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Before the COVID19 lockdown interrupted activities this spring, final year Retail Management students at University of Chester Business School were given the opportunity to experience a recruitment exercise last term.

The group took part in a graduate assessment centre, a series of challenges to test their understanding of contemporary and strategic retailing principles before they swap University for the world of work. As part of the day, students critically analysed a well-known retailer of their choice; presented this research to a panel of retailing experts; answered individual 'interview' questions and took part in an observed group exercise

The assessment panel comprised a number of retailing experts including senior representatives from Liverpool ONE, McArthur Glen Cheshire Oaks, Iceland Foods, McCarthy Retail Recruitment and Cheshire West and Chester Council, who all supported the process in order to provide the candidates with authentic employer feedback. They were extremely impressed with the quality of candidates they saw.

Liverpool ONE’s Head of Communications, Laura Carter said, “This was my second year as part of the graduate assessment centre and I was thrilled to be welcomed back. It’s so refreshing to hear the students’ insights into the retail sector and to get the opportunity to explore the knowledge they have developed during their studies and research. Retail is the perfect career path for ambitious individuals who are great with people, adapt easily and can work under pressure. I saw lots of this talent on display during this year’s assessment centre and look forward to seeing many of these students progress into the jobs they’re aspiring to.”

Laura was delighted that the last group had chosen to analyse John Lewis, who of course have a flagship store at the renowned Liverpool centre.  

​The Retail Management Assessment Centre was organised by Lisa Conway, Module Leader for Retail Management at University of Chester's Business School, with the support of colleagues from across the Business School. The Assessment Centre is delivered in partnership with the University's Careers and Employability service, who co-ordinate the observed team exercise element, that explores professional soft skills such as problem solving and leadership.

Lisa, who is also a Senior University Teaching Fellow for the Business School, said: "While addressing a panel of retail experts is very daunting at first for students, they find that they enjoy the experience and gain so much from it that will help them in the future.

“Up until this point, their assessment feedback has been provided purely by academic colleagues, and to have that scaffolded with the authentic feedback of retail and recruitment specialists is extremely helpful. We are so grateful to these experts for giving their time."

Final year student Abigail Owen, who presented analysis relating to Marks and Spencer said: "On assessment day, I was so nervous and actually thought beforehand 'why on earth did I choose this module' but during and afterwards I'm so glad I did. We had the chance to be challenged and gain real feedback right before many of us were going for interviews for graduate roles and it was so useful to be able to practice and perfect our technique.

“I had never done an assessment centre before so didn't know what to fully expect, but Lisa couldn't have done more to help us to prepare, and made the preparation interesting, relevant and enjoyable. This assessment gives you the chance to shine in ways you can't in other assessments."

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