Group exercises

Teamwork, leadership, conflict-resolution and influencing skills – how can you measure such essential yet hard-to-quantify work skills?

For many recruiters, the answer is through group exercises held during assessment days. Alongside psychometric tests and interviews, such exercises are seen as vital to get a rounded picture of a candidate's potential.

Group exercises usually involve a team of about six candidates. The team is given a hypothetical problem-solving scenario and asked to work together to resolve it while assessors watch the way the candidates interact for clues to their personalities and working styles.

To succeed in group exercises, bear in mind the following do's and don'ts.

Do read the instructions
Study the brief carefully, assuming that everything in it is potentially important: sometimes it's the small details that make all the difference. Pay close attention to time deadlines, too.

Do look at all the equipment provided
That string, pair of scissors or pencil is probably there for a reason.

Do get in quickly
The opening few minutes are the time when people establish themselves as leaders and team-builders. If you can make a good point early on, others will warm to you and follow your lead.

Do involve others
Invite the quietest member to do something. There'll probably be a role for everyone: leaders, debaters, number-crunchers, time-keepers…A good leader will make sure everyone's doing something.

Do find a consensus
Defend your ideas if challenged, but be prepared to compromise. You probably don't have all the answers, so allow others to speak.

Don't be flippant or rubbish the exercise
Even if it seems childish or poorly structured. Don't put others down, either.

Don't sit silent
Even if you feel left out by the others, offer to do something – even if it's one of the less-exciting tasks.

Don't be argumentative
Even when people don't agree with your ideas, try to discuss your ideas in a calm and open manner. If that doesn't work, then suggest a compromise.

Remember that the assessors are watching you at all times, and anything underhand will be marked down. But don't be intimidated either. They’re looking for gifted people to work at their organization, and they'll want you to do well.

This information was supplied by the Institute of Physics, which offers a range of careers advice and resources for people with a background in physics.