Assessment centres in recruitment process

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Many organisations possess a recruitment and selection policy which generally outlines the structure to be utilised to fill vacancies, and therefore you may already be involved in one or more of these processes.

However, some of you may have taken the decision to completely strike this kind of assessment out of your recruitment process for lack of resources; be it the high financial cost, or the length of time it takes to prepare and conduct these assessments. It is also possible that your organisation may not possess competent personnel to assess the candidates in the related field.

Nonetheless, I believe there is merit in taking a closer look at this tool to include as a precursor to employing your senior-level staff. In-depth assessment centres are targeted mainly toward the higher-level recruit, for instance, your managers, departmental heads and your COOs and CFOs etc. Therefore, any decision to conduct an assessment centre as part of your recruitment process shall provide you with an opportunity to go beyond the surface of the typical question and answer setup that the interview process alone offers.

An assessment centre examines an applicant’s suitability for the role through methods such as role-playing, group discussions, presenting case-study scenarios, and in-basket or in-tray exercises. A conscientious review of these methods is almost mandatory for any HR professional.

I am of this view because depending on your industry type or the position you are intending to fill, your findings will, more likely than not, direct you to a method that will best suit your specific needs.

The role-play method of assessment takes the form of the candidate being presented with a real-life workplace scenario for them to then showcase how they would essentially play out the situation as if it were happening then and there. It is aimed at evaluating the candidate’s communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills.

For instance, within the customer-service industry, where communication skills are a key component of success, the candidate may be presented with a situation to show how they would handle an unsatisfied client.

Conventionally the interview process was dependent on simply asking candidates to give a response to a fictional issue, but this toolallows the for a visual, real-life performance from the candidate.

Discussion groups are not as popular as the other assessment methods, but their validity is certifiable. This is so because an assessor can determine a candidate’s communication skills, team interaction and leadership capabilities while using this method.

The main idea behind a group discussion is to demonstrate real, on-the-job issues for the candidate to appropriately respond. Therefore, the assessment team or assessors are required to match the displayed behaviours against ones pre-identified by the organisation to determine best fit. A typical group discussion may involve on average six candidates, with around three-six assessors.

A case-study assessment, on the other hand, seeks to assess the candidate’s ability to analyse and solve strategic operational issues they will encounter if hired for the position. Some areas of assessment include a test of the candidate's analytical thinking abilities, their commercial awareness, and innovation, to name a few.

To implement a successful case-study assessment centre, there is a need for you as the HR professional to create documents for the candidate to assess. The candidate will then be required to present a comprehensive report on their findings, including recommendations.

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These presentations are generally delivered in an interview setting, with qualified assessors scoring not only the presentation material but the candidate’s ability to effectively engage the interview panel with proposed recommendations and respond to questions asked by the assessors.

The method of in-tray or in-basket assessments is time-sensitive job-related tasks given to candidates. This term originated from the physical letter-tray organiser on your desk, where other staff would place assignments for your attention and action.

An in-basket assessment aims to examine how well a candidate can co-ordinate and attempt assignments, from the proper understanding of what is required, to how that candidate goes about planning and implementing their chosen solution.

These assessments allow the assessor to gauge how the candidate manages their stress levels, workflow, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as their decision-making capabilities, all in real time, as this is normally a timed assessment. The assessors can therefore view the candidate’s performance when put on the spot with a looming deadline.

An assessment centre will only be as successful as its assessors. The selected assessor must be highly competent and trained in the field. I urge you to ensure that the assessor conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism, and do not allow biases or the like to sway their judgment and ultimately affect the outcome, which can be detrimental to your entire process. Therefore, most organisations opt to outsource this function, by hiring a consultant who is highly knowledgeable and whose perceptions are in tune with these matters.

Incorporating some facet of an assessment centre into your recruitment process may prove difficult but the resulting factor is the best-fit candidate for your vacant position. It is a fact that these assessments are costly, time-consuming and have the potential to eliminate candidates who are innately introverts, but I pose this alternative to you: create a blended approach.

This approach offers a combination of both online and offline tools, which can reduce the financial burden, and to a lesser extent the manpower needed to establish a successful assessment centre.


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