Reflecting on Graduate Assessment Centres, 2018

Earlier this year I became a Licensed User of MTa Learning materials. For those of you who haven’t come across this company, it specialises in Designing and supplying materials that enable facilitators to deliver world class experiential activities.”


It’s a bold claim, and I’m always cautious when spending significant amounts of money on new materials. Ultimately, however, I became convinced that there was real value to me in one particular product – MTa Select. The image at the top of the page shows a snapshot of the kit.

Before I go any further I should make one thing clear: This is an entirely independent review; I have received no inducement or reward for mentioning this product or company.

Historically, like most practitioners, I’ve tended to rely on traditional, well-established tools for Assessment Centres. I’m talking about things such as: Group discussion exercises (in my case usually non-assigned), In-tray tasks, sometimes Fact-Find tasks, Presentations, etc… I have even occasionally managed to find discussion tasks which involve an element of ‘practicality’, such as drawing or design. I tend to buy off-the-shelf from professional publishers – I have neither the time nor the inclination to design my own.

But it’s very often difficult to find new exercises which are (a) relevant, (b) versatile and (c) stimulating and engaging for both Candidates and Assessors. For this year’s Graduate Assessment Centres (we ran 12 in all), the MTa Select exercise seemed perfect.

Looks more stable that it was!!

The images that follow reflect (some of) the diversity of efforts by the candidates. Incidentally, ALL of the images shown are a result of exactly the same exercise (I won’t give details of the actual exercise).

We ran the assessments in groups of 4 (min) to 6 (max). Age range was 21 – 29; candidates were of Graduate calibre, applying for positions in a variety of disciplines. Candidates were of various nationalities (pan-European) and the Assessment Centre language was English.

AC7Instructions for the candidates had me puzzled initially. Why? Because there is only one set. That is, there is only one set of instructions PER GROUP, not one set per individual. This was a significant departure from every other group exercise I’ve ever conducted, but trust me, it works fine.

There are suggested Assessment Criteria contained in the MTa manuals, but to be honest we used a fairly generic, competency-based set, including: Persuasive Oral Communication; Teamwork; Planning & Organising; Problem Analysis; Commercial Awareness; Reputation Management. AC8It is perfectly feasible – within reason – to tailor the criteria to the role / function / level under assessment.

We aimed to use an Assessor:Candidate ratio of 1:1, and in my opinion this is almost essential. Why? Because as soon as the exercise commences, the candidates MOVE. And keeping track is a real challenge.

One word of warning… DO NOT RUSH the start of the exercise!! This is especially important if you are on a tight time frame. This assessment is unlike most group exercise challenges where the candidates are seated around a central desk! It is a physical, mobile, fluid exercise, and Assessors will need to move too! If you don’t make a note of which candidate is which BEFORE STARTING, it can get confusing quickly!


Are there down-sides for Assessors? Yes. Often the group will ‘split’ at an early stage. This makes it all but impossible to maintain an overview of ‘whole team activity’. Instead, you have a close view of your allocated candidate and an overview of another one or two. Contrast this with ’round-the-table’ exercises, where it is possible to oversee all candidates.

Up-sides for Candidates? Yes! Candidates can bring their real-world experience to bear in this exercise. AC5There is no ‘pretence’ required; they can be who they are, and they certainly have opportunities to showcase their knowledge, experience, interests, etc..

Any other challenges? Room size! This is not the kind of activity that works optimally in a confined space. A section of open floor area is required (I would suggest around 3m x 3m), as well as a desk area for candidates. And then of course, there must be space for Assessors.

Also, the kit is LARGE. Two bags keep it tidy when not in use, but the bags take up considerable boot space when moving around (Each bag is approx. 60 x 40 x 30 cms). They are not especially heavy, but they are bulky.

As you can see from the images, the variety of ‘product’ generated by candidates is considerable. AC4We saw some efforts that were questionable at best, and others which surprised everyone with their quality, creativity and complexity. Feedback from both Candidates and Assessors was positive.

In short, the MTa Select kit has shown itself to be an extremely valuable addition to our portfolio of Assessment Centre exercises. Providing you bear in mind the insights above, I have no hesitation in recommending it.

And finally, if you would like us to be involved in your own Assessment Centre projects, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Previous Blog Posts:

Nipsative: ANew Norm in Personality Assessment

The Big Five Personality Model

Apprentice Selection 2018

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