centre (see section 8).

Assessment centres can be held in hotels, conference centres, or employers‟
own premises. They are used to allow employers to assess candidates in a
variety of different ways to ensure they accurately assess the best candidate
for a job. Unlike traditional interviews everyone at an assessment centre or
none of them might receive an offer of a job. If you attend one then you are
not necessarily in competition with the other people there.

However, only just over a quarter of UK organisations use assessment
centres for selection purposes, whereas a greater percentage are likely to use
one or more of the above selection methods on their own premises.

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Before investing heavily in the training of a graduate, employers have to be
as sure as possible that the person is suited to the organisation and will not
leave prematurely.

Each year the larger employers face a barrage of applications for graduate
vacancies. In 2009 the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported that for
each graduate recruited there were on average 82 applicants of which 10
make it to a first interview and only 7 to a second interview or assessment

One large insurance company typically rejects 1,000 of the 1,300 application
forms received. The 300 that remain are invited to a preliminary interview.
About 120 of these would make it through to an assessment centre. Only a
quarter of those invited to the assessment centre would be selected: 40
recruits from 1300 candidates.

Selection techniques are used therefore:

   To reduce costs from recruiting and training unsuitable people.

   To give employers a fairer and more accurate prediction of the potential of
    a job candidate.

   To recruit the best staff in a competitive world.

   To help employers manage the large number of applications received; for
    example initial telephone screening and interviews can reduce the number
    of applicants (see section 7).

   To ensure a good match between the skill needs, values and ethos of an
    organisation and job candidates.

The smaller to medium sized companies do not usually receive the same
number of applications, as many graduates tend to concentrate their job
search activities initially on the larger companies. However, they are just as
cost conscious as the larger companies and may also use the selection
methods described in this booklet to recruit graduates.

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Before you get to an assessment centre or to any selection process it is vital
you have evaluated exactly what the employer is looking for from you. For
example, if you are being assessed on your ability to work in a team, it is
crucial to show that you can do this: practically in group exercises and by
giving examples of working in a team.

Finding out what you are going to be assessed on shouldn‟t be difficult: most
person specifications and job description documents which accompany
application forms explicitly list the skills that the employer is looking for. If
not perusing the employer‟s website will let you know the skills they require.

For example HBOS select graduates based on these criteria:
   • Communication (adapts/checks for understanding)
   • Working With Others (supports/respects/contributes)
   • Objective / Direction Setting (purpose to self & others)
   • Forward Thinking (planning / balance ST & LT priorities)
   • Judgement (decision making/problem solving)
   • Quality Focus (high standards, constantly improving)
   • Customer Focus (understands needs of all “customers”)
   • Achievement Orientation (Drives self / others)

Examine the job description you have applied for and list here the skills
they will be looking for and selecting against:

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                     SECTION 3: PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS

The British Psychological Society defines psychometric tests as:

'any procedure on the basis of which inferences are made concerning a
person's capacity, propensity or liability to act, react, experience, or to
structure or order thought or behaviour in particular ways'.

Psychometric tests are used by large, medium, and an increasing number of
small firms. Over 70 % of larger companies are currently using psychometric
tests to gather vital information from potential and current employees. More
and more companies are using psychometric tests for:
        graduate recruitment
        filtering out candidates when there are large numbers of applicants

They are also used to assess existing                Psychometric tests are
employees for:                                       used by more than a third
       training and staff development               of graduate recruiters.
          needs                                      But 27% of small
       promotion                                    companies and 72% of
                                                     large ones give applicants
What do psychometric tests measure?                  the chance to do practice
                                                     tests before the real
Psychometric tests may measure aptitude,             thing. (AGCAS, 2009)
personality or interests:
 Aptitude Tests – these measure how people differ in their ability to
   perform or carry out different tasks. (these are the type of test you are
   most likely to find at the first stage of a selection process).
 Interest Tests – these measure how people vary in their motivation, in the
   direction and strength of their interests, and in their values and opinions
   (these are less likely to be used on new graduates but are sometimes).
 Personality Tests – these measure how people differ in their style or
   manner of doing things, and in the way they interact with their
   environment and other people.

Whereas aptitude tests measure your maximum performance capacity, the
other tests examine typical or preferred behaviour.

Why use psychometrics in an employment setting?

The main advantages of using psychometric tests are:

   Objectivity - they dramatically reduce bias and personal perspective.
   Clarity - they provide a robust framework and structure.
   Equality and fairness for all individuals (tests are standardised so that all
    individuals receive the same treatment).

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   Increase the likelihood of being able to predict future job performance
    (they have a high level of „predictive validity‟).
   The identification of training needs.
   Encourage employers to do thorough job analysis in order to identify
    appropriate skills and abilities. This helps to ensure that candidates for a
    position are assessed on skills only relevant to the job.

Some uses of psychometric tests are:

   Selection of candidates for jobs
   Personal development/identification of training needs/staff development
   Careers guidance
   Building and developing teams

How do we interpret psychometric tests?

Depending on the structure of the assessment, there are two different
methods of interpretation:

1. Make comparisons between the individual and a reference group (for
   instance, the general national population of third year undergraduates).
   This type of external reference is used frequently in personnel selection to
   distinguish between candidates in terms of their numerical, verbal and
   abstract reasoning ability as well as personality. This type of reference
   group is called a norm group due to its relationship to the normal curve.

    The Normal Distribution Curve

2. Some psychometrics tests are internally rather than externally referenced,
   asking respondents to make a choice of preferred styles of behaviour - no
   comparison group is used.

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Psychometric are increasingly online and timed, but can be delivered in
formal 'examination-type' circumstances under strictly timed conditions.
Candidates are on separate tables and not allowed to converse with each
other. Candidates are given standardised instructions and usually at least
one practice question. The answer sheet is handed in and scored either then
or later. Feedback should always be given.

 You‟re more likely to       Clearly these circumstances can be a little
 encounter psychometric      frightening so it is advisable to practice being
 tests at the application    tested where possible to learn to overcome
 stage than at any other     'nerves' which might interfere with performance
 point in selection, and     particularly for aptitude tests which usually
 most likely to encounter    depend on how many accurate answers the
 verbal reasoning tests:     candidate achieves in the allocated time. On the
 80% of tests delivered      following pages are examples of questions of the
 are verbal reasoning.       type you might experience when completing an
 (AGCAS, 2009)               ability psychometric test.

You might encounter the other types of psychometric tests during selection,
i.e. interest and personality tests. Whilst their use is rare it is on the
increase. Most notably Marks and Spencer use a personality test to assess
potential candidates to their graduate vacancies before they even receive an
application form. However whilst ability tests are widely used, personality
and interest inventories use are not widespread.

(You can try out this type of exercise in the Futures workbook: Your
Personality and Values).


