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How to Run an Assessment Center

How to Run an Assessment Center

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Published by perryburns
Tips on organizing an assessment centre and tools such as in tray exercises that you might need to select good candidates whilst minimizing the risk of hiring the wrong candidate
Tips on organizing an assessment centre and tools such as in tray exercises that you might need to select good candidates whilst minimizing the risk of hiring the wrong candidate

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Published by: perryburns on Jan 09, 2008
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10/29/2010

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Effective Recruitment
Perry Burns discusses how assessment centrescan switch the balance of power back to theemployer.
Recruiting staff has never been easy. But withchanges to legislation employers are having tobe ever more careful as they assess candidates.An employer’s first responsibility of course is torecruit the best possible candidate for the job;but increasingly, they must also be able todemonstrate that the process used for selectionwas fair, transparent and unbiased.
In many parts of the world including theUSA, employees have relatively few rightsand it is common for employers to terminate employment arbitrarily; and as long asthe termination is not seen as unjust there is little redress. Similarly, as long as anemployer can prove that he has not been biased toward or against particularapplicants because of their race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability,marital status, or age, he can recruit pretty much as he pleases.Although the same regime used to apply in Britain and other European countries,there has been a steady stream of legislation which means that in some countries,notablyFrancebut many other European countries too, where once an individual ishired, it is almost impossible to dispense with their services regardless of commercial need, incompetence and even dishonesty. The challenge facing employers is thus huge. Firstly the business case forrecruitment must be thoroughly watertight. The return on investment must be ableto withstand economic downturn and be a considerable multiple of the verysignificant cost of employment. Secondly, the process must be able to prophesywith considerable certainty how the candidate will perform in the role once hiredand with sufficient robustness that it can withstand legal challenge fromunsuccessful candidates after a decision has been made.For certain jobs this is less of a problem. Candidates for manual, technical orclerical vacancies can be tested for practical competence. But for managerial jobswhere success is likely to be rest on the possession of soft skills like leadership,salesmanship, negotiation skill or listening;this may less easy to achieve. The traditional recruitment tool wasexamination of a resume or Curriculum Vitaefollowed by one two or more interviews.Whilst this is a well tried and testedmethodology it has a number of flaws:©2008 Perry Burns all rights reserved
 
Senior candidates live and breathe interviews. It’s what they do; so even themost inadequate candidate is likely to be able to tell a good story atinterview.
Many candidates “dress” their information to disguise problems in their trackrecord. Although subsequent discovery of factual untruths may be cause fordismissal, many employers are reluctant to pursue fraudulent applicationsbecause of the cost, the potential litigation risk and the damage to reputationthat could ensue.
Most interviewers are not skilled at questioning and tend to rely on gutinstinct (often formed in the first few seconds after first meeting theinterviewee). They form an opinion and then spend the rest of the interviewconfirming it.
Such are the risks of discriminating against a client, many interviewers areafraid to ask penetrating questions that would reveal flaws and weaknessesfor fear that afterwards the candidate could cite the question as beingprejudicial.
Even in highly regulated situations with panel interviews and professionalinterviewers, the format can be so rigid that the opportunity to probe can beseverely limited by the strictures imposed by the process itself.Experienced managers often quip that they learn more about a candidate in theirfirst morning at work than they do from the most rigorous of interview processes.And the reasons are obvious. In an interview the candidate is guarded. He or shehas spent hours preparing for the meeting (or should have done), is well rehearsed(or should be) and is in a predictable and controlled environment. The interviewerby contrast is often ill prepared (how often have you scanned a resume whilewalking to the interview room?), is inexperienced with in depth interviewing skillsand is concerned that an ill judged question could land him and his company indeep trouble.How then to select candidates fairly but with rigour? Thegrowing answer is Assessment Centres. In anassessment centre the candidate is put through a seriesof exercises designed to simulate the workingenvironment. The popular show“The Apprentice”is aclassic example of a modern assessment centre.Although “dramatized” to appeal to a televisionaudience, the shows do demonstrate how candidates canbe put through a series of tasks designed to test theirinnate skills and bring out their strengths and weaknesses. The structure of assessment centres will vary depending on the number of candidates being recruited, the skills required and the job description. However atypical one day structure may look something like this:©2008 Perry Burns all rights reserved
 
SessionTaskPurpose
1*Welcome andintroduction fromrecruiting manager To set the candidates at ease and explain thedays outline and procedures2Group discussion /consultancy meeting &report To test candidates ability to influence peers,assimilate and communicate information andwork collaboratively in a team3*In Tray Exercise
(Knownas In Basket Test or Exercisein USA)
 To test candidates ability to assimilateinformation and make accurate, timely decisions4*PresentationTo test the candidates ability to present underpressure5*Role PlayTo test the candidates selling, negotiation orcounselling skills6Simulation orcontingency exercise To test the candidates ability to work through aproblem and demonstrate technical skills7Psychometric TestsTo evaluate verbal, numerical, abstract andcomprehension skills8Leadership ActivityTo demonstrate the candidates ability to lead histeam and achieve objectives9*Job ReportTo invite the candidate to pitchfor the job inquestion in the light of his or her performance10*Personal InterviewTo probe areas of weakness identified by theforegoing sessions11Lunch and or DinnerTo test personal social skills At the end of an assessment centre,recruiting managers will have a verygood idea of how their chosen candidatewill perform on the job and will be able toidentify areas of post recruitmenttraining and development that will beneeded. They will be confident that notonly will the successful candidate(s) havea good chance of succeeding after theyhave been appointed, but that theprocess will have provided absolute andobjective measures that will convinceunsuccessful candidates that they have been fairly treated.©2008 Perry Burns all rights reserved

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