Run a brilliant Assessment Centre

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An Assessment Centre combines a number of tasks and exercises to test a group of potential applicants for open opportunities within your company.  The standard timescale is likely to be a half to a full day and you would expect to assess up to 10 (usually 6-8) applicants during the course of the event.

The Assessment Centre allows potential employers to test a candidate’s suitability for a set role against pre-defined metrics and given that all applicants are present on the same day it allows for ease of comparison between the applicants.

Planning is key to running a successful Assessment Centre and you will need to formulate a strong predefined structure with agreed scoring to allow for a level playing field when assessing applicants and their activity on the day.  

You should look to assess applicants both individually and as part of the group on a variety of exercises, including:

  • Case Studies
  • Group Discussions
  • In-tray exercises
  • Presentations
  • Psychometric tests
  • Role play
  • Social events
  • Written tests
  • Competency based interview

Assessment Centres prove beneficial in key areas and have been used with particularly good success in the Graduate market.  They also fair well as a selection process for volume recruitment in standardised divisions where a benchmark is easily set, such as customer service or call centre staff.  They are not however a recommended route for specialist or higher skilled roles where candidates are likely to be in shorter supply and therefore may require a more flexible and tailored approach.

Done well, an Assessment Centre allows a company to assess potential applicants in an objective, fair and transparent way which is ultimately the main aim for all successful recruitment.  They should yield more accurate results in the selection process and allow a business to employ more selection methods beyond a standard process.

You will also benefit from seeing potential applicants operate “in action” across a number of scenarios relevant to both your company and the specific job in question.  This allows for far greater investigation beyond a standard interview and you can comfortably expect to conclude with a solid appreciation of how an applicant behaves, communicates, reacts and handles themselves within a team or with potential clients. 

Applicants will also be given greater opportunity to gain insight to the particular company and position and ultimately whether it is the right move for them.  This allows for greater staff retention in the long term.

The Assessment Centre also allows for greater company identity and allows you to truly align the process to the individual needs of the company objectives.  In the same vein, the Assessment Centre is also a very well equipped platform for ensuring you are attracting a truly diverse and inclusive workforce and the benefits this can bring.

Ran well, the Assessment Centre can also be considered a first point of training for new applicants and will not be discounted once the selected applicants start with your company.  The roots of knowledge will be in place and can comfortably be referred to as a basis for ongoing development.

Additionally, an Assessment Centre is more cost effective in the long run.  Of course, the company does have to consider a higher initial outlay; the benefits once you have a well-oiled machine should far outweigh this initial cost of both monetary and time investment.

And as if all this isn’t enough, done well, an Assessment Centre is a fantastic opportunity to shout about your company and performs as a great PR exercise for the business

However, it is important to note that in order to bear fruit, the planning, organisation and commitment from all people association with the day is crucial.  

You will need to identify a central lead within your organisation that is comfortable with managing the process and they must be given sufficient autonomy across your business to drive the agenda to a successful conclusion. 

It is also essential that you select credible and qualified assessors for your panel and they must be perfectly placed to promote your business with full knowledge of the company objectives and culture.  With this, they must be given adequate time for their involvement as trying to bolt it onto a busy member of staff’s already manic day will not lead to a good conclusion for anyone.  They should also come from relevant areas of the business while still being comfortable with giving insight to the wider company.  Ordinarily the panel should also include relevant people from the HR/Talent Acquisition function who are knowledgeable in training and assessment.  You will likely need to appoint someone who will manage the day and ensure that everything runs to schedule and remains on track.

Your chosen panel will need to interact and set key objectives ahead of the day and they will need to fully agree on these with a full understanding of their personal role in the process.  Ideally they will be involved in setting key tasks and be comfortable with monitoring these with pre agreed scoring relevant to the positions in question and therefore a full job analysis is hugely beneficial.  The aim for all Assessment Centres is fairness and therefore a streamlined process if essential.  

The tests and exercises you set must be very well defined and applicants should be able to see the relevance of the tasks they are asked to perform against the position for which they are applying. You need to give applicants the opportunity to shine and fully appreciate that they are unlikely to perform all tasks with exceptional results.  Therefore allow them to play to their strengths as they move through the exercises and forgive a bad module if you feel something can be addressed with additional training or knowledge.  It is essential that applicants really are given the platform to do their very best so be sure to keep the session fun and relaxed.

Feedback is also essential for all applicants.  They have likely given up considerable time to attend the Assessment Centre and, even if not selected, you want them to walk away with solid, constructive feedback which will aid them going forward while continuing to hold your company in high regard. 

Finally, it is important to appreciate that things change along the way.  You will have your set date and activities all agreed and in place, but you must remain fluid in your approach.  You will have spent considerable time in selecting your shortlist from relevant applicants but understand that while waiting for the date, people will find alternative positions, will need to pull out due to personal circumstances or you may even get the annoying no show!  Therefore it is recommended that you have a reserve pool of candidates or even slightly overfill the available slots to allow for this frustrating development. 

Performed successfully you should expect to conclude the day with a beneficial outcome of filling your open position(s) but should also look to continually improve the process as you learn more.  It is imperative that you seek feedback from applicants who have attended the Assessment Centre and remain open to amending and changing the process as your knowledge grows.

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