Assessment centre: social etiquette

You can prepare for all aspects of an assessment centre in terms of how you come across to your employer professionally, but there are more human elements to the day as well: simple things like lunchtime and drinks breaks. Socialising in a work environment is new to most people, so please don’t fret—you’re not alone. Here’s some elements to display that we think will help you come across really well.

Confidence: real or fake

It doesn’t really matter if you’re feeling confident or not on this one; what matters is that everyone else thinks you’re feeling confident. The big ones to watch out for on the way to achieving this are smiling, being happy to talk, and trying to remain involved a majority of the time. It’s hard when you’re nervous and around new people but remember that these people may turn out to be your friends later down the line, and there’s no such thing as having too large a network. Think of it like the first day of school, or university—yes, it’s daunting, but you have to plaster on that smile and take it as it comes!

Employers: questions are the key

It’s a bit of a tough one to determine if personal barriers can be broached with those assessing you, so try to keep things professional. In this sense, questions are your best friend and will keep the focus on educational matters: ask about their background in the company and the ins and outs of their role, about the company in general and about graduate recruitment. Best case scenario, you gain some real insight into how to play to your strengths over the course of the day. Worst case scenario, you find out the company’s historical background. It’s a free hit really.

Introductions: the basics

Remember that people are hearing hundreds of names a day and have to work hard to maintain recognition, so introduce yourself briefly and confidently, with just a tad of background information, in order that they can compartmentalise things slightly easier. It’s often enough to start a conversation off, and you’ll make the employer’s life a little less tricky, which is always a good idea when you’re trying to impress. Firm handshakes and remembering the names of those running the day can do you no harm either.

Food: keep things group-based

Where possible, keep things group-orientated whilst any sort of eating is going on, because it means that the conversation can bounce around to give you all time to eat whilst preventing awkward silences. If you’re sat down, engage everyone around you so that no one is left out; draw people out by asking about their interests and engagements, but don’t get too pushy—some people are shy and would rather the conversation washed over them! Remember not to eat anything that you don’t know how to handle, it’s not worth the risk; if there’s alcohol involved, keep things sensible—we’ve all seen that one case who gets it slightly wrong and it’s just not worth being that person, is it?