Assessment Centre > Introduction

Assessment Centre has a variety of definitions and these are based on its methodology of assessing a candidate’s performance and aptitude. Trained Assessors observe a group of candidates performing a variety of aptitude diagnostic procedures which provide specific information on the abilities and developmental capacity of each applicant.

An Assessment Centre is actually a process applicants take part in and is not specific to any one location. Its popularity is also evident in staff growth plans where it is usually known as a Development Centre. These procedures are designed to ensure employee investment is maximised for both the organisation and the individual. Whilst the general process is very similar to Assessment Centres the subtle difference is that at a Development Centre you will be given feedback immediately and work with the assessor to agree a future plan.

Many organisations use the expertise of an HR consultant to design the exercises to meet their specific role requirements and then to conduct the actual testing and assessment of candidates. These services come with a significant cost and that is why you will increasing face testing through an Assessment Centre as you apply for higher-level strategic and technical roles.

The length of an Assessment Centre will vary from half-a-day to two full days and may be held on the employer’s premises, often within their own training facilities or on the premises of the organisations Human Resources (HR) consultant.

Candidates attending an Assessment Centre will take part in a variety of specially designed exercises which allow them to demonstrate how their skills and aptitudes correlate with those required to perform the role.  Each of the exercises simulates aspects of the job description and work environment.

Types of Assessment and Development Centre Exercise                 
The diagram below shows the most common exercises to be included in an assessment centre.


Assement Center Exercise

An in-tray or in-basket exercise asks to assume a particular role as an employee of a fictitious company and work through the correspondence in your in-tray. This exercise is designed to measure your ability to organize and prioritize work.

In a presentation exercise, you will be given a topic or possibly a choice of topics and asked to make a presentation of around ten minutes with five minutes at the end for questions. This is designed to measure your presentation skills including your ability to organise and structure the information and to communicate your points clearly and concisely.

Group discussion exercises involve you working with other candidates as part of a team to resolve a presented issue. These exercises are designed to measure interpersonal skills such as group leadership, teamwork, negotiation, and group problem solving skills.

Panel interviews are regarded as a more objective means of assessing your suitability as you will be interviewed by between three and five people and therefore the decision is not reliant on just one person's opinion. In addition, they are usually more structured than a one-to-one interview as the panel need to assess all of the candidates against the same criteria.

The expense of conducting an assessment centre is usually somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000 per candidate. This tends to restrict their use to situations where the costs can be justified in terms of preventing high expenses associated with unsuitable personnel e.g. high staff turnover or poor job performance resulting in low productivity.

Assessment centres are seen as one of the most effective ways of identifying top candidates who'll get on well with others and fit in with the organizations culture. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's ‘Recruitment, Retention and Turnover 2004 Survey’, 34 per cent of employers now use assessment centres when recruiting managers, professionals and graduates. This figure will inevitably grow as organizations seek to make more accurate selection and promotion decisions.

The assessment centre method is utilized in a variety of settings including industry and business, government, armed forces, educational institutions, and safety forces to select individuals for supervisory, technical, sales, or management positions. One recent trend is in the development of mass testing. This is done by video-taping candidates as they perform various exercises and by using objectively scored exercises. This permits the assessment of a much larger number of candidates per day as the scoring is done later and requires far less observation and administration.

Assesment Centre Procedure

Assessment centres are usually used after the initial stages of the selection process, because of the large amount of time and expense in conducting them, and usually follow the initial job interview. Other measurements such as psychological tests may complement the selection process. They are commonly held either on employers’ premises or in a hotel and are considered by many organizations to be the fairest and most accurate method of selecting staff. This is because a number of different selectors get to see you over a longer period of time and have the chance to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do, in a variety of situations.

How are the Assessment and Development Centre Exercises Conducted?
Assessment Centres may be conducted by HR personnel within the employer company or by outside consultants. They are highly structured in their design, application, and assessment procedure and are specifically adapted to assess factors such as your level of skills, aptitude and compatibility with the organization's culture. Each test measures a range of indicators within these factors.

During each test, a group of observers will rate you on a range of set indicators, using a prescribed performance scale. Results are then cross compared against the same indicators, which are measured in other tests. Following test completion, observers meet to discuss the test results and reach a group consensus about your ratings.

At the beginning of the assessment, you should receive an initial briefing about the timetable of tests, location of rooms etc. Prior to each test, you will be given instructions describing the exercise, your role, timeframe's, equipment etc. You will not be told in detail about the individual indicators which will be measured. In addition, you are unlikely to receive feedback on your results, unless you have been successfully selected.

You may also be interested in:

What is an Assessment Centre?
Who uses the Assessment Centre?
What are the Different Types of Assessment Centre?
What Format Does an Assessment Centre Take?
Who are the Assessors?
What are Assessment Centre Exercises?
What is an In-Tray Exercise?
What is a Presentation Exercise?
What are Group Exercises?
What are Role Play Exercises?

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