Surviving assessment centre interviews

As part of the rigorous selection process for TeachFirst’s Leadership Development Programme, a key stage is the assessment centre. Before I was invited to attend the assessment centre-based interview, I had literally no idea what to expect. It went a lot better than I anticipated, though, so I thought I’d share a few tips that helped me get through the whole process.

Research the company

It may seem like a trivial piece of advice, but I definitely think it’s so important to truly familiarise yourself with the company’s ethos, their history and perhaps some key facts and statistics surrounding their performance. The main reason I applied to take part in the TeachFirst programme was because I felt like their goal to tackle educational inequality fit with some of my motivations for wanting to become a teacher. I also felt like I would be taking a risk and pushing myself to pursue opportunities that I would normally view as being way out of my comfort zone. I think it’s good to want to develop though 🙂

Read the preliminary information carefully

It’s likely that you’ll have several different tasks to complete at the assessment centre, each of which will test different competencies and suitability for the role you’ve applied for. In preparation for my interview, I was given a selection of questions and had to plan and conduct a seven-minute sample lesson based on any of the given topics. It was intense, but the experience of planning and delivering a lesson was exhilarating. I quite enjoyed it…If you are given some information beforehand, scrutinise every detail until your 100% confident with the layout of the day and what is expected of you. Preliminary packs might contain information relating to the dress code, the time/date of your interview, and whether you should bring a form of ID.

Socialise with the others at the assessment centre

It may feel like you’re there in competition with all the other candidates, but, really, I bet everyone at the assessment centre will feel as nervous as you! It might also be the case that you’re asked to complete a group task, so it would be good to establish a sense of familiarity with who you’re working with.

 Take a friend!

When I had my interview, my friend Heather came along with me for moral support, which was lovely of her (to be fair I think she was only interested in visiting the V&A museum but, you know, she still came, and provided chocolate for the journey). I was so drained by the end of the day and it was nice to have a friendly face there with me at the end just to talk to about something other than the interview. I knew that if I went on my own I’d probably overthink every detail, and so I was grateful for the distraction.

Don’t worry

I have a natural tendency to worry about (honestly) everything, so you can probably imagine the state I worked myself up into before and after the interview. I know it’s easier said than done, but please try and take the time to focus on your wellbeing. Interviews can be incredibly daunting and the lead up to the day itself is equally as stressful; but there are ways of controlling that overwhelming feeling. The night before my interview I refused to think about it. I watched Gogglebox, relaxed and just allowed myself to take time out. Whilst the interview was still there at the back of my mind, I didn’t allow myself to get too absorbed in analysing the possible outcomes or the potential mishaps. Self-care is not selfish; never underestimate the power of tea!

Enjoy the whole experience

I went into the interview with the view that, if I didn’t progress onto the next stage, I would ask for feedback and develop from there. Most companies do offer detailed feedback on your performance at the assessment centre, so even if you aren’t successful you know what areas you might want to work on for future interviews.

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The most important piece of advice I can offer you, though, is to be kind to yourself. After I left the assessment centre, I felt like I’d made a complete fool out of myself and that the whole thing was just one big failure. That was a huge blow to my confidence and self-esteem, and to no avail as I was offered a place on the programme!

You’ll do ace 🙂

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