We cannot reproduce real test questions, however on the following pages are
some examples of the type of aptitude test questions you are likely to
encounter. You would complete these under timed conditions, but look
through these at your own pace to get a feel for them. Guide times for
completing each section are given at the start. However you should note that
most ability tests are designed so that most test takers do not have sufficient
time to complete all the questions.

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Verbal Reasoning Example Questions 8 minutes

You are asked to draw logical conclusions from the information you have been
given. There is always enough information for you to come to the correct

1)    Mr Brown lives to the west of Mr Smith. Mr Burton lives to the west of
      Mr Brown.
      Who lives furthest west?

      Answer      __________________________
      a) Mr Brown b) Mr Smith c) Mr Burton

2)    Susan and Stella like pizza, but Sukie and Sally like pasta. Susan and
      Sally both like lasagne.

      Who likes pizza and lasagne?

      Answer       __________________________
      a) Susan     b) Stella c) Sukie   d) Sally

      Who likes lasagne and pasta?

      Answer       __________________________
      a) Susan     b) Stella c) Sukie   d) Sally

3)    Joan and Jack have more money to spend than Fred, although Chris
      has less than Fred. Peter has more money to spend than Fred. Who
      has the least to spend?

      Answer       __________________________
      a) Joan      b) Jack        c) Fred                 d) Chris     e) Peter

4)    Toby, Rob and Frank all take a packed lunch to work, while Sam, Jo
      and Tony buy a meal in the canteen. Frank, Sam and Jo travel by bus.
      Jo, Rob and Tony are married.

      Who is married and has a packed lunch?

      Answer       __________________________
      a) Toby    b) Rob c) Frank  d) Sam     e) Jo           f) Tony

      Who does not travel by bus and buys a meal?

      Answer     __________________________
      a) Toby b) Rob   c) Frank  d) Sam    e) Jo            f) Tony

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5)   In reverse order of fastest runner over 100 metres, the slowest is Janet,
     then Marcus, Eric and Angela, who almost loses to him. After training,
     Janet beats Eric although Marcus fails to beat him.
     Who is fastest after training?

     Answer __________________________
     a) Janet         b) Marcus  c) Eric            d) Angela

     Who comes last after training?

     Answer __________________________
     a) Janet         b) Marcus  c) Eric            d) Angela

6)   Fred, John, Garth and Joe all have similar jobs although Fred and John
     are the only ones who have full time work, the others working on a part
     time basis. John and Joe travel to work by train, while the distance to
     work is short enough for the others to walk. Only Fred and Joe own cars.

     Who owns a car and travels to work by train?

     Answer __________________________
     a) Fred     b) Joe    c) John    d) Garth

     Who does not own a car and travels to their full time job by train?

     Answer __________________________
     a) Fred     b) Joe    c) Garth   d) John

7)   In a bookcase, a copy of A Winter’s Tale is to be found underneath the
     shelf on which is found The Horse’s Mouth. The Last Days of the Third
     Reich is on the shelf above A Book of Practical Cats. On the top shelf is
     The Wind in the Willows. The Horse’s Mouth is on the same shelf as
     Justine, whereas A Book of Practical Cats is on the shelf below A Winter’s

     Which book is on the bottom shelf?

     Answer __________________________

     a) A Winter’s Tale   b) The Horse’s Mouth c) The Last Days of the Third
     d) A Book of Practical Cats e) Justine f) The Wind in the Willows

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Which two books are on the same shelf?

     Answer __________________________

     a)     A Winters Tale and The Last Days of the Third Reich
     b)     The Horse’s Mouth and A Book of Practical Cats
     c)     A Book of Practical Cats and The Wind in the Willows
     d)     None of these

Numerical Reasoning Example Questions 8 minutes

You are given a series of numbers. Your task is to see how they go together
to form a relationship with each other. You then have to choose the number,
which would go next in the series, choosing from the answers provided

1)      0.25 0.5       1     2     4      ?     Answer____________________
                                                     a)12 b)16 c)8 d)10

2)      0.55 0.65 0.75 0.85 0.95 ?              Answer____________________
                                                     a)1.05 b)1.5 c)1.15

3)      2       7      12    17    22     ?     Answer____________________
                                                     a)26 b)28 c)23 d)27

4)      1       7      13    19    25     ?     Answer____________________
                                                     a)18 b)15 c)31 d)33

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The following graph shows the profit made by three companies over three


                                                                     Company X

      900000                                                         Company Y

                                                                     Company Z


                    Year 1          Year 2          Year 3

5) Over the three years, what was the mean (average) profit of Company Y
A £750,000 B £800,000 C £850,000 D £900,000 E £950,000 F £1,000,000

6) In Year 2, what was the ratio of the profit of Company X to the profit of
Company Z?
A 11:8      B 8:10       C 10:9        D 10:1       E 11:3       F 11:10

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Spatial Awareness Example Questions

In the first two questions you must decide which of the five bottom shapes is
the identical to the original shape and circle it.

Each one of the shapes might be the original shape but turned around and
possibly turned over. Try to see the result in your mind. The shape you
choose must be identical or a mirror image. 5 minutes

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In these questions you must chose the correct shape to make up the
sequence. 3 minutes


    A            B            C            D           E             F


    A            B            C            D           E             F

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The exercises you have just looked at were included to give you an idea of
the type of tests used by employers.

Graduate employers will also expect you to have a good command of English:
knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and spelling. Whilst this is rarely
measured directly at this level, mistakes in English in your application form,
CV or at interview will reflect badly. At non graduate levels you may also
experience tests of the type shown below:

Correct the Spelling Mistake 2 minutes

Read the following sentences and cross out any words spelt incorrectly. Insert
the correct spelling directly above the incorrect one.

   1) The office was very quite this morning

   2) I am to busy to do it today

   3) The noise effected my concentration

   4) I put the letter threw the letterbox

   5) They say there cheque is in the post

Word Meanings – Synonyms 5 minutes

Circle the word in the list which is the closest in meaning to the word given

   1. Delete –     amend, erase, change, adjust, evaluate

   2. Pied –       dark, musical, intoxicated, dappled, colourful

   3. Suave -      urbane, slippery, oily, clever, handsome

   4. Concise -    organised, neat, succinct, detailed, explanatory

   5. Repose -     lean, erect, build, rest, fasten

   6. Toxic -      poisonous, powerful, inflammatory, evil, dangerous

   7. Latent -     loud, creamy, secret, misplaced, definite

   8. Robust -     tough, clean, hard, firm, vigorous

   9. Profane -    noisy, clear, obscene, unpleasant, unusual

   10.Coarse -     sharp, dirty, blunt, rough, lumpy

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You can sample other ability tests and personality exercises online. There are
free practice exercises on the following sites, although you will have to pay a
fee to take a full version of the tests:

ASE Personality Questionnaires at:

Morrisby Organisation Tests at:

Saville & Holdsworth ability and personality tests at:


The following books contain practice exercises of aptitude or personality

    Barrett, J. (2008) How to Pass Advanced Aptitude Tests: Assess your
     potential and analyse your career options with graduate and managerial
     level psychometric tests, London: Kogan Page.
    Barrett, J. (2004) Aptitude, Personality and Motivation Tests, London:
     Kogan Page.
    Carter, P. (2003) IQ and Psychometric Tests, London: Kogan Page.
    Kourdi, J. (2004) Practice Tests for Verbal Reasoning, Hodder Arnold.
    Tolley, H. & Thomas, K. (2006) How to Pass Numeracy Tests, London:
     Kogan Page.
    Tolley, H. & Thomas, K. (2006) How to Pass Verbal Reasoning Tests,
     London: Kogan Page.

