mgr-training

What are Assessment Centres?

Assessment Centres are an important part of the recruitment process for many employers, and allow companies to assess a large amount of candidates over an extended period of time, whilst offering candidates the chance to find out about an employer in greater detail. Rachel Palmer, who heads the Interviewing and Shortlisting Division of Employment Office [...]

Assessment Centres are an important part of the recruitment process for many employers, and allow companies to assess a large amount of candidates over an extended period of time, whilst offering candidates the chance to find out about an employer in greater detail. Rachel Palmer, who heads the Interviewing and Shortlisting Division of Employment Office notes that “one of the key benefits [in conducting Assessment Centres] is the group style methodology, which is a far more valid and more efficient process – you really get to delve into the potential candidate’s social and cultural fit, see how they interact with both other candidates and your own team, and really create an attachment to the role and get candidates engaged and keen.”

Why hold an Assessment Centre?

A well structured assessment day is generally considered to be amongst the fairest and most objective means of selecting employees for jobs, particularly graduate jobs. This is because they give a number of chances to assess candidates over an extended period of time, enabling assessors to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do, in a wide variety of situations. Palmer reiterates this by saying, “each Assessment Centre will be tailored to the industry or profession or job, to simulate the actual job, and should be objective and extremely score based, to allow candidates more than one opportunity to show their skills.”

What’s involved?

Assessment Centres require candidates to participate in a number of individual and group exercises. The exact tasks involved are designed to replicate the demands of the specific job available, however, usually comprise a mixture of: interviews, case studies, aptitude tests (such as verbal and numerical reasoning), personality tests, group exercises, role plays and presentations. Assessment Centres are highly structured in their design, application and procedures, and each Assessment Centre is specifically adapted for the particular position, to assess factors such as level of skills, aptitude and compatibility with organisational culture.

Assessment Centres provide additional opportunities for recruits who feel that they are not able to demonstrate their abilities as strongly during an interview, and also enable candidates to obtain a practical idea of what the employer expects from staff, and opportunities to network with other participants during group activities. For employers, Assessment Centres provide candidates that have a far better understanding of what they are getting into, and thus helps in increased retention rates and better hiring decisions.

Here are some tips from Rachel Palmer, our Interviewing and Shortlisting Division leader, on conducting a beneficial Assessment Centre:

  • The basis of designing any good assessment day is conducting a job analysis, so look at the position and define the key competencies you are after. For example, will your candidates need problem solving skills or customer service skills or cold calling skills? You’ll want to come up with at least 7-8 key competencies.
  • Make sure your whole hiring team are on the same page and agrees on the key competencies – otherwise you might find that you are looking for very different people to fill very different roles. Also, define the job and the ideal behavioural type needed for the role, and again, make sure the whole team is on board. A great way to do this is for hiring managers to complete a Mc Quaig Job Definition Survey.
  • Design assessments that will display these competencies and behavioural traits. These can include role plays, candidate pre-prepared presentations, debates and interviews. For example, if the role involves cold calling and high customer service, design a role play that simulates this to see how the candidate would actually deal with sales pitches and irate customers. This also gives candidates realistic expectations of key aspects of the role, and gives you a realistic expectation of how the candidate is going to cope.
  • Measure competencies at least twice to give candidates more times than once to demonstrate – and so that you are able to get an accurate reading.

And here are some of our tips on how candidates can prepare for an Assessment Centre:

  • Find out the appropriate attire, and dress professionally for the role.
  • Research the company, and find out 2 -3 points about the company, for example their mission statement and products/services.
  • Be yourself and let your personality come through – be proactive and make the most of social interaction!
  • Have a think about what you will need to be doing and what competencies the hiring managers will be trying to measure, and act it. For example, really display your customer service skills or interpersonal skills throughout the whole Assessment Centre. Remember, you will be measured for the ENITRE process on everything that you do, including your behaviour and interaction between formal exercises and over morning tea, so be alert!
  • If unsure, ask the person who is booking you in. In some cases, good advice can be offered.