Today more and more companies are incorporating assessment tests into their hiring and recruitment processes to better distinguish the best candidate, which can be difficult to judge in an interview alone. In this week’s blog we discuss assessment centres and how they can be an integral part of the recruitment process.

What is an assessment centre?

It is not a location. It can be called an event, a methodology or a process in itself, in which participants go through a variety of job-related exercises and real life work-based scenarios while trained assessors and hiring managers evaluate their behaviours and test results. Many HR professionals view assessment tests as an unbiased way to predict a candidate’s future performance.

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. They can be deployed for evaluating people for internal promotion or internal selection as well.

The length of an Assessment can range from half-a-day to two-three full days and may be held on the employer’s premises, often within their own training facilities or on the premises of another third-party venue such as a hotel.

It is a data-centric process providing objective, standardised information to organisations about employees’ abilities. It’s easy to become subjective in the interview process. Hiring managers can be won over by the way certain candidates sell themselves in an interview, but are they really suitable when it comes to performance? Many interviewers have said they went with their “gut feeling” but sometimes that gut feeling may be wrong. It can be argued that hiring assessments help employers stay in a business mentality. They can help pinpoint people with the right skills rather than those who are just smooth talkers. Furthermore, resumes can be tested. Certainly anyone could write a particular skill down, but how does one know if they are accurate?

What happens during an assessment centre?

Here are some examples:

  • Leaderless Group Discussion – involves candidates working 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.
  • Role Playing – candidates are to act out a given a real life work-based scenario where the assessors can view their responses to problems that may arise and how they would handle them.
  • Presentations – each candidate is given a topic or a choice of topics and asked to make a presentation of around five to ten minutes with time at the end for questions. It is designed to measure a candidate’s research and presentation skills including their ability to organise and structure information and communicate their points clearly and concisely.
  • Q & A Panel Reviews – regarded as a more objective means to assessing a candidate’s suitability because the interview involves three to five people on the panel, so the decision is not dependent on just one person’s opinion.
  • In-tray or in-basket exercises – Similar to role-play, candidates are asked to assume a particular role as an employee of a fictitious company and work through an in-tray. In this in-tray are different types of internal problems in written form (such as emails etc.) that a candidate may need to deal with during a normal work day. The exercise is designed to measure their ability to organise and prioritise their work load.

Points to be aware of:

  • Use of assessment tests shouldn’t replace the traditional interview as still nothing can replace a face­ to-face interaction. Rather, assessment results should be one of many pieces of information that are used by expert decision makers to help collect the data they need to make good, accurate predictions.
  • Employers also shouldn’t expect any test or procedure to measure a personal trait or ability with perfect accuracy for every single person. Nor should they be 100% dependant on any test or procedure to be completely accurate in predicting future performance.
  • Assessment may not provide a summary of a candidate’s past accomplishments or achievements nor can it provide a reference on the candidate’s past work history. However, it can provide insight into a candidate’s personality, their behavioural traits, and how they rate with other existing top talent in your organisation.

Do you use assessments in the hiring process in your organisation? How do you balance the results of these assessments with what your managers observe post-recruitment and/or experience in the initial face-to-face interviews?

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