Group exercise tips for assessment day success

Ah, the group exercise - always an entertaining part of an assessment day for those watching. As with a clown act, there's plenty of potential for disaster, cruelty and public humiliation. But don't worry! If you approach the group exercise with some thought, you can make sure you won't trip up and, dare we say it, even have fun!

It's a balancing act

So how do you avoid the custard pie? The key, as with many assessment day circus challenges, is balance. Just as a clown has somehow to act the fool without looking like a fool, on a team exercise you have to be a team player but make sure you stand out as as an individual.

But there's no need to wear a red nose or funny makeup - follow our top tips and you'll be laughing.

Be prepared

So what's our advice? First of all, as for every assessment day task, be prepared. For this task, psyching yourself up is particularly important. We don't always advise clowning around with your career, but during a team exercise at an assessment day you may well find yourself having to show you're game for some fairly ridiculous activities.

For instance, at various times The Gateway has been asked, in order to demonstrate teamwork skills, to make a 3-minute TV advert for a law firm in the style of The Godfather, untie someone from a tree using only one hand, and pretend to be part of a delegation of aliens visiting Earth for the first time.

However, you may be lucky and only be subjected to a "Let's have a heated debate"-type task, where you'll be asked to discuss a topic on provided materials, and come up with a team view or decision.

Another important step you can take to prepare psychologically is to think about your personality a little - and it can be helpful to talk to friends and family too. Are you a relatively quiet person? If so, make a mental note to push yourself forward and pipe up with ideas during the exercise. If, on the other hand, you have queen bee tendencies, remember you'll have to rein in that desire for world domination and let others contribute too.

On the day

So the big moment has arrived: you've been asked to plan how to get across that frozen river, or to dream up a killer corporate strategy for BigCo - and it's showtime! How should you approach working with others to make sure you get the job done together - and demonstrate your own individual skills?

First, make sure you - and every other member of your team - is clear about what you've been asked to do and how long you've got to do it. Then, get going!

You'll probably need to start by thinking up ideas. Make sure you come up with some and that your voice is heard, and you'll also get applause for encouraging others to speak and responding intelligently and politely to their thoughts.

Consider the options carefully, but it's important that someone keeps an eye on the clock and makes sure things move forward - and if you do so, you'll be showing star quality!

Next, it'll be time to get the job done, or to make sure the decision is made. Here, it's important that you're willing to take on a big role. Someone has to be team leader, give the final presentation, or jump into the pool - and it won't hurt your chances of a success if it's you!

But don't push others aside aggressively, or worry too much if another candidate gets there first. Be equally happy to take on the less glamorous jobs - write on the whiteboard, or hold the stopwatch.

Whatever you end up being assigned, don't grumble and, crucially, make sure you complete your part of the task properly. If you're at a loose end or feel sidelined, ask if anyone else needs help or do a quick mental assessment of where things are and what needs to be done, and take action accordingly.

And remember...

And what if it all starts to feel like a bad joke? There may be tensions - someone may see themselves as born to rule, or stress may lead to fraying tempers. And what if, despite everyone's best efforts, your paper tower sucks or the team goes way off track with the numbers? Laugh it off!

Remember that recruiters don't really need that Lego model built correctly, or advice about which Asian country to open their factory in, but want to assess your skills. If you've acted reasonably and performed as well as you could have done in the circumstances, your part in the act is bound to have made someone smile.