The University Careers Service keeps some books of practice exercises, for
you to read, or give you further information about aptitude tests or
personality exercises.

    The sectors most likely to report using
    psychometric tests are, in order:
         Accountancy and Professional
         Engineering
         Public Sector
         IT
         Law
     (source AGCAS, 2006)

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                      SECTION 4: IN-TRAY EXERCISES

Some employers will ask candidates to complete an in-tray exercise to see if
they can prioritise and delegate work. In-tray exercises are useful for
personnel selection because they:

 are realistic and representative of the tasks people encounter in their work

 produce evidence about a range of competencies

 can be linked to other activities in an assessment centre, such as group

Candidates are given a set time for this type of exercise, which is usually not
long enough to do all the tasks. You may also find that not al the tasks are
given at the exercise start: you may begin work and then be given more
tasks to do as the exercise progresses.

Try the exercise that follows either on your own or with your group. Give
yourself 15 minutes only to read through and prioritise the tasks to be done.

Don‟t forget, you don‟t have to do everything yourself. Decide what you are
going to do (as Managing Director) and what your secretary, Chris, could do
for you.

Read the background information to the company first.


  The company manufactures board games and is located in a small town in Yorkshire.
  The company employs fifty people and has a turnover of £3 million and is regarded
  locally as a ‘good firm’: reliable and has a reputation for producing high quality
  products. Sales tend to be seasonal, with a peak at Christmas. Orders come from shops
  all round the UK, particularly the major department stores.

  The firm was created by Elaine Robertshaw, now the Managing Director. In late
  September, Elaine arrived at work at 10.00am on a Friday morning to find on her desk
  a list of telephone messages taken by Chris, her secretary, a letter, and a list of other
  things written down by Elaine on a memo to deal with that day – see next page.

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          Telephone Messages                                             MEMO:

1. Factory Manager rang – wants to see you              A. Write to all company staff to tell them
   to discuss his future in the company –                  about the Christmas party.
   has another job offer and needs to let the
   other firm know his answer by next                   B. Company insurance policies expire end
   weekend.                                                of month- must renew these – but look
                                                           for better terms.
2. Finance Manager phoned re. customer
   who owes us £20,000 has gone into                    C. Look at budget figures to decide where
   receivership. He thinks another                         the money for advertising new game to
   consignment of goods is due to be                       be drawn from.
   shipped to them today.
                                                        D. Ring Phoenix Software to arrange a
3. Journalist from local newspaper – wants                 meeting to discuss computerisation of
   to meet you to write an article on the                  company accounts.
   company for next week’s paper.
                                                        E. Meet Sales Manager to review last
4. Debenham’s buyer phoned –                               month’s sales figures.
   consignment we promised a week ago
   not arrived –an angry bunny!

Have a nice day!

                                    PENNINE FOOTBALL CLUB
                                          The Green
                                           KL7 2FH

Elaine Robertshaw                                                           19th September 2008
ER Games

Dear Ms Robertshaw.

We will be holding our AGM and disco on October 20th this year, 8.30pm, and as you kindly
sponsored us this year, we wondered if you would be willing to attend to present the trophies to
our ‘Players of the Year’?

I do hope you will agree and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Beardsley

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Prioritise the information you have in order of importance, with the most
important items at the top. Give your reasons for your ranking.

 Items & who deals with them                       Reasons

Check out your responses with the suggested priority list on the next page.

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The suggested priority:

 Items & who deals with them                            Reasons

1. Telephone message 1 – see              Urgent –the manager is a key
   factory manager to discuss his         member of staff, plus he should know
   future; also check out telephone       why the consignment of games has
   message 4 (missing consignment)        gone missing. Elaine can contact
   – Chris to ask Sales Manager to        Debenham‟s immediately after this
   deal with this and arrange a           meeting.
   meeting between the Manager &
   Elaine for later in the day.

2. Elaine to talk to Finance Manager
   about telephone message 2, plus        Urgent – there is a need to check on
   item C on the memo, and also to        the credit worthiness of this company
   prepare for meeting with Sales         before goods are sent; other items
   Manager.                               can be dealt with at the same time.

3. Elaine to contact the journalist       Important – good public relations
   today (telephone message 3) to         are important and the deadline for
   check on his deadline for the          the article may be very close.
   article. If necessary, arrange to
   meet him, or answer his questions
   over the telephone.

4. Elaine to meet Sales Manager to        Important – the company needs this
   review last month‟s sales figures.     information to identify shop and store
                                          buying trends in the lead up to
Elaine to ask Chris to deal with the      Christmas.
remaining items in this order:

 Memo item B (Chris to shop
  around for more favourable              All these items are less urgent and
  terms)                                  can be dealt with by a competent
                                          assistant, like Chris.
 Memo item D (Chris to arrange a
  meeting between Elaine, Finance
  Manager & Phoenix Software)

 Letter – Chris to check Elaine‟s
  diary and book date in. Chris also
  to draft a letter from Elaine to the
  Club Secretary.

 Memo item A: Chris to draft a
  letter from Elaine to all staff about
  the Christmas party.

The most important thing with this task is that you can justify why you have
made each decision. You may not get the same result that we have listed
above, but as long as you can justify each decision and it makes business
sense then you will do well in an in tray test.

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                  SECTION 5: GROUP EXERCISES

Group discussion with other applicants for the same post is often a feature of
assessment centres (see section 8), but not exclusively so. Other
organisations may bring job applicants together to discuss a job related issue.

This is to see how well you can work with others in a group and how positive,
confident and assertive you can be.

