The Assessment Centre (AC) — a survival guide

Great! We did it! we have made our way through the previous test and we got the letter that invite us to the Assessment Centre ( then you can hear the sound thunder and lighting behind)

For some, it will be like having an invitation to Dracula’s castle (guess who is the menu) for other is like Disnelyland’s castle. Don’t worry, in both case we are here to help you to prevent your blood is been sucked or being the main singer in a epso-cartoon music hall.

Where is this?

Most common case it will be in Brussels in EPSO premises, for some competitions it might be Luxembourg. IF it’s in Brussels pray to avoid the European Council, when all the Heads of government meet in Brussels, as the are will be literally occupied by the police forcing you to be quite early in the assessment as street access may be cut after 9 a.m until…..(don’t worry, EPSO will notify this eventuality in advance)

What should I do first?

invitacion assessment centre.jpg

First thing is to read your invitation letter (something like that one of the image). Check date and time for your test; the requirements on professional experience and academic background documentation (blue Circle) It’s now when they ask to prove all , did you think you could escape from the paper work? Also they require the documents to refund your travel cost to take part in the exam (plane or train ticket and hotel night if relevant).

Have we already said it? read the letter and check all elements requested, Ig you need help, check EPSO has included the link or the pdf to the guide where the procedure to present the documentation must be followed. If despite all your efforts you are still lost contact them to clarify or keep reading, we’ll do our best to help you

The day of the exam remember to be there on time, some buffer time (30m for instance) is also a good idea to keep everything under control. Remember you will need to register at the entrance and most probably you won’t be allow to enter until part , or the whole group, of the candidates are
procedure on the day of the exam. Take advantage of the time with other candidates to meet each other, remember you are potential colleagues and you are not competing against each other, just the contrary, cooperation could be the key to success.

Which clothes should I wear?

This assessment day is not like a job interview, it’s a JOB INTERVIEW so dress for it accordingly. Yes, there is not a strict definition of what clothes you should were. The dilemma is solved quite easily for men, as the typical suit (tie included) suits you , for girls, job interview clothes (whatever it means). Let’s face it, until you can wear a man/unisex suit with tie as an ordinary thing, there won’t be real gender balance. The good news are that’s the biggest “discrimination” you may suffer. All the process is equally just (or unjust, as there is no perfect selection system) for all participants.

After considering several options, we still recommend sobriety and good taste, BUT above all, wear something comfortable, you may spend the whole day in the Assessment centre.

How long is it?

In the case of generalist , with 4 test ( oral presentation, structure interview, group exercise and motivational interview) it can take 6-8 hours , depends how the test are scheduled. For auditors , with 3 test (group exercise, structured interview and field related interview) takes 4-6 hours.

In other competitions , it might last up to 1 day and a half (usually is indicated in the notice of competition and also in the invitation letter) or 8 fully booked hours (in case you have to do the CBT too).

The Case study or written test are usually organised in a different day , the same for all candidates. Again, it will indicated in the notice of competition (a.k.a your rule book). Whatever is your case for the assessment, take it easy or the nerves will exhaust you in a couple of hours, also grant yourself extra time (specially if you are taking a flight back to your place) so it’s easier to keep calm and everything under control .

Paperwork – What to do?

Let’s focus a bit more on this as most likely you’ll have to prepare two types of paper as indicated on the invitation letter :

  • 1.-reimbursement
  • 2.- evidence of your degree (diploma and grades) and/or working experience

Our advice is to get rid of this as soon as possible, so you’ll have more time to prepare for what really matters, the test.

Check the requirements thoughtfully and prepare a list with the documents accordingly, then compile all. Before it was all on paper, now EPSO is asking for a USB key with all documents scanned. (whatever is the case, it must be described in the invitation letter, yes, again). As it is better not to leave anything to Murphy, have 2 copies off everything (maybe your dog decides for fun to chew the USB key or the papers) and once the documents are compiled, leave it for a few days then check again if you didn’t miss anything. Remember! Paperwork must not become a source of distraction.

Please, please, any tricks or suggestions?

Based on our experience with assessment (Ok, it’s not home but we have been there several times so we are quite familiar with it), we have some suggestions that worked well for us (we never advice anything not checked or test before by us) simple but effective (this is the Assessment centre not rocket science) :

  • Relax, rest well the day before. really? is that a surprising advice? well, what is surprising how many candidates spend the day before reviewing questions, practicing like a last-hour study and sleeping few hours. Don’t! better to sleep well the night before and keep your energy, your performance the D-Day will be much better
  • Water and sugar. Although there are some vending machines (but offer is limited) in the premises and probably you’ll have a break for lunch, you can take (and leave in a locker during the test) some stuff with you. So carrying your favorite juice, dried fruits or biscuits to grab a bit in case you need to boost your brain looks a good idea (So far, sugar-glucose is an allowed “doping”) . If you are smoker only during the lunch break you’ll have an opportunity to do it, so take it into account.
  • Be friendly and natural with your exam peers. Remember, helping them is helping you (yes, there is always some nasty exceptions who doesn’t want to collaborate, we are human being at the end). Meet them from the first moment, learn their names and talk to them. It reduces the anxiety and establish a good atmosphere which helps to spend the day more easily and also to run smother the group exercise..

That’s it for the assessment itself, the specific suggestions for each test are in their respective entry. Last but not least, you can spend 6 minutes more and watch the video prepared by EPSO describing the Assessment day. It has some years now but still offers a fair idea of what you may find).

Now, It’s time to focus, in detail, on the test themselves (coming soon)

  • A structured interview and Field related interview
  • Group exercise
  • Oral presentation (AD5 generalists)
  • Motivational interview (AD5 generalists)
  • case study

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