How to prepare a professional Assessment Centre

There is no doubt about it: putting candidates through an assessment centre experience will reveal more about them than meeting them in your office face to face. Fact is that often organisations choose this approach mostly for managerial jobs and graduates and not for every single vacancy that they need to fill. According to research by Employment Review, more than 9 out of 10 employers believe that using assessment centres are a very (47 %) or fairly (48 %) effective method of hiring staff. A survey conducted by Equal Opportunities Review among 91 private companies and public sector institutions found that 53 % believe the costs involved for the assessment are justified (running between 100 and 500 GBP per person depending on the position).

If in your company the question arises “Should we run an Assessment Centre for the xyz job?” you as a recruiter need to make yourself aware of the advantages and disadvantages.

The benefits are as follows:

  • A group of people can be assessed all at the same place and time by using various methods. It’s surely more time efficient than inviting every person individually into your office.
  • A job applicant’s suitability for a particular job can be predicted more precisely because you can observe people “in action”. You can see how the person behaves, communicates, reacts and deals with other people. This will be an indicator as to how the person would react in a similar environment in the future.
  • On paper candidates might look very similar regarding their education and experiences but inviting them to an assessment day will help you to compare them more effectively.
  • Candidates will also get better insights into the job role and will realise whether this is really something they will enjoy doing or not.

However, the disadvantages should not be ignored:

  • It’s surely more time consuming and needs to be well planned and organised.
  • It also involves some financial investment (costs for designing and hosting the event and finding suitable accommodation if corporate premises are inadequate).

If you are seriously thinking to run a smooth Assessment Centre pay attention to these points:

  • Consider your company’s values and your brand recruitment philosophy at all times when planning this event.
  • Create a job description, a competency profile and a person specification. Design exercises which reflect real life situations and are tailored to the specific role. This can be a bespoke activity, an off the shelf exercise or a combination of both approaches.
  • When choosing the most suitable exercises think creatively and include also activities which will show a candidate’s future potential. You need to be clear about how many exercises you want to include and what the duration for each of them will be. You can choose from a variety of activities. For example:
    • - Role plays in which candidates have to show how they would behave in a certain situation.
    • - A competency based interview in which you ask to provide examples, outcomes and achievements of past experiences.
    • - A presentation which the candidate had the opportunity to prepare in advance (related to your company or industry).
    • - Creating and presenting hands-on work samples.
    • - Psychometric tests.
    • - In-tray exercises where candidates have to sort documents and reply to them considering different priorities.
    • - Written analysis exercise.
    • - Social events in which you see how candidates interact with other staff and candidates (lunch time or coffee breaks would be the ideal time for this).
    • - A group exercise in which a problem needs to be solved within a certain time period and realistic solutions need to be presented.
  • Make sure that staff who are conducting these assessments are experienced, have been trained accordingly and are fully aware of what type of person you want to hire.
  • Organise everything about the event in detail. For example:
    • - What is the date of the assessment? (Set the date and inform every participant about it well in advance).
    • - How many people are attending? (Prepare a list of all their contact details in case some of the candidates don’t turn up and need to be contacted).
    • - How many people are involved in the assessment process?
    • - What is their exact role?
    • - Where does the event take place?
    • - Which rooms are required and for how long?
    • - Who brings all the documentation and makes sure that everything runs smoothly?
    • - What food and drinks (and quantities) are required?
    • - Who starts the introduction and how is it been conducted?
    • - What tech equipment is required and is it all working properly?
    • - Are all activities planned properly?
    • - In what chronological order are the activities taking place? For group activities: who is in which group? For individual tasks: Who is assessing candidates on an individual basis?
    • - Who is in charge of the final part and how will the event end?
  • If internal as well as external people are allowed to take part in the assessment centre it’s important to create a scorecard which lists all the key competencies. This will help you to compare candidates with each other and assess them in a fair and objective way without looking at past performances.
  • It would be helpful for assessors to take detailed notes throughout the assessment process. In case some candidates might want to see written evidence of their performance (which they would have the right to request) it is important to keep any documentation afterwards.
  • Candidates should be reviewed on the same day. This has the advantage that memories and details are still fresh in the assessors’ minds. Then a final decision should be taken.
  • Don’t make the mistake to let candidates wait too long about the assessment outcome. Imagine your top candidate would have already said YES to another job offer and just because you did not act quickly you would be forced to hire your second choice! How would you feel? So make sure you don’t lose top candidates to your competitors in this way.
  • Providing successful as well as unsuccessful candidates with constructive feedback is not just beneficial for the candidate but also reflects well on a company’s image and reputation, always bear that in mind.

The better you plan and execute this assessment process the higher your chances are to hire high-quality talent in the long term. If you take a rushed decision and think assessment centres are a waste of time you might end up with a bad hire. Now imagine if this would really be the case … in the end you would still have to spend more time and money. You want to make sure that the same mistake doesn’t repeat itself. So, was it then really worthwhile?

If you need an efficient platform to run the assessments, Skillmeter is here for you. It is super easy to set it up (no IT required) and will help you save time, money and nerves. Click here to learn more about what Skillmeter is and how you can use it.

Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.