Assessment Centre has a variety of definitions and these are based on its methodology of assessing a candidate’s performance and aptitude. Trained Assessors observe a group of candidates performing a variety of aptitude diagnostic procedures which provide specific information on the abilities and developmental capacity of each applicant.
An Assessment Centre is actually a process applicants take part in and is not specific to any one location. Its popularity is also evident in staff growth plans where it is usually known as a Development Centre. These procedures are designed to ensure employee investment is maximised for both the organisation and the individual. Whilst the general process is very similar to Assessment Centres the subtle difference is that at a Development Centre you will be given feedback immediately and work with the assessor to agree a future plan.
Many organisations use the expertise of an HR consultant to design the exercises to meet their specific role requirements and then to conduct the actual testing and assessment of candidates. These services come with a significant cost and that is why you will increasing face testing through an Assessment Centre as you apply for higher-level strategic and technical roles.
The length of an Assessment Centre will vary from half-a-day to two full days and may be held on the employer’s premises, often within their own training facilities or on the premises of the organisations Human Resources (HR) consultant.
Candidates attending an Assessment Centre will take part in a variety of specially designed exercises which allow them to demonstrate how their skills and aptitudes correlate with those required to perform the role. Each of the exercises simulates aspects of the job description and work environment .
Types of Assessment and Development Centre Exercise
The diagram below shows the most common exercises to be included in an assessment centre.
An in-tray or in-basket exercise
asks to assume a particular role as an employee of a fictitious
company and work through the correspondence in your in-tray. This
exercise is designed to measure your ability to organize and
presentation exercise, you
will be given a topic or possibly a choice of topics and asked to
make a presentation of around ten minutes with five minutes at the
end for questions. This is designed to measure your presentation
skills including your ability to organise and structure the
information and to communicate your points clearly and concisely.
Group discussion exercises involve
you working with other candidates 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.
Panel interviews are regarded as a
more objective means of assessing your suitability as you will be
interviewed by between three and five people and therefore the
decision is not reliant on just one person's opinion. In addition,
they are usually more structured than a one-to-one interview as
the panel need to assess all of the candidates against the same
The expense of conducting an assessment centre is usually
somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000 per candidate. This tends to
restrict their use to situations where the costs can be justified
in terms of preventing high expenses associated with unsuitable
personnel e.g. high staff turnover or poor job performance
resulting in low productivity.
Assessment centres are seen as one of the most effective ways of
identifying top candidates who'll get on well with others and fit
in with the organizations culture. According to the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development's ‘Recruitment, Retention
and Turnover 2004 Survey’, 34 per cent of employers now use
assessment centres when recruiting managers, professionals and
graduates. This figure will inevitably grow as organizations seek
to make more accurate selection and promotion decisions.
assessment centre method is
utilized in a variety of settings including industry and business,
government, armed forces, educational institutions, and safety
forces to select individuals for supervisory, technical, sales, or
management positions. One recent trend is in the development of
mass testing. This is done by video-taping candidates as they
perform various exercises and by using objectively scored
exercises. This permits the assessment of a much larger number of
candidates per day as the scoring is done later and requires far
less observation and administration.
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. Other measurements such as psychological tests may
complement the selection process. They are commonly held either on
employers’ premises or in a hotel and are considered by many
organizations to be the fairest and most accurate method of
selecting staff. This is because a number of different selectors
get to see you over a longer period of time and have the chance to
see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do, in a
variety of situations.
How are the Assessment and Development Centre Exercises
Assessment Centres may be conducted by HR personnel within the
employer company or by outside consultants. They are highly
structured in their design, application, and assessment procedure
and are specifically adapted to assess factors such as your level
of skills, aptitude and compatibility with the organization's
culture. Each test measures a range of indicators within these
During each test, a group of observers will rate you on a range of
set indicators, using a prescribed performance scale. Results are
then cross compared against the same indicators, which are
measured in other tests. Following test completion, observers meet
to discuss the test results and reach a group consensus about your
At the beginning of the assessment, you should receive an initial
briefing about the timetable of tests, location of rooms etc.
Prior to each test, you will be given instructions describing the
exercise, your role, timeframe's, equipment etc. You will not be
told in detail about the individual indicators which will be
measured. In addition, you are unlikely to receive feedback on
your results, unless you have been successfully selected.