The group exercise is a common component of most assessment centres and something that you are likely to become quite familiar with as you navigate your path into employment. Whether you’re taking part in a group discussion, team case study, role play or a ‘design and build’ team game, employers are interested in observing how you interact with others. As well as seeing how you demonstrate some of the core competencies necessary for the role you’re applying for such as presentation, communication, leadership, time management, relationship building, influencing, negotiation, and of course team work, they’ll be hoping to see someone who engages enthusiastically with the task in hand and looks as though they are enjoying taking part!

There are of course lots of things you can do to prepare beforehand, and the following tips will help ensure a successful group exercise on the day:

1. Manage your time effectively

This is something that groups often find particularly challenging, so it’s definitely an area you can make an impact! Ensure that one of the team takes responsibility for monitoring the available time, and will keep a close eye on when you will need to complete tasks. Remember that part-way through the exercise the assessors may well change the task, introduce a new element or reduce the time available, so be prepared to be flexible and re-negotiate the plan with the group. If you have assumed responsibility for time-keeping, give regular updates and ask your colleagues to reconfirm how they would prefer to prioritise the remaining time.

2. Speak up

It goes without saying that if you don’t say anything you can’t be assessed! Your contribution can be a combination of expressing your own ideas or suggestions, confirming your understanding of what others are saying and acknowledging their ideas, as well as succinctly summarising progress made so far.  If you tend to speak quietly, ensure you speak louder than usual so that your contributions aren’t missed by your assessor.

3. Collaborate with your group members

Remember you’re not in competition with the other candidates. The assessors are judging you against set criteria rather than comparing you all, and will often hope to offer positions to several of those taking part in the assessment centre.  Show how you can collaborate with other participants and that you are prepared to compromise for the greater good rather than defending your own ideas at all costs!

4. Recognise others’ contributions

It’s important to show your team you’ve listened carefully and understood what they’ve said, even when you disagree. Avoid interrupting or dismissing their point outright! Useful phrases to keep in mind include “you’re making a valid point”, “I understand what you’re saying” and “there is certainly merit in that approach”.

You can reinforce your agreement  and add your view with these phrases “you’re (absolutely) right”, “I (completely/totally) agree”, “what you’re saying is correct/right/true”, “another benefit of this might be…”, “this would also be good because…”

5. Encourage quieter members

Monitor what’s going on around you, and make a point of encouraging anyone who has not yet spoken or seems less confident to have their say.

6. Don’t dominate

You may notice that you have naturally taken the lead in facilitating the group. Remember that an effective leader will be interested in ensuring that everyone’s contribution is taking into account and that it is important to recognise their good ideas.

7. Be positive

Show positive body language with an open posture and avoid defensive postures such as crossed arms. If things don’t go your way remain positive, keep your energy and enthusiasm levels up throughout the task. You don’t want to look bored!

8. Research

Don’t forget to research as you would for any other interview. Ensure you understand the organisation, their products, stakeholders, who their competitors are and what’s happening in the sector. If, as is likely, the group exercise is closely aligned to the company’s or organisation’s business you will already have some ideas and a head-start!  Ask for clarification on what will be expected of you in the exercise and if there is anything in particular you should do to prepare.

9. Think commercially

For certain roles it will make sense to have some basic business concepts ready to help you to analyse the task. Think revenue, margins, profit, competitors, clients/customers, costs (fixed, variable), market share, growth, marketing and market size.

10. Practise

Seize any opportunity you can to work as part of a team in academic projects and as part of extra-curricular activities. We also offer mock assessment centres and seminars on group exercises which give you the opportunity to practise!

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