Group Exercises – Top Tips

Context

  • At assessment centres, a group exercise will typically include between 4-10 candidates involved in some form of group discussion, and last between 30-45 minutes (excluding reading time).
  • Best practice is for each assessor to be allocated two/three candidates on which to focus. The ideal configuration is for each candidate to be observed by two different assessors, That way, each candidate has two different inputs on their performance – although assessors’ evaluations rarely differ.
  • The assessor’s job is to observe and record their designated candidates’ every move and comment. Again, best practice for assessors is to record, verbatim, everything said and done by candidate and the time at which contributions are made.
  • Once the exercise is complete, the assessors will then evaluate their individual candidates’ performances and complete a competencies/strengths evaluation form.
  • Each exercise at assessment centres should be testing no more than four or five of the key competencies/strengths at any one time. For a group exercise, the typical competencies/strengths to be assessed would include, for example, Leadership, Teamwork, Empathy, Analytical Skills, Influence.

 Top Tips

  • Unless told otherwise, the assessors’ presence should largely be ignored. Assessors should be treated as “flies on the wall”. There is nothing more irritating to an assessor than a candidate making eye contact and checking that some pithy comment hasn’t gone unnoticed!
  • Contribute consistently to the group discussion. It will be noticed if you launch into the discussion with gusto and then remain silent for the following 15 minutes. Remember: they are probably recording the intervals at which you speak.
  • Keep a careful eye on time allocation. If you do volunteer to be time-keeper, make sure you remember to fulfil your obligation, by giving regular time checks and checking the group is on track with objectives. It always seems as if there’s lots of time at the beginning, but time can be quickly eaten up by candidates getting swept away in the moment.
  • There is usually a goal to be achieved at the end of exercise – often a presentation. Always make sure you have time at the end to deliver this in an organized and co-ordinated way.
  • Avoid being scribe. Sometimes it is suggested that someone keeps notes to track progress. Although this is a good idea, it can often take the designated person out of the flow of the discussion.
  • Standing at a flipchart, whilst others are seated can be used to great effect. Conversely, it can also be detrimental by taking you away from the main discussion. It is only to be done if you are confident of your impact/presence, as it has the potential to backfire.
  • Understanding of the brief is key (analytical skills might be being tested), Remain calm and identify your key observations. Have an idea of the structure you would like the discussion to take before the discussion starts, but prepare to be flexible. The assessors are generally looking for someone with conviction, who can influence, but not someone who fails to take account of others’ viewpoints. Depending on the role for which you’re being assessed, if you are not convincing the group of your viewpoint, then show flexibility.
  • Finally, if there are particularly quiet members of the group, attempt to draw them into the discussion by asking for their views: this shows teamwork and collaborative skills. If you know other candidates’ names (they will usually be wearing name-badges or have name place cards – for the assessors’ benefit) then use them.

© Interview Advantage Ltd. 2015