Do KSAs have meaning outside of the Assessment Centre?

KSAs are important only in as much as they make it much easier for you to think about how the assessors are going to measure appropriate behaviours and to plan your responses accordingly.

Another important concept to understand about KSAs is that they are only useful if the Assessor has a clear specification of which KSAs are relevant to a particular role.

In the example detailed in the behaviours faq, a salesman might be expected to have:

• Knowledge of the organisations support policies,
• Understand the cost implications to the organisations if the support service is compromised.
• Be aware of the support limits available in times of crisis.
• Understand how support contracts are constructed.

If this was the case, then the level of knowledge expected would be detailed in the job description. It is important to remember that it isn’t always set out clearly, you may have to read and decipher several items to gain the information you need to conduct such a call. But time would be allowed in the preparation aspect of the exercise.

To summarise KSAs:

KSAs are what the assessors are actually measuring as you perform each exercise. This is true even if the assessors are not explicitly marking knowledge, skills and attitudes as separate components of behaviour.

KSAs are specific to each role and are derived from the job description.

KSAs are the most important concept to grasp if you want to succeed at an assessment centre.

Relating KSAs to Assessment Centre Exercises
Whenever you are considering your approach to a particular assessment centre exercise you should think in terms of demonstrating the appropriate KSAs. (You will need to derive these from the job specification and your own research into the organisation).

For example,

Suppose you are given an in-tray exercise in which you have to deal with incoming correspondence and telephone calls.
The exercise involves you reading through a series of emails and prioritising them and then responding as appropriate.

You could approach this exercise in one of two different ways.

1. Firstly, the material itself is the focus of your efforts.

a. That is, you work through the material systematically, prioritise it and reply as appropriate.
b. This is the approach that most candidates would take.

2. Secondly, demonstrating your KSAs is the focus of your efforts and the material itself is a means to that end.

a. That is, you use each piece of material to demonstrate one or more of your KSAs.

The second approach is used by those who succeed in assessment centres as they use the exercises as vehicles to demonstrate their KSAs (and by extension, behaviours and competencies) enabling them to ‘tick more boxes’ on the assessor’s scoring sheet.

One important thing to realise is that you cannot demonstrate all of your KSAs in every exercise. Some exercises may require you to show leadership behaviour, empathetic behaviour or whatever is appropriate. No individual exercise will give you the opportunity to show off all of your KSAs. It is up to you to determine which KSAs are appropriate for each exercise.

Obviously, you cannot predict exactly how much information you will be given in each exercise or whether the scenario will be based on a ‘real-life’ scenario or a fictitious one. Neither can you be sure that you will always be given sufficient information to have a realistic prospect of making the ‘correct’ decision.

Many candidates are put-off by this unpredictability and lack of realism in the exercises and perform badly as a result.

These issues can be dealt with by asking yourself the following questions as you work through each exercise.

• What knowledge does this enable me to demonstrate to the assessors?

• What skill does this enable me to demonstrate to the assessors?

• What attitude does this enable me to demonstrate to the assessors?

It can be quite difficult to see how KSAs relate to particular assessment centre exercises. However, this is such a vital point that it is worth illustrating with another example.

Imagine an in-tray exercise that puts you in the position of a Marketing Manager for a fictitious company, which produces solar panels for electricity generation. You are expected to work through a number of items in your in-tray and deal with them appropriately.

To illustrate how you can demonstrate your KSAs we have listed some of the questions and considerations that pertain to each item. You must actually demonstrate these either by making notes or in the case of item three by what you say.

Item 1-The first item is an email from an automotive racing team asking if your company would like to explore a sponsorship deal.

Demonstrate Knowledge
• Does the company already have a sponsorship deal?
• If so, is it exclusive?
• If not, would it fit in with other sponsors, the company’s mission statement and the overall ethos of the company?

Demonstrate Skill
• Use your judgement to decide if the company’s positioning in the marketplace is consistent with this type of sponsorship.
• For example, if the main thrust of the marketing efforts were based on ‘green and environmentally friendly’ messages then it would not be appropriate.
• However, if the marketing messages stress the ‘high-tech’ nature of the products then it might be a good fit.

Demonstrate Attitude
• Even if the request for sponsorship was entirely inappropriate and you are under a lot of time pressure in this exercise, your response should still be polite and businesslike because you are the public face of the company.

Item 2 -This is an email from a journalist with GreenLife magazine. It has an attached article and the journalist is asking if you have any comments before publication. The magazine describes itself as being aimed at ‘environmentally aware people who are building or improving their homes’.

Scanning the article you can see that it is generally positive regarding your products, particularly the technical capabilities, but there are some negative comments about the fact that the products are made in Indonesia. Specifically the article is critical of the conditions in the factory and the amount of energy consumed in the manufacture and transport of the products.

Demonstrate Knowledge
• Are the readers of this magazine part of the target market for the products?
• Is the magazine influential? (This will influence how much priority you give this item.)
• Does the organisation have a full time press officer?
• Is he or she likely to have a working relationship with the journalist?
• Has the company had an environmental audit?

Demonstrate Skill
• You can display judgement by prioritising this item as well as outlining and ranking the options available to you.

Demonstrate Attitude
• Your attitude will be apparent from how you deal with this item. Did you approach it in an analytical way and are your decision options the result of clear thinking?

Item 3 -You will also receive a telephone call from an actor who is playing the part of a subordinate. He is at a trade exhibition representing the company. He is upset and concerned because a member of the public has tripped over the exhibition stand and broken their wrist.

Demonstrate Knowledge
• There is not really any opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge with this item.
• It is exclusively an opportunity to display your skill and attitude.

Demonstrate Skill
• You can display your communication skills by dealing with your subordinate in such a way as to calm him down.
• Then outline an action plan for dealing with the incident.

Demonstrate Attitude
• The challenge is to deal sympathetically but efficiently with a subordinate who is obviously upset whilst you are under time pressure.

As you can see, even simple items like these three examples give you ample opportunity to demonstrate your KSAs. In fact, if you were to approach them in any other way, they might seem trivial and pointless.

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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