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Assessment centres: A view from the other side

Anca Cristea

Almost two years back, I entered the imposing building which is the Centrica HQ in Windsor, to have my assessment centre for the Finance Summer Placement. I’d have to say it was one of the best experiences on a professional level that I had had up to that point. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, which took away some of the pressure and allowed us, the candidates, to give our best. The day was designed to challenge us in a positive way and the exercises addressed different skills and personality traits. Did I mention it was my first ever Assessment Centre with a UK corporation? No pressure!

Today, however, I learned how much work and dedication is needed behind the curtains in order for the assessment centre to happen. The grad team, assessors from across the business and graduates, all work together to provide the best experience for the candidates and to give them a taste of what our company is really about!

So…here are a few hints about DOs at an assessment centre (they’re more interesting than the DON’T!)?

1. First and foremost: RESEARCH. Do your research on Centrica, on what we really do, what’s interesting about us (I could write a long list!), the latest media titles (we’re hot in the press lately, as you may have noticed!) etc.

2. Secondly, and that could even go first: know WHY you want to work for Centrica! Does working in a FTSE 30 company appeal to you, do you want to discover a way to produce cheap and inexhaustible energy, is it the quality of the graduate programme? This will be the beginning of your career, so have it clear in your mind what sets Centrica apart from other companies.

3. Blow your own trumpet! OK, maybe not all the time, because it might sound like a bad song. However, be prepared to show your best abilities and use the skills you’ve earned during your experiences so far. Use all your personal/professional/academic resources. It is these resources that have taken you as far as the assessment centre stage.

4. Tied in with the point above; do make sure you can explain and demonstrate what sets you apart. How can you show that you understand the Centrica behaviours and can you give examples of things you have already done that demonstrate these behaviours? How would you fit in the company? Be genuine in your behaviour. Centrica values integrity and will look for rounded individuals.

5. Be ready to be challenged. The standard of the assessment is very high, as you may have noticed if you’ve completed the online application. The day will take you out of your comfort zone, however it’s an immense opportunity to develop and stretch your limits.

6. Use it as an opportunity to network! As least two graduates will be facilitating the assessment centre and be with you for the whole day. Use the opportunity to ask questions! As many as you can, we’ve been in your shoes too. One of the grads at my assessment centre kept getting questions from me for ten weeks that summer, since I was assigned to the same team as her (have I mentioned Internal Audit is a cool place?).

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