At an assessment centre, there inevitably will be some „ice-breaker exercises‟
introduced early in the day to get people working together, but in other
situations candidates may simply be brought together and given a task to
work on. Some examples of tasks are:

Example one 25 minutes:

You are an elected member of the Deedale District Council. The Council is
complying with government regulations by putting its refuse collection service
out to tender. The closing date, which has been known for three months, is 1
April at 11:00 a.m. Four parties have indicated they intend to submit a

At the appointed time for opening tenders, the Mayor announces that one has
previously withdrawn, one has not been received, the Council’s own tender is
for £500,000, and the fourth tender is for £700,000. The Chief Executive
says that Refuse Away LTD. had contacted him that morning to say that they
were putting in a tender, but it might be a few minutes late.

It is known that Refuse Away LTD’s tender is likely to be the cheapest and
might well be below the Council’s own bid. The Chief Executive adds that, if
they accept the later tender, and it is less than the Council’s then the Council
will have to make its refuse collection staff redundant, which obviously will
not be popular. If they refuse to allow the late tender, and it is less than the
Councils’, then the Department of the Environment and the Audit Commission
will be furious and will make life uncomfortable.

How do you proceed?

Ten minutes into the exercise a messenger arrives with the tender bid from
Refuse Away LTD.

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Example two 45 minutes:


Cambridgeshire urgently needs to recruit more carers for the 355 children
who are looked after by the County Council. We need people to undertake
both time-limited and permanent placements. Single people are welcome to
apply as well as couples. We want to attract a wide range of applicants. We
are particularly short of carers in Cambridge itself.

We have been given a budget of £35K to run a recruitment campaign to
recruit more carers.

You are part of the marketing team given the job of devising and co-
ordinating the campaign. Within the time available your group needs to
achieve the following tasks:
Agree a theme for your campaign including a slogan
Decide how you will deliver the message to the public: i.e. what methods will
you use and to whom will you target your campaign.

During these tasks several assessors are used to rate you on each of the
competencies that the company is selecting for. Each assessor observes one
or two applicants.

Often the content of the discussion is less important for selection than the
way in which you interact with others – think about the competencies you
identified in section two – these are the factors you will be rated on.

You will be given a time limit for completing the exercise but will not usually
be warned when time is running out.

Top Tips

   Ensure someone in the group takes responsibility for time keeping

   Establish immediately what the output from this exercise is: do you have
    to make a presentation; report back verbally etc. Make sure you leave
    yourself time to prepare for this.

   Try to encourage others to talk, and make sure you contribute yourself.

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What type of behaviour do you think assessors do not want to see from
individual group members?

Write your thoughts in the space below:

See the comments on the next page.

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 Individual group members:

      Talking over, cutting across or disregarding others.

      Coming on strong, as if to say, „I am the natural leader here, so let’s not
       waste any more time- let’s do things my way!‟

      Arbitrarily allocating tasks to group members.

      Anxiously keep reading or referring to the paperwork and generally
       showing you are not on top of the brief.

      Ridiculing what others say.

      Wasting the group‟s time by concentrating on irrelevancies.

      Keeping quiet in a superior „I-am-above-all-this’ type of manner.

      Making silly comments or cracking dubious jokes.

      Non-verbal behaviour, such as sitting apart from the others, with your
       back to them, or looking scornfully at individual contributors.

   You do need to find a balance between being over-assertive and
    being too „nice‟, passive and easily led (or pushed).

   You do need to be an active listener: someone who is attentive and is
    obviously listening and interested in the ideas expressed by other
    people in the group.

   You do need to speak up in the group and give your opinion, but you
    also need to support other people, if necessary, e.g. by trying to bring
    a quiet member into the discussion.

   You really do need to show you can work co-operatively with others
    in a group.

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                   SECTION 6: PRESENTATIONS

Presentations are used to assess the organisational and communication skills
of job applicants. They are a common part of graduate selection process.

Presentations assess your ability to organise your thoughts and ideas into a
logical form and to present these clearly and succinctly to an audience.

On most occasions, you will make the presentation alone, but if you attend an
assessment centre, you may have to make both an individual and a group

Sometimes the presentation topic is known to you in advance of the
interview. However, at assessment centres you are likely to be asked to give
a presentation without prior notification of the topic.

All applicants are usually given a specification for the presentation.
This will usually specify the maximum presentation time you have and the
presentation formats available and permissible, e.g. overhead projector
(OHP), power-point, flip-chart.

You need to pay careful attention to these specifications, as you will create a
bad impression if you over-run time or deviate from the presentation formats
allowed. These specifications are drawn up to ensure that all applicants are
given the same chance to present as effectively as possible.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                 24/49

Think about presentations you have seen or heard in the past. What were the
elements of both good and poor presentations?

Write in the spaces below.

               Good                                   Poor

Comments on the next page

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                             25/49

       is prepared in advance if possible, e.g. notes and slides are carefully
        prepared and ready

       has a clear structure prepared in advance. There is a beginning,
        middle and clear ending

       is relevant to the interests and needs of the audience

       is concise: it gets to the main points quickly and succinctly.


       get the presentation off to a good start by introducing him or herself,
        and other members of the group

       set out the main aims of the presentation

       tell the audience how the group would prefer to deal with questions,
        e.g. during the presentation, or at the end.


       look clean and smart

       use language appropriate to the level of ability and understanding of
        the audience.

       speak clearly and with enthusiasm

       appear confident – and never apologise for their lack of experience in
        making presentations (this creates a bad impression of the presenter)

       LOOK at the audience, - establish strong eye contact with them smile
        and look pleasant

       stand straight and tall – head upright and looking comfortable

       avoid presenting unnecessary detail

       not distract the audience from the message – by fiddling with keys,
        pens, coins, jewellery – or anything else!


Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                    26/49

You can present information in a variety of ways, but the most popular and
effective tend to be by using:
     a flip-chart
     an overhead projector (OHP)
     or Power-Point presentation

If you attend an assessment centre, the chances are you will just have a flip-
chart to work with. However, other organisations may invite you to prepare
in advance. This gives you more opportunity to prepare a professional
looking presentation – but the expectations of the employer are also higher in
this situation.

Always prepare back-up materials in case the technology doesn‟t work, or
fails during your presentation.

Whichever medium for presentation you use:

 Keep your words and images clear and simple.

 Don‟t crowd each flip-chart sheet or slide with detail – just stick to three
  or four points per sheet (people tend to remember ideas that are
  presented in clusters of three).

 Make sure that all the people in all parts of the room can read what you
  have written.

 Use bullet points, rather than write large passages of text in sentences.

 Make sure you present your ideas in a clear sequence.

 If you are giving an impromptu presentation, for example, at an
  assessment centre, don‟t be afraid to attempt a drawing – you don‟t have
  to be a great artist, and you can make a joke of your efforts. Drawings, no
  matter how crude, can often convey an idea better than words.

