Assessing The Assessment Centre

Assessing The Assessment Centre

Many organisations are relying on assessment centres to identify the potential of current and prospective employees.

As more graduates enter the workforce each year, the competition among them intensifies to secure the best jobs in the market. So how do organisations ensure that they not only hire the best, but the most suitable candidate for the job?

Enter the assessment centre: a battery of tests that enables companies to filter a pool of candidates and select those who have not only the required qualifications for specific roles, but also the right attitude, aptitude and skill sets.

What Do Assessment Centres Measure?

Assessment centres help organisations assess a candidate’s strengths − and identify potential areas for development − through examining four basic but key dimensions that determine employee performance: behavioural traits, reasoning ability, knowledge and skills, and work motivation.

Behavioural Traits

Is it better to do a job you like or a job you fit? While many people would opt for the former, it is actually easier to excel in a job you fit. Therefore, assessment centres almost always include some form of psychometric testing. The rationale behind this is to reduce the stress levels of employees by giving them tasks that they are more naturally suited to perform.

Reasoning Ability

Some jobs require a certain level of mental aptitude to carry out even if a candidate has the necessary academic qualifications. Therefore, it is not uncommon for assessment centres to test candidates’ numerical reasoning, logical thinking and spatial reasoning to identify high-potential individuals who are able to grasp complex concepts and learn on the job quickly.

Skills and Knowledge

Information such as a candidate’s academic qualifications and work experience can easily be obtained from résumés. However, soft skills are also high in demand. Here, assessment centres provide avenues for candidates to demonstrate their skills in key areas such as effective communication and task execution.

Work Motivation

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone works just for money. Some people are motivated by challenging tasks, whereas others are willing to take a pay cut for greater flexibility. Assessments that identify work motivation are generally used to determine the best ways to reward employee performance and how the jobs themselves can be made more fulfilling to employees.

How Employers