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What Assessment Centres Really Look For

Written by Kimberley Startup | January 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Assessment centres, selection tools, recruitment, human resources, HRBeing asked to undertake a series of exercises, assessments and tests all in one day may seem like a daunting challenge for job seekers, but knowing what assessors are looking for can help.

Broadly speaking, there are three types of selection procedure used during an assessment centre, each looking at different aspects of the candidate’s behaviour, personality and experience. These activities are:

Assessment centre exercises: These may include group exercises, in-tray/e-tray exercises, presentation exercises, role-play exercises and case study exercises. The purpose of these exercises is to simulate the sort of challenges found in the job and measure how candidates perform against a list of competencies, referred to as a competency framework.

The employing organisation will have designed their competency framework to contain the key attributes they deem important for the role. These competencies could include: leadership; organisational ability; commercial awareness; judgement; interpersonal skills and many more.

During these exercises, assessors will write notes, recording the candidate’s actions and then later reflect on the candidate’s performance against each of the specific competencies in the framework. Typically each assessor will be concentrating on just two candidates. And remember: if assessors don’t see evidence of a particular competency they cannot award any credit for it.

Psychometric testing: Aptitude testing may include verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, inductive/logical reasoning or situational judgement tests. The function of these tests is to measure innate ability, which research has shown to correlate with future job performance.

Employers will be particularly interested in abilities which are relevant to the role applied for, for example numerical reasoning ability in the financial services sector.

Increasingly with seniority, candidates may also be required to take a personality questionnaire. With personality questionnaires, as with assessment centre exercises, the results will be assessed against the competency framework to establish each candidate’s suitability for the role.

Interviews: Interviews are the most commonly used selection procedure, and as a result candidates are most familiar with them. The most commonly used type of interview at assessment centres is the structured competency based interview.

Here, the interviewer will ask all candidates the same questions. These will relate to previous experiences and will try to gauge how candidates would act in a given work situation. The information provided by the candidate will be used as evidence for the presence, or absence, of the competencies in the competency framework for the role.

For example a role which requires significant customer interaction, the interviewer may ask the candidate about their previous experience with customers or their interpersonal skills. In order to perform well at this stage, providing evidence for competencies through past experience is vital, so candidates should have some examples ready which they can readily draw upon.

It can be seen from the above that the competency framework is central to the assessment centre process. Employers should think carefully about what competencies they chose to design their assessments around, and candidates should do their research to find out what competencies each employer is looking for.

By researching the role and what it entails, candidates will improve their understanding of an employer’s competency framework, which in turn will help shape their performance during the assessment centre. Some good places to start looking are: the company’s website; their HR department; existing employees; online forums.

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that that no single exercise or assessment will be used to make a selection decision. It is common for assessors to use a matrix of performance indicators and look at candidates’ performance in the round. So if you think you have not performed well in one exercise, do not give up; you may still be in with a chance if you demonstrate strong performances in other assessments.

This blog was written by guest blogger, Oliver Savill at AssessmentDay Ltd.

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