 If you get a chance to prepare a presentation in advance, it is a good idea
  to prepare copies of any Power-Point presentation for the interviewers, or
  a summary of the main points you are making. Also, put complicated
  figures and diagrams on to a handout– don‟t attempt to put these on to
  visual aids. Don‟t give out handouts until required, as it can distract from
  your presentation; they may read these instead of listening and looking at
  you. They are often best given out at the end of your presentation

                              Don‟t forget, above all:

      Look at the audience, look friendly, smile and look interested

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                  27/49
                       SECTION 7: INTERVIEWS

Futures workbook Interviews is also recommended reading to complement
this section.

Many employers are now using telephone interviews to make an initial
selection of applicants. This can be followed by an invitation to attend a
panel interview.

Whatever type of interview you encounter, preparation is essential and a vital
key to success.

The Importance of Preparation

If you have an interview pending, you must brief yourself on the
organisation beforehand.

 The Kompass directories available in the library or www.kompass.com
  contain information on company products and services and classify
  companies by geographical area, economic sector, trade activity and
  competitor groups. The Kelly directories, also available in the university
  library give information on small firms in any region or district. There are
  also specialist trade directories, e.g. media, retail, legal firms, available at
  Leeds Central Library, free of charge.

 Most organisations now have web-sites so check these out for relevant
  background information; take a particular note of Mission Statements or
  any long or short term company plans, as these can be useful for you to
  mention when asked what you know about the company.

 You could also telephone or write to the organisation and ask for
  marketing information, annual reports or other free data on the company.

Telephone Interviews
Telephone interviews can be challenging because you cannot see the
interviewer's non-verbal reactions to what you say. Conversely, the
interviewer cannot see you. This places all the weight on your phone
manners, clarity of speech, tone and the content of your answers.

If you are expecting a telephone interview, keep these points in mind:

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                     28/49
Before the phone call

      Make sure you put a note on your door explaining that you cannot
       respond for the next half an hour, try to encourage others in your
       house to go out whilst you take the call.

      Treat the phone interview as you would a face-to-face interview.

      If you expect a telephone interview, conduct a mock telephone
       interview with a friend to gain feedback on your voice quality and

      Before the interview, prepare talking points for the call including the
       skills and talents you would bring to the company, specific
       achievements, reasons why you want to work for the organisation.

      Have some key facts about the organisation at hand. You are likely to
       be asked „what-do-you-know-about-the organisation‟ type questions.

      Have some specific questions to ask them about the job or

      Make sure you have your CV and a copy of your original application to
       the organisation near the phone.

      Have pen & paper ready to take notes.

      Try and take the call in a quiet room away from distractions.

   When the phone rings

      Telephone interviews can make you nervous; this can sound in your
       voice. To overcome this, breathe deeply and relax. Make a conscious
       effort to slow your speech, as when we are nervous our voice can
       speed up.

      Smile, it changes your speech and the person on the other end can
       sense it.

      Write down the full name and title of the caller, along with his or her
       phone number or Email address.

      If you think of a question or comment while the interviewer is
       speaking, jot a note on your talking points list, so you remember it

      Take notes, and before ending the call make sure you know the next
       step in the process: dates, times, venues, who is doing what and

      Do not hang up until the interviewer has hung up.

      If you are invited to a second stage of selection, send a formal follow-
       up / thank you letter.

A telephone screening interview can precede a panel interview.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                    29/49
Panel Interviews

Panel interviews will involve three or more interviewers, each of whom will be
concerned with a particular line of questioning. There may be a mixture of
personnel, specialist, technical and general management staff. Some panels,
particularly at assessment centres, may also have observers who do not ask
questions but concentrate on your answers and your general demeanour.

What Questions Will You Be Asked?

Most employers will ask questions to find out if your skills, values and
personality match those required for the job, and that you are genuinely
interested in working for them.


Have a look at the advertisement below for a graduate management trainee
for a carpet manufacturing company in West Yorkshire.

 Graduate Management Trainee
 (A carpet manufacturing company in West Yorkshire)

 The company is looking to recruit a graduate from any discipline as a Management
 Trainee to undergo a structured training programme, which will result in a full
 appreciation of their business prior to appointment to a position within their
 Production department.

 Applications are welcome from individuals who are ambitious, enjoy working as part
 of a team and have the ability to meet deadlines. The successful applicant will be able
 to communicate clearly and confidently and show evidence of leadership and
 organisational ability at work, college or in social or sporting activities.

 In return the company offer an excellent remuneration package and membership of
 the company pension scheme is also available.

Put yourself in the shoes of this employer. If you were interviewing
graduates for this post, what questions would you ask them? You will notice
that no particular degree is required, so the emphasis is likely to be on
abilities and personality.

Write your questions in the grid on the next page.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                           30/49
 Write your six questions in the left hand columns below, with one question in
each of the numbered boxes.







Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                31/49
The Questions You Asked

You may have asked questions relating to:

 what the applicant had done to find out about the company and its

 the applicant‟s career ambitions

 the applicant‟s experience of working in teams

 the applicant‟s ability to manage time

 the past occasions the applicant played a leadership role

 discovering how well the applicant can organise and manage projects

Questions directly relating to communication skills are not that common in
interviews, as applicants tend to be assessed in this by how well they answer
the questions.

      OK, now go back to the previous page and answer your own

    Write answers to your own questions in the right hand column.

If you struggle for answers, one way of doing this is to think of the STAR

Describe a situation, or

...a task that you have been involved in where you demonstrated the
skill required for the job, and then

...describe what action you took, and

... the result of your action.

But it‟s not just about what you say, it‟s also about the way you look and
conduct yourself at the interview.

See next page.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                 32/49


   Feedback from employers suggests that one of the main reasons for rejecting
   job applicants is because they look scruffy or their appearance suggests they
   won‟t fit in to the organisation.

   Plan to wear smart, somewhat conservative clothing. For most graduate posts,
   unless it is a very informal post, men are advised to wear a shirt and tie with a
   suit or colour co-ordinated jacket and trousers.

   If your mum likes it, it‟s probably right for the occasion.

As you face the interviewer(s):

 Smile!
 If there is more than one person in the room, ensure that you make brief
  eye contact with all of them. If you avoid eye contact with anyone they
  may be offended and begin to be suspicious of you

 Do not sit down until invited to do so

 Do not offer to shake hands unless the lead interviewer proffers his or her
  hand. In a panel interview it is unlikely you will have to shake hands with


The first few minutes of the interview are the most important, in terms of you
establishing and maintaining a good impression.

 There will usually be a short prologue from the lead interviewer, e.g.
  Thank you for coming here today. I would like to welcome you to.... And
  now I’ll introduce the panel members. On my right is....

