Have you looked through your assessment day contents to find a written exercise there? Do not be surprised. More and more companies adopt writing skills as a benchmark for success, and you are now very likely to be tested this way on the final rounds of selection process.

Your written exercise is an opportunity to showcase your communication skills, as well as professionalism, sound judgement and good grammar. Depending on the specifics of your future job, your written exercise can be centred around making recommendations or writing a professional email. In any case, the purpose of the written exercise is to show your employer that you are an effective and skilled communicator, able to convey your ideas in a clear and logical manner.

Written exercises vary in content and focus — and so there is no single template you can use to prepare. No cause for panic though! Good writer or not, there are a few things that are sure to guarantee that you find the exercise easy and actually enjoyable.

Understand what you are doing.
Remember the mantra of your university exams? You need to make sure that you understand the question. This holds in the world of assessment centres too. Spend a few of your precious seconds on ensuring that you understand your task and its purpose — or lose precious points if you don’t. Keep your task in mind at all times. It is very easy to digress under time pressure. Keep to your main points and present your ideas clearly. This is an exercise in attention to detail and clarity as well as communication — so don’t miss out on points for those!

Presentation is key.
Whether you are composing a client communication email or a recommendation for your seniors, your writing style should be professional. This is a broad term, but it is a good idea to keep your vocabulary neutral and your syntax simple. Be concise: short sentences go a long way and keep your readers focused for longer. This is not an essay, so feel free to use bullet-points to guide your reader visually through the flow of your ideas. Make sure that you briefly explain your reasoning for every point that you make — after all, you do not want to produce unsupported claims! Separate your ideas into clear paragraphs and make sure to create a clear structure. Prioritise your ideas and list the best ones first — chances are, under time pressure, those are the best ones you can come up with. It is always better to elaborate more on the ideas you have put down already than to add more and more points frantically.

Mind your professional writing ethics.
There is no strict code to professional communications, but you are expected to know how to write professional emails in your written exercise. Daunted? Well, here is your crash course. If you are asked to write an email, begin with Dear Sir / Madam is the recipient is unknown. If you know the recipient, make sure to include their name after Dear. Sign off as Yours faithfully in the former case, and as Yours sincerely in the latter. Never use Best regards in professional communications — go for Kind regards instead. If your written exercise is not an email writing one, keep your language on the formal side. Nevertheless, avoid stilted phrases — as much as we love the word, nevertheless would not work too well in your group exercise piece.

Work with the clock.
Written exercises are usually strictly timed. This means that you will do yourself a favour if you prepare for writing fast and writing legibly. Do a couple of written exercises at home to time yourself. Then use the results to see what you are like. Do you know yourself to be a slow writer? Allocate less time for reading and coming up with ideas. Do you know that you are likely to stall after the first few ideas? Work on developing those and supporting them instead of coming up with new ones. Effective time management can improve your performance drastically. Knowing how you behave under time pressure will also help you keep you nerves at bay and deliver a great written piece.

Bring in what you know about the company.
There is a reason why written exercises differ across companies. You will likely be tested on writing something that your future job involves on a daily basis. This means that your written exercise is a great opportunity for you to bring in your knowledge about the company and act as an internal worker already. Do you know something unique about your company (and you do if you have been following our tips!)? Incorporate it! This adds a nice touch to your written exercise, as well as confirms you as a person who fits right in for the employer.

How are you feeling about your written exercise? Remember, we do answer emails at hello@citygambit.com and are always looking forward to your messages on Facebook or LinkedIn.  If you want to guarantee your success at the whole of your assessment centre — not only the written exercise — drop us a line and let’s see how we can help!

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