Don’t be scared of Assessment Centres
SummaryRecruitment is a very inexact science – the statistics in favour of making the right decision based on the traditional interview alone are horrifyingly low (the percentage is in single figures). This is a fact that has really only been acknowledged in recent years and, as a result, organisations have looked for ways to improve the success rate of their selection choices.
Assessment centres have their origins in the military where they were used in training and development. The idea was then adopted by large commercial organisations, which used them as part of graduate recruitment programmes. However, the emergence of competency based selection, over the last 20 years or so, has brought the assessment centre into more common usage amongst serious recruiters.
What is an Assessment Centre?
An assessment centre is normally a set of exercises, based on pre-determined competencies that make up a job description and person profile. These exercises are designed to enable participants to demonstrate skills, knowledge, attitudes and potential to do the job. The scenarios need not be job specific and may even be ‘fantasy’ situations so that candidates with previous experience of the job will not be seen to have an advantage. Assessment Centres may include some or all of the following: team and individual tasks, role-plays, written reports, competency based interviews, psychometric and aptitude tests.
Candidates will be observed participating in the tasks and role-plays and will be marked on the behaviour they demonstrate against the competencies. For example, below are some common competencies:
In order to assess the first two, a group exercise to carry out a task within a specified time may be used. Assessors will be looking for examples of individuals working together to complete their objective and of how important it is to them to finish on time.
Advantages of an Assessment Centre
· Recruiters look at the overall picture rather than relying on one activity to make a judgement
· Candidates are not normally equally good at all exercises. In a balanced assessment, a good performance in one area may counteract other areas where the candidate has done less well
· Marks may be weighted according to the importance of each competency so candidates who do well in these areas will usually score well overall
· When a number of assessors are involved, individual bias is avoided; the focus is on assessing the core competencies for the job rather than the subjective opinion of one interviewer
· In most cases, the candidates are not in competition with each other as there are a number of vacancies to be filled
Disadvantages of an Assessment Centre
· Older job applicants may not have participated in an assessment centre before and may see it as a threat. However, their past experience can often carry them through most of the exercises
· It can be very time consuming – an average interview lasts approximately one hour while an assessment centre can take up to two or three days
· It is labour intensive. To run a successful centre, you need at least one facilitator to organise the events and a number of role players and assessors (usually 1 role player and 1 assessor to every 2 candidates)
· A centre is really only cost effective for volume recruitment projects where the cost can be spread over several vacancies
· This is unlikely to be the only part of the selection process. There may be a pre-screening interview before the assessment centre and/or a further interview to follow for a shortlist of candidates.
How to approach an Assessment Centre as a candidate
· Be yourself – you may be able to put on an act for an hour or so during an interview but it is difficult to sustain for a day!
· You have already been short listed – something from your CV or the initial screening has got you this far, so take confidence from that
· This could well be an organisation worth working for – they are obviously serious about their people, and want to ensure that they do the best they can to achieve the right fit for them and you
· Assessment centres are not designed to catch you out – everyone wants you to succeed. The exercises are designed to give you the opportunity to show what you are capable of, not to trap you or make a fool of you
· It will give you the best opportunity to show off your skills (in the nicest possible way)! The company is looking for you to demonstrate that you can or have the potential to do the job
· Do your research – as you would for an interview, found out as much as you can about the company, the job description and the person profile. These will give you an idea of the core competencies that are being assessed
· Relax – once you get involved in the first activity, you will forget your nerves
· Do the best you can – don’t try to second guess and concentrate on the task in hand rather than trying to impress the assessor
· Remember you will be better at some exercises than others – you will not have blown your chances if you think you did not do well in the first exercise
If you are asked to attend an Assessment Centre, take the opportunity – most people enjoy the experience even though it can be mentally and physically tiring
After the event, reflect on what you have learned about yourself, although don’t use it as a chance to beat yourself up: “if only I had done/said ………”
Be aware that even if you ask, you may not get feedback on how you did. Most recruiters consider it irresponsible to give broad career advice on the basis of limited evidence.
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Article Written By:
Pam Reeves, SharpCV
SharpCV is a new Career Management Agency based in and operating Nationwide. Specialising in CV and Covering Letter Preparation, Interview Coaching, Psychometric Testing and Job Application Management. As a registered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, SharpCV uses it’s network of Occupational Psychologists, Recruitment Consultants, Business Experts and Career Consultants to help you make your way up the career ladder.
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