 Look at that person, smile, nod, „hello‟ and generally acknowledge their

 The lead interviewer may go through the format of the interview,
  establishing its structure and the timing. During these preliminaries look
  at the speaker in a relaxed way and indicate in some way that you are
  listening and understand what is being said, e.g. by nodding.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                 33/49

  You will normally be asked some fairly straightforward questions at the
   start of the interview to help you relax, although you must be prepared for
   anything. Sometimes, however, the first question asked can be the one
   that makes you think the hardest:

     “Before we ask you some specific questions about the job, we would
     just like to find out a bit about you as a person, so tell us about
     yourself ... “

    Aim to answer a question like this in less than two minutes. They don‟t
     want to hear your life story, but they want to see if you can cope with
     such an open-ended question and communicate succinctly under pressure.

    You need to think about ‘yourself’ in relation to what the company wants
     from its trainees, e.g. good team-workers, well-organised etc. So pick out
     those bits of „yourself’ that are relevant to the organisation.

What would you say in answer to this first general question?

You need to create the impression that you can do the job, are well motivated to
do it and will do it to the best of your ability. Write in the space below.

 Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                  34/49

 Try and appear confident, but without seeming to be brash or arrogant

 Don‟t be too „goody-goody‟: Ms or Mr Perfect either as this may irritate
  interviewers who will think you are being ingratiating and dishonest. The
  interviewers are looking for positive, talented people, but who are human,
  enjoy life and are not part of the walking dead.

 Be careful with your posture. An upright posture will convey an image of
  business-like confidence.

 Don‟t fiddle with pens, glasses, handbags, jewellery - or anything else!

 Don‟t look deadly serious - try and relax your face.

 When you talk, look at the person who asked the question, but in a
  relaxed way; don‟t fix on them like a cobra.

 If you don‟t know the answer to a question it is better to say so than to
  waffle or get the answer wrong.


Have some sensible questions ready to ask them. The best questions to ask
are about:

      The future of the organisation
      The training you will receive
      The organisation‟s current range of products or services and how these
       are changing.

This can also be an opportunity to say something about yourself you feel is
important, but that you weren‟t asked about by the panel. If you do this,
keep your input short and do it discreetly. You could say something like
“Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk to you. There is something else
I feel I would like to mention….

At the end of the interview you are likely to be told when you will hear the
result of the interview, if not ask when you will know.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                 35/49

Assessment centres can take place in a variety of premises eg, hotels or
conference centres.

Assessment centres allow employers to combine a number of selection
exercises to produce a rounded picture of the ability and personal
characteristics of any candidate for a job vacancy or for promotion within the
organisation. Typically, assessment centres attempt to measure the
following dimensions of a candidate‟s overall ability:

   Overall Intelligence (problem analysis, problem solving, creativity)

   Social Skills (sociability, leadership, tact)

   Management Skills (planning & organisation, delegation & management

   Personal Characteristics (initiative, persistence, firmness, decisiveness)

The larger the company or organisation the more likely it is that they will use
assessment centres to select staff.

Between 6 and 20 candidates attend each session, with typically 12 in each
selection group, and the assessment is likely to take at least one full day.
However, group and individual exercises, including aptitude tests, may be
presented first and only those candidates who do well at these go forward to
the interview stage.

What to Expect

Candidates who are invited to attend assessment centre selection have done
very well to get this far - but still have a long way to go before they are
accepted into an organisation.

This is an opportunity to see how candidates relate to other people and can
handle pressure. You will be observed the whole time you are at the centre.

On the following pages are two examples of assessment centre programmes
for two large employers with management training schemes for graduates:

   A hotel chain
   A road tanker company

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                 36/49
                                 HOTEL CHAIN

The hotel chain assessment centre selection process:

 lasts for one day and is held at one of the hotels in the group
 can involve up to 20 candidates

The exercises include:

1. Introductory „ice-breaker‟ (something to break the tension).

2. A battery of ability tests, testing numeracy, written English, ability to think
   logically and testing memory.

3. An individual presentation: 5 minutes verbal presentation by each
   candidate on a given topic.

4. Two group exercises, involving around six candidates per group. One
   exercise would typically involve discussion of decisions & choices facing,
   say, people shipwrecked; the other group exercise would involve an
   analytical business scenario.

5. All candidates complete a self-perception questionnaire to measure what
   contribution they might make to any team.

The candidates depart and the assessors confer and discuss the performance
of all the candidates.

All candidates are scored from 1 - 5 on pre-arranged criteria, e.g. customer
market awareness, spoken communication, problem solving ability etc. on all
exercises, so scores are collated and the selectors discuss the merits and
weaknesses of all candidates

All candidates are offered feedback on their performance at the Assessment

Successful candidates are invited to attend a panel interview at a later date.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                   37/49
                         ROAD TANKER COMPANY

The road tanker company assessment centre process:

 candidates take aptitude tests prior to attending an assessment centre
 the assessment centre selection stage involves one day at the company
 around 12 candidates are invited
 the day starts at 8.30am with coffee and a greeting from the Managing

The assessment involves:

1. A tour around HQ and the depot led by some recent graduate trainees.
   The candidates are observed to see how easily they can talk to depot staff
   and other people they encounter.

2. On their return from the tour, one half of the group await an individual
   panel interview, whilst the remainder work on their own to prepare a

3. At lunchtime all candidates dine with company assessors and recent
   graduate trainees. The candidates‟ social ability is being assessed over

4. The panel interview lasts for 45 minutes, whilst the individual presentation
   involves candidates giving their personal responses to a business problem
   and financial case study given to them earlier.

5. A final exercise involves all candidates in a group exercise where they are
   presented with a problem to discuss and resolve. Each group summarises
   the results of their discussion on a flip chart to present to assessors.

Assessors then confer. All candidates have been given scores against pre-
agreed criteria.

All candidates are offered feedback.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                 38/49
The Common Elements

In the two examples shown, the common elements included:

   Psychometric exercises
   Group exercises
   Interviews
   Presentations

But don‟t forget you might also encounter:

   In-tray exercises
   Business games

Plus, a small number of companies might also ask you to get involved in:

 Role play exercises, or
 Participate in outdoor leadership exercises.

So be prepared for anything!

What These Employers Are Looking For

These two employers, typical of many, are looking for graduate trainees with
the following characteristics:

                                 HOTEL CHAIN

       Smart appearance
       Confident and articulate
       Assertive - not afraid of contradiction
       Commercial instincts; good business acumen
       Flexible and tolerant of other cultures
       „Mature‟, defined as „knowing themselves and the world‟; not led a
        sheltered life - this usually means previous work experience
       Quick-witted: can think and act quickly
       Risk-takers: people who can take initiatives
       Take „ownership‟ of their actions; take responsibility if things go wrong

                           ROAD TANKER COMPANY

       „Dynamic‟: alert & quick-witted
       Entrepreneurial - will see and seize business opportunities
       Intelligent - able to think and act quickly
       Assertive and determined - can take the lead if required
       Can talk easily to people from all social levels
       Safety conscious
       „Presence‟ - meaning there is something about the candidate that
        makes you remember him or her

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                   39/49
Successful Candidates

It is obvious from these examples that great stress is placed on finding
trainees with the right blend of competence and social skills, and, as these
are commercial organisations, some business awareness, too. The same
desirable characteristics recur:

   Effective communication skills
   Manages time well
   Analytical ability
   Self-confidence
   Works well with others in a team
   Emotional resilience and stability

The Role Of Assessors

Observers or assessors will note your performance at an assessment centre.
These are usually experienced members of an organisation, drawn from
Human Resources departments and other operational sections of the
recruiting company. Some companies may also bring in recruitment
consultants to give an outsider‟s view to the process.

