Dilemma of the group exercise



Well I have been trying to get a grad job for some time now and in almost all assessment centres I have been to, I have gotten a bad feedback for group exercises.
My problem here is that I have tried to be a facilitator. One time with 2 mins for the exercise to finish, I asked a girl politely (who was rambling on) that we do not have much time and let us finish the exercise. My feedback was “you lead the group but in a detrimental way”. There have been times when I have been more of a contributor, listening to everyone and my feedback was “you did not contribute enough”.
There was this one time when I wasn’t too “pushy” or “too quiet” but the feedback I got said “you did not bring others along”!!
Is it me or are the companies going mad?
The best part is we are told to not act and be ourselves, but most companies clearly want somebody to fit in a typical box.

I, frankly, am all confused and scared of an upcoming assessment centre. Does this happen to everyone?



I feel for you! I also have had issues with group exercises in the past (although mainly due to my quiet nature). I would say that you are doing the right thing by being active in the exercise rather than passive. And acting as facilitator will make sure you get noticed by the assessors (in the situation you describe above I think that is a bit harsh, but maybe you needed to be a bit more subtle, perhaps using hand gesture and eye contact to get them to stop for a second?).

I did one group exercise at a mid-tier acc firm which was a large group (8??) and was told by the assessor during feedback that it was a poor exercise overall and although I had generated good ideas and built on others I hadn’t been involved enough.

To analyse your experience further: try drawing up a quick table of the places you applied for, the approach you adopted for the group exercise, and what you perceive as being their organisational culture. Could it be that you have chosen the more assertive approach at the org with the least aggressive culture? What sort of places have you been applying to?

At the end of the day, I think it is all down to what the assessors prefer (despite what everyone says about objectivity) as it is only natural. I agree with you about the ‘does candidate X fit into our typical grad?’ attitude. Although it is a deeply flawed mentality for the long term future of the business, if everyone is the same where are the ideas going to come from and not everyone can be the boss.

good luck with your apps and keep up the belief as it will come good in the end.



Micky, my advice would be to try be yourself. The more you keep trying to change the way you normally behave the more pressure you will put on yourself, i’m not saying don’t take the points of feedback, I just mean to have these at the back of your mind during the group tasks but don’t go in there thinking “right i’ve got to be the leader”. Hope this helps, good luck dude


Hi ucayman, trader1984,

Thanks for your advice. Ucayman, I was thinking of doing the same thing. Most industrial companies do not mind you being a bit loud, not aggressive or brash (I feel). Whereas places like KPMG, BArclaycard etc. probably want you to listen more and be more diplomatic.
HOwever, as trader1984 said I think its best to be yourself and hope that the company likes you.

Fingers crossed.



i personally think the optimum no for a group exercise is 4/5. when you hit 6/7 people an element of “i must get a word in before someone else does” starts to creep in. When you have 8+ it becomes a fight to get a word in. I’ve had a group exercise which must have involved at least 12/13 people. We were all sat around those proper long meeting tables. It was a complete failure IMO. Far too many people, and a good 2/3 people did not even utter a single word, mostly likely due to a combo of them being quiet by nature and the ridiculous numbers. And because of the large numbers, the more dominant types became even more inclined to talk as much as possible. So it’s a lose-lose situation for candidates and assessors. Why the organisers didnt split the group into smaller numbers I’ll never know.

To the OP, indeed, it truly is a dilemma. But smaller more manageable numbers definitely help!