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what is Assessment Center

Assessment Center in a Nutshell

In times of dynamic changes in the labor market, more and more attention is paid to the ability of employees to adapt to the new reality. Employers pay less attention to hard competencies and industry knowledge, which are often taught by new employees themselves. On the other hand, soft skills are gaining in importance and are more and more often indicated as competencies of the future (e.g. data analysis, solving complex problems, creativity, teamwork).

However, soft skills are difficult to verify. Basic selection tools, such as CV analysis, recruitment interview or aptitude tests, are rarely able to measure them.

The Assessment Center comes in handy here.

What is an Assessment Center?

Assessment Center (AC) is a method of selecting candidates for work, allowing for the diagnosis of their potential. It is most often used in recruitment for higher-level positions that require team management skills and specialist positions in which social competencies play an important role.

Assessment Center research is conducted in the form of one or more sessions during which candidates perform specific tasks. The behavioral indicators (behavior) and competencies specified in the competency profile, prepared specifically in response to the expectations of the employer in this position, are assessed. During the study, assessors (observers) look at the behavior of session participants and evaluate them on a predetermined scale, in accordance with the competency profile.

Principles of a professional Assessment Center session

A professional AC session requires experience and careful preparation. It is worth using the help of qualified external consultants. When deciding to organize a session, we must remember a number of guidelines. A detailed description and set of rules can be found in the Public Guidelines for Assessment Center Operations. First of all, we should note a few basic principles.

Principle 1

There are many different tasks that should be done during the session. Additionally, each one of them should be pre-tested to ensure that it provides reliable, objective and relevant information about the candidate’s behavior to a given organization.

Principle 2

Before the session, a matrix should be created defining what behaviors are assessed in each task.

Principle 3

Each competence should be verified at least twice, i.e. using more than one task. As a result, candidates have several opportunities to present themselves.

Principle 4

Each participant should be assessed during the session on the same grading scale and the same competency profile.

Principle 5

Each candidate’s behavior should be assessed by at least two independent assessors who discuss the observations and calibrate the scores at the end of the session.

Principle 6

The assessors taking part in the session should be trained in the Assessment Center method, know all the ethical principles applicable in it (they can be external consultants, representatives of the HR department or people dedicated in the company to this type of activity,  if they have been previously trained).

Tasks used during the Assessment Center session

assessment center session

Depending on the requirements of the position for which the recruitment is carried out, in order to verify the competencies of the candidates, we can decide on several different types of tasks.

  • Discussion is the most common form of a group task. It can be done with roles assigned to each participant in the manual, e.g. candidates can play the role of representatives of various departments.
  • A case study consists of showing a candidate a specific problem that may reflect the real challenges in the company. Participants of the session can perform this task individually or in the form of a group discussion.
  • Simulation (role playing) involves the candidate and the assessor playing different roles, based on the situational outline, explained in the instructions for the task, e.g. showing the relationship between the subordinate and the superior. It is most often a simulation of an interview in which assessors have the opportunity to observe the way the candidate communicates with other employees, clients or superiors.
  • The task basket is a written assignment in which the candidate has to deal with a large amount of information (from notes, emails, reports and documents) in a short time, then analyze it, draw the right conclusions and make important decisions.
  • A presentation is a task in which the candidate prepares and delivers a short speech. It can be based on their own idea or the one presented in the manual. We can combine the presentation with other AC tasks, e.g. by asking the candidate to carry out a case study and prepare a presentation with the proposed solutions to the problem presented there.

Assessment Center offers many benefits for both the employer and future employees. The method is considered to be the most reliable form of selecting potential employees. It allows the observation of the actual behavior of candidates, thanks to which it ensures a reliable and objective assessment of their competencies.

However, before we decide to use AC in our recruitment processes, we should remember about the necessary training of observers. If our company does not have experienced assessors, we can consider using external consultants specializing in organizing Assessment Center sessions.

If you would like to cooperate with an IT recruitment agency which takes care of a high-quality recruitment process – contact us.