What is an assessment centre?
When applying for a new job you might not only be asked to do a common job interview but also to participate at a so called Assessment Center (AC). An Assessment Center is a complex process used in the selection of qualified candidates. It can employ a wide range of diagnostic techniques and involve specially trained observers in a certain setting. The aim is to evaluate individuals more extensively and with a higher accuracy than with normal job interviews. E. g. personality can be evaluated only superficially in an interview. Some people might pretend to be somebody they are not in a short-term conversation but will hardly be able to fool a group of psychologically trained observers during 1-3 days (which would be a normal time for an AC).
Candidates who are invited to an assessment center usually have already past a first filter test, like a telephone screening or common job interview. They are evaluated simultaneously with other candidates who are considered for the same position. This allows a direct comparison of the candidates and, as a side effect, increases the pressure on each individual.
As it is a time and cost intensive method, an AC is more commonly used to evaluate candidates with higher salaries and/or responsibilities. It might also be applied to evaluate candidates for cost intensive traineeships. In these cases the additional costs for using an AC are justified with a lower rate of wrong hiring decisions.
What are the main criteria used to evaluate candidates in an Assessment Center?
Just like in a normal interview there are three main criteria objectives used to evaluate your occupational aptitude:
1. Competences (Important): What experience, knowledge and capacities do you have relevant to the job?
2. Motivation (Very important): Are you engaged? What ambitions do you have? Are you willing to learn? Can you identify with the company and its culture?
3. Personality (Crucial): Are you flexible? Do you really have “excellent leadership skills” as you claimed in your CV? Do you fit in the team/company?
The AC will probably focus on your motivation and personality as your competencies were already assessed in a CV based interview and by reference requests.
What do you have to expect from an Assessment Center?
The following examples are some of the most common AC-methods. The methods are combined and applied successively. Several trained observers will evaluate your attitude during every AC-task and will infer personality traits such as extroversion, decision-making and tolerance.
Group discussions are a classic component of Assessment Centers. The group size might differ between 4-6 or even more people. You will be given a certain subject or question and will have to discuss it with the group.
Role playsare another tool used in an AC. For example, you might be asked to act like you would in a typical work related situation, e. g. a conversation where you would have to criticize one of your employees.
You might also be asked to prepare and present a short speech in front of the other candidates to check your language skills.
The goal of a stress interview is to determine how a candidate reacts under pressure. The job applicant is placed in a stressful situation with different techniques. For example, he might be repeatedly asked difficult or inappropriate interview questions or there may be multiple interviewers at once or sequential interviews. You might also be treated rudely or otherwise put in an intimidating position.
Other methods are psychometrical tests of intelligence, motivation and personality. There are also tests for specific abilities. One of the most well known is the so called in-basket exercise. You are asked to complete different labor tasks in an order depending on their importance. The objective is of course to check your ability to prioritize tasks wisely when you have only a short period of time available.