You cannot predict exactly how much information you will
be given in each assessment centre exercise or whether the it 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 be
certain of making the ‘correct’ decision. Many candidates are
put-off by this unpredictability and perceived 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 assessment centre 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?
So far, we have talked in general terms about KSAs and it can
initially be quite difficult to see how they relate to particular
assessment centre exercises. However, this is such a vital point
that it is worth illustrating with a specific example.
To illustrate how you can demonstrate your KSAs we have listed some of the questions and considerations that relate to each item. You must actually demonstrate these either by making notes or in the case of item 3 by what you actually say.
The brief you are given may be detailed or it may not. This is not something you need to worry about. What you do need to do is to make sure that you demonstrate as many KSAs as possible.
In-Tray Exercise Scenario
This in-tray exercise puts you in the position of a marketing manager for a fictitious company which produces solar panels for domestic hot water and heating systems. You are expected to work through a number of items in your in-tray and deal with them appropriately.
In-tray Item 1
The first item is an email from an automotive racing team who are asking if your company would like to explore a sponsorship deal.
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 mission statement and the overall ethos of the company.
Skill - Use your judgement to decide, is the company’s positioning in the marketplace consistent with this type of sponsorship. For example if the main thrust of the marketing efforts were based on ‘green and environmentally friendly’ messages than 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.
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. You are the public face of the company.
In-tray Item 2
This is an email from a journalist with ‘GreenLife’ magazine. It has an article attached 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 about 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.
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?
Skill - You can display judgement by prioritising this item as well as outlining and ranking the options available to you.
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 ?
In-tray 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 on the exhibition stand and broken their wrist.
Knowledge - There is not really any opportunity to demonstrate you knowledge with this item. It is exclusively an opportunity to display your skill and attitude.
Skill - You can display your communication skills by dealing with your subordinate in a such a way as to calm him down and outline an action plan for dealing with the incident.
Attitude - The challenge is to deal sympathetically but efficiently with an subordinate who is obviously upset whilst you yourself 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, Types of Assessment Centre, Competencies and Behaviours, Assessment Centre Exercises, In-Tray Exercise, Presentation Exercise, Group Exercises and Role Play Exercises.