Who are the Assessors?
In her book 'A Preparation Guide for the Assessment Centre Method', Tina Lewis Rowe provides an excellent definition of an assessor.
'An Assessor is an individual trained to observe, record, classify and make reliable judgements about the behaviours of those being assessed.'
Source: Lewis Rowe, Tina; A Preparation Guide for the Assessment Centre Method; (2006)
Charles C Thomas Publishers Ltd, Illinois, USA.
Who are your Assessors?
They are usually people one level above the position you have applied for. They will be ambitious and successful individuals within their own departments and organisations. These people will have a very clear idea of the qualities they expect to see in an individual performing the role you have applied for. They will also have a definite expectation of how that role assists them in performing their function.
Many agencies have a preferred list of assessors that they like to use. Human Resources (HR) departments will also have key people that they call upon for the assessment centre days. Where you are applying for more senior roles, the organisation may choose to use external assessors if they feel that these individuals bring a broader perspective to the assessment of candidates.
The training an assessor receives, whether they are internal or external to the organisation, will equip them with the skills to:
Record candidates’ behaviour.
They will also have a thorough understanding of the requirements of the role and have studied the job specification. From this knowledge a list of competencies will be drawn up, each with a detailed description. This is to ensure consistency among the assessors when scoring candidates.
There are three things you need to remember about the Assessors:
They know nothing about you.
They can only give you marks for behaviours you show them during the exercises.
They are only concerned with how you display the behaviours applicable to the role.
Your key objective is to find out what competencies and associated behaviours the assessors see as essential, desirable, adequate, and a liability. The amount of time you have before your assessment will influence what you can do in terms of this type of preparation. At the very least, you need to look objectively at people who perform the role well and think about the behaviours they exhibit.
If you are preparing for a graduate assessment centre, then this is made more difficult as you may not have any experience of working directly for anyone in the role you are applying for. If this is the case then you need to think in more general terms about the behaviours of people you have met in your personal life, including teachers, lecturers, sports coaches, team captains, etc.
If you are preparing for an elite graduate assessment centre, then one group that you should study in detail are the people who the organisation uses to represent it at university recruitment fairs. You can learn a lot about the demeanour, tone, dress, attitudes and subtleties of presentation that these people share. This is particularly important as the elite organisations are often more interested in recruiting people who they believe will be able to convey the organisation’s values (in the way that they behave) than in competencies per-se.
If you are working on your long-term preparation you will have sufficient time to approach someone to whom you'd report to in the new role and agree for them to mentor you. They will be able to tell you about the competencies they see as essential for the role and help you in gaining these. Always be mindful that this is one individual’s interpretation and that you should also be conducting other research so that you have a complete understanding of what the role entails.