The notion of an entire day of assessment is quite horrific when you break it down. 24 hours of constant evaluation, estimation and speculation. No sacred second is safe, for you have to be on your guard at all times. Be too familiar and you won’t be taken seriously; too many questions, you become a pain; no questions… well, you’re clearly not interested, and you know where the front door is. Too pompous? Don’t even turn up.
It is a fine balancing act. You need to demonstrate intelligence and curiosity, be inspirational but also a good listener, have a desire to collaborate with others and yet know the right time to take leadership. Be yourself. Don’t be yourself. It’s frankly exhausting.
As an Edelman Graduate Assessment Day alumnus, I look back and wonder how I slipped through the net. The opportunity was a golden one: working for different departments over twelve months, building your communications skills at a rapid rate, while learning from the best in the business.
So perhaps this year’s cohort of assessment attendees were right to turn up. And as one of the team who was tasked with assessing applicants during the group task, I can feel confident in the firm’s future. Not only did these individuals turn up, they shone bright like diamonds: creative, quick-thinking, quick-witted, organised and determined. In 45 minutes they turned a hypothetical ordinary week at Edelman into an orgy of events, competitions and mini-campaigns in the name of charity. Honest, straightforward and sophisticated thinking emanated from them in a very short space of time, confidently presented back to the judges (me and three fellow Nick Hewer wannabes). We were tough in the Q&A session: what would some of our clients say about this event? How would you measure the success of the campaign? Why should anyone care about your plan? They matched us at every step.
How could it be you next time?
In truth I cannot tell you exactly what Edelman is looking for, because there is no set template, no ideal Graduate candidate. We recognise the need for diversity of thinking amongst our teams. We reward creativity and organisation, and we implore everyone to operate in line with our values and principles.
The best candidates have an innate awareness of issues and new trends in the industry. What role will PR or communications marketing play in the broader marketing mix in the future? How should we incorporate digital and research into campaigns for clients and how can we measure our success? What makes Edelman stand out from competitors?
The assessment day ended with a ‘wash-up’ session for the interviewers. We all came together to discuss each candidate in turn. Don’t worry, everyone was scored during each of the sessions as well, so there was no group-think swing towards one person’s view of a candidate. But one final piece of advice: try to envision what you want people to say about you in that session. Aim for a lasting positive impression. Don’t be the pompous one who shouldn’t have turned up.