Your performance is evaluated against pre-agreed criteria and the
observers/assessors will confer to compare notes and scores made about
each candidate. Candidates who score overall below pre-agreed criteria would
not be offered training places, unless there were exceptional reasons to
mitigate against low scores.

At a group discussion session for every six candidates there would usually be
three assessors who observe two candidates in particular, whilst observing
the overall current and flow of the discussion. If things go wrong in a group,
assessors would not normally intervene but let events take their course to
see how individuals responded to a difficult situation.

Each assessor will usually see all candidates in action at most stages during
the day or days.

     When you notice assessors at an assessment centre:

     DON‟T try to establish eye contact with the assessor
     DON‟T address your remarks in a group to the assessor
     DON‟T look at the assessor for help to rescue the group if things go

  Just ignore the assessor – THINKING you have to try.

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                    40/49
The sort of questions the assessors will be asking themselves when they
observe your behaviour in groups include:

   Can you help the group to achieve its objective by identifying ways of
    tackling the problem under discussion?

   Can you think quickly and speak effectively in front of others?

   Can you inject some structure into the discussion to help the group to
    shape up its response?

   Can you build on what others say in order to broaden and deepen the
    discussion or tackle the problem?

   Can you contribute to getting the best out of the group by drawing others
    into the discussion, or by challenging those who are talking off the point?

   Can you help the group to complete its task?

The Role of Graduate Trainees

At most assessment centre selection days, graduate trainees within the
organisation are usually invited to talk to candidates informally about work
and training in the company. In the majority of cases, these graduate
trainees play no formal part in the assessment of candidates, and are there to
give candidates an informal point of reference, information or support.

However, with some organisations, the graduate trainee is part of the
assessment process and his or her opinion canvassed about candidates.
Indeed, they may have a view of a particular candidate that is at odds with
the general consensus, particularly if they have been at close quarters with
that candidate in the hotel bar the previous evening!

It is advisable then, for applicants to ascertain the role of graduate trainees
present before the selection exercises start. If you are not told, ask.

Read On…

We end this section with two short articles to read on the following pages.

     The first deals with the pitfalls of lunch at an assessment centre.
      Applicants are being assessed all the time – including at lunch.

     The second is an eye-witness account by a careers adviser of what
      happened at an assessment centre – when none of the applicants was
      selected to go onto a final stage of selection. Why did this happen?

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                    41/49
  The Pitfalls of Mealtime

                   At Meal Interviews-Don’t be Caught Out To Lunch

    “As if being judged or evaluated in a traditional interview isn't challenging enough,
    sharing a meal with prospective co-workers or the staff with the hiring power
    requires you to focus on eating neatly, interacting intelligently and talking with
    purpose, if you want to sustain the employer's interest in you.

    Being alert and tactically prepared is key to acting what many say is an unusual and
    unexpectedly intimidating experience in the recruitment process.

    How difficult can a meal interview be? Nancy Jenner, recruitment manager for TD
    Canada Trust, has participated in meal interviews as an applicant and as an
    interviewer. She suggests that just because ‘a mealtime interview is a bit more
    social, it is important to treat it no less significantly than a more traditional

    ‘Meal interviews require the same level of preparation as any other type of
    interview. Don't take it lightly,’ Jenner advises, ‘as it is still a formal interaction and
    you need to focus on the conversation’.

    If you think a meal interview blurs the line between what is business and what is
    just plain bizarre, you should know that taking job candidates to a restaurant is a
    practice that is growing in popularity, particularly when personality matters for the

    It is a savvy approach for organisations to assess candidates in yet another
    environment - one that is seemingly so casual and relaxed that additional facets of
    an applicant's "true" character and behaviour might be revealed.

    Social and interpersonal skills are readily observable-so be assured that the
    prospective employer is noticing both your table manners and your ability to hold
    up your end of the conversation.

    By the time a job candidate is treated to a meal, the selection procedure has
    probably progressed to the stage of being "almost hired" or just-need-a-stamp-of-
    approval on the person. Either way, the candidate needs to stay alert and focused.

    Don't rush the conversation into interview mode. Take your lead from your host. Be
    prepared with questions - this gives you a few minutes to enjoy your food and not
    end up with a full plate at the end of the interview”.


Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                                42/49
    Many candidates worry about the simple things: spilling, not using the proper
    fork, what and how much to order including alcoholic beverages, and what to do
    when the cheque arrives. With so many things to consider, it is no wonder that
    many job candidates suffer from what the literature refers to as an "etiquette
    anxiety reaction."
    The truth is, in general, mother was right with her lectures on good manners: keep
    your elbows off the table, don't talk with food in your mouth and do wait for
    everyone to be served before eating. But, of course, it is far more complex because
    there is so much riding on how you handle yourself in this situation.
    You will most probably meet the employer at the restaurant. Be on time. There
    may be others from the organization joining you for the meal. Greet everyone with
    a firm, friendly handshake and repeat their names as you do so. Smile genuinely
    and maintain good eye contact.
    When arriving at the table, wait until your interviewer has been seated, or until it
    is indicated for you to sit. When ordering, take your lead from the others. Don't
    order the most expensive dish or messy food as you'll want to concentrate on
    communicating and not performing surgery on a tough steak.
    If there are several forks, start from the outside and work your way inward as the
    fork closest to the plate is for your main course. The fork above the plate is for
    dessert, which by the way is fine to order, if your interviewer does so.
    Another important reminder: treat the service staff politely. Say please and thank
    you. To an employer observing you, arrogant conduct at a meal can translate to
    potentially negative on-the-job behaviour.
    Most career experts, Career Monitor included, advise against drinking any alcohol
    during lunch or dinner interviews. Although it can feel like you are chatting with
    friends, you are not. Drinking loosens the tongue and can cause you to offer
    information that is too personal or to make inappropriate comments.
    When finishing your meal, place your cutlery in parallel style on the plate, and
    when ready to leave the table, refold your napkin and place it to the right of your
    When the cheque arrives, don't offer to pay your part as it is expected that your
    host is expensing the meal. But, do make a point of thanking your interviewer for
    the meal and the conversation.
    It is true that mealtime interviews can be problematic, but with preparation your
    experience can develop into one that is very rewarding...and Mum will be so

Source: Simmons, B. (2003) At Meal Interviews-Don’t be Caught Out
To Lunch, Canada: Toronto Star, 14/01/2003

Futures Workbook Other Selection Methods                                             43/49

A university careers adviser spent a day at an assessment centre and
recorded her observations of the process – and the candidates. This is
shown below. None of the candidates were selected to go on to a final
stage of selection.

              Observations of an Assessment Centre

The company was a prestigious IT company specialising in IT solutions
for the legal industry and attracted many applications from graduates
for its training schemes.

The event was run over one day in the company‟s training room by two
staff from Human Resources and one company director. Ten
graduates had been invited to the event and the aim was to identify
those from each assessment centre to take forward for individual
interview the following week.

The day included a welcome address, presentations, individual and
group exercises, a tour of the company‟s premises, the opportunity to
speak to recent graduate trainees and lunch. It closed with a question
and answer session.

The Company Presentations

This was broken into two stages:

1.   Company introduction

The applicants were given an outline of the company structure,
products and clients. Considerable emphasis was placed by the
presenters on the culture of the organisation, company values and the
type of person that they were looking for to fit in.

2.   Training and Development

This was followed by an outline of the graduate development
programme, on the job training and training courses offered to those
that were selected.

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The Exercises

The applicants were then asked to work on exercises, individually at

Icebreaker exercise

All the applicants were asked to create their own coat of arms on an
outline of a shield using a given template with sections on home and
family, work experience, hobbies and interests and one secret about
themselves (something unusual or extraordinary). They were then
required to present their coat of arms to the whole group. This wasn‟t
just a piece of fun -the assessors were looking at the presentation and
communication skills of each candidate

In-Tray exercise

Next, each candidate was asked to do an In-Tray exercise, which
involved deciding what to do with and prioritising the following tasks:
an incoming phone call message, a customer email, a site visit report
reminder, a forwarded email, training course preparation and project
They were also asked to prepare and present a five minute
presentation on one task outlining why they prioritised it in the way
they did and how they would deal with it.

Again, the assessors were looking for specific skills in handling this
task: reasoning ability, commercial awareness as well as presentation

Aptitude Tests

Third, there were individual aptitude tests divided into parts A – F:

A: Numerical Deduction
B: Correcting the Spelling Mistake
C: Word Meanings – Synonyms
D: Acuteness (Find the missing letter from a circle of letters)
E: Spatial Recognition (shapes)
F: Physical Recognition (diagrams)
G: Critical Dissection (drawing logical conclusions)

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Group Exercise

Finally, there was a group exercise. The applicants were put into
groups of four, each representing the management team of a
construction company specialising in selling pyramids. Their group
task was to submit a tender for the construction of pyramids to the
Pharaoh of Egypt, the tender to be submitted in the form of a five
minute presentation. The features they had to consider were size,
location, timescale, cost, production of a scale model and slogan. The
task brief was accompanied by supporting information sheets.

What the Selectors Were Looking For

The selectors were looking for a range of skills: teamwork and
leadership, in particular, plus contribution of ideas, how to make the
team more effective and competitive, collaboration, manipulating the
strengths of others in the team, reasoning and decision making. The
candidates would have been aware of this in advance, as this
information is normally found in the job specification sent to all
prospective job applicants.

General Observations

The exercises were ranked in order of importance by the assessors:

1. group exercise
2. in tray exercise
3. aptitude tests & icebreaker

Each assessor used a scoring grid with the following assessment
criteria when observing the graduates:

      achievement drive
      initiative demonstrated
      adaptability
      innovation & creativity
      service orientation
      leadership skills
      influences on them, e.g. other group members
      good communication skills,
      team work.

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Lunch, Meet Graduate Trainees & Question and Answer session

The candidates had a buffet lunch with the opportunity to question
graduate trainees about their experiences with the firm. There was a
closing question and answer session. During this time the applicants
were still being assessed for their enthusiasm, interest in the
organisation and motivation to succeed in the company.

The Applicants

There was a very mixed picture presented to the assessors. Some
candidates did well at some activities, but not all activities. It was not
the candidates‟ lack of intellectual ability that let them down, but their
failure to deal consistently and effectively with social encounters on the

 There was a very quiet candidate who found it hard to participate,
  was obviously very nervous and struggled to contribute orally.

 There were one or two who came across very confidently when
  presenting material…

 …but there were examples of applicants who dominated groups, one
  almost denying any contribution from the others.

 However, there was also a good example of someone trying to
  encourage silent group members to make a contribution. But
  another group, led by one young man in particular, seemed to put
  very little effort into the group exercise, almost seeing it as a bit of
  a joke.

There was also rather too much evidence of the applicants trying to get
to know and get along with each other at the expense of taking time to
speak to the graduate trainees of the company.

The Verdict

The candidates generally made little of the opportunities to ask
questions and so evidence of their motivation and interest was lacking.
This overshadowed the good performances by some applicants, with
the result that none of the applicants were selected for the final
interview stage.


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The Importance of Preparation

This eye-witness account emphasises the point that employers often reject
whole groups of applicants at assessment centres if they are not suitable.

Despite good efforts by some candidates in group work, all of them let
                                        themselves down badly by their
                                        apparent lack of interest in the
“Candidates can impress by listening
to instructions carefully and
remaining upbeat and enthusiastic
                                        This suggests a lack of preparation,
throughout the day, even if they feel
                                        either of finding out information
that a particular exercise has not
                                        about the company that they could
gone so well for them. It is also
                                        use as a basis for their questions, or
important to work well with the other
                                        a lack of initiative in asking any
participants and to demonstrate your
team playing abilities.”
                                          It is always a good idea to have
                       Sarah Moyles,
                                          questions ready to ask, or better
            Graduate Recruitment and
                                          still, use the company presentations
               Development Manager
                                          at the start of the day to take notes
                    Mouchel Parkman
                                          and to jot down a few questions to
                                          ask over lunch – and particularly to
put to the graduate trainees. As can be seen from this example, and earlier,
they can play an important role in the selection process. It is simply foolish
to ignore them.

Sources of information

The Leeds Met careers website has useful resources, including a streamed 25
minute AGCAS Assessment Centre video to view


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Other Topics in the Series

There are several topics in the Series of Futures workbooks looking at self-
assessment, job selection methods and effective communication with
employers. They are available to download from

                Other                                   Your
               Selection                           Personality and
               Methods                                 values

      Interviews                  Graduate                   Making and
                                   Skills                     Problem

             Speculative                             CV’s and
             Applications                           Applications


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