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Designing an Assessment Center

Designing an Assessment Center

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Published by: Yasmin Singaporewala on Sep 03, 2011
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04/13/2012

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Designing of an Assessment Center
 
Use your resources to get started.
An assessment centre can be designedaround one or more vacancies in a company. Once you have completed aspecific job description, interview your existing team to see what they feel are thecompetences, attributes and skills required to fill the position. When the answershave been compiled, create a list of adjectives to describe the characteristics thatare essential to the role. This list will form the critiquing criteria for judging thesuitability of each individual who participates in the event.
 
Choose an assessment panel and plan your strategy with care.
Choose anassessment panel and plan your strategy with care. You will require a panel toassist you in selecting the best applica
nts from the assessment. It’s important to
include all members of the panel in the design of the assessment centre, so thatthey clearly understand the roles they will need to play on the day of theassessment. They will also need to be clear about the target candidate, as theassessment group may be split at times, and you will wish to achieve consistentmarking across the centre. A good way to achieve consistent marking is todesign a form that enables each panel member to score each applicant from 1 to10 (10 being perfect) against each of the desirable characteristics that you haveagreed upon. Adding all the points together will identify the highest scoringapplicants, who can then be selected for further interviews.
 
Make sure that your venue is suitable.
 
It’s vital to hold a dress rehearsal or at
least make a thorough appraisal well before the event to ensure that the spaceyou plan to use is sufficient to run the assessment efficiently. Bear in mind thatyou will need a large open area for group exercises and a private office for
presentations and/or testing. If it’s difficult to accommodate these requirements
on your own premises, it will be better to hold the event at a local serviced officeor hotel where adequate conference rooms and support facilities are available.This will also have the advantage of staff on hand to help with ushering andserving coffee and lunch.
 
Organise everything well in advance of the event.
Before you go live with the
assessment centre it’s worth role
-playing the event, because this will help you toidentify potential improvements and problem areas, and fine-tune the timing ofthe exercises to produce an itinerary for the day. You will also need to carefullyprepare everything relating to the assessment centre, such as assessment packs
for the delegates (this will be covered in one of the tips). It’s well worth preparing
at an early stage a comprehensive checklist covering every action required toorganise and run the assessment centre. This can then be re-evaluated after thefirst event and carried forward as a master plan for future assessment centres.
 
Begin the assessment efficiently.
The day is designed to be a two-way
process so it’s important to start by giving the applicants –
 
let’s call them
delegates
 –
an introduction to the company, the department, the positions andwhat will be happening during the day. Then give the delegates an opportunity toask any questions they may have. To help make everybody comfortable, ask thedelegates to briefly introduce themselves. You may find it worth initially askingone of the panel members to introduce themself, having first primed them to
 
include a mildly humorous comment about their hobbies or outside interests: thatwill break the ice and help people get rid of any initial nerves they may beexperiencing. (You might also learn some revealing information about somedelegates!) Finally, you should explain the exercises for the assessment, give abrief overview of the timetable, and mention any house rules such as turning offmobile phones, and where the lavatories are located.
 
Structure the exercises to help you assess the required competencies.
Theformat of assessment centres varies depending on the nature of the job for whichcandidates are being assessed, the particular competencies that are required,the facilities and time available, and the nature of the organisation. Usually thefirst exercises are group-based, which will involve participants solving a tasksuch as crossing a river or escaping from a capsizing boat. Other formats mightinclude discussion exercises or role-plays. During the exercises, one or moreobservers will watch the group in action, record evidence of participantsdisplaying characteristics in the list of adjectives, and mark each delegate oneach competency. Desirable competencies might be those such as leadership,teamwork skills, cooperation, idea generation, problem solving, assertiveness,etc.
 
Allow each delegate to make a personal presentation.
This part of the day isa great opportunity to see how your delegates take on information and formattheir presentations. Prior to the day, each delegate should be sent anassessment pack and part of this document should explain what you expect froma presentation, the time allocated to the session and what topics should be used.It is important to explain what tools are available to make the presentation andalso to mention what will be critiqued in the format, delivery and content of thepresentation.
 
Set up a constructive fill-in exercise.
Completing, say, ten personalpresentations each lasting five minutes will take some time, so while this exerciseis running you will need a parallel exercise to keep the other delegates occupied.A good option for this is to set an interview questionnaire or alternative activitythat will take up to an hour to complete. If you use a questionnaire, it should onceagain be based around the key competencies that you have identified, and use
questions such as: “Describe occasions when you have used the following
competencies (inse
rt a list of competencies)”. An alternative to a questionnaire
could be a situational exercise, in which a workplace situation is described indetail and each delegate is asked to explain in writing exactly how they woulddeal with the situation. The situation to be used for this exercise should becreated using input from the existing team so that it resembles a real-life problemthat might be encountered in the job.
 
Make sure you include verbal, numerical and psychometrictesting.
Although the exercises and presentation will reveal a great deal about
each delegate’s personal abilities, it’s also important to carry out a test that
checks whether their personality and psychological make-up will fit in with yourorganisation. This type of test is normally marked against previous scores andshould also be compared to previous tests that have been completed by existingemployees. In addition, numerical and verbal tests may be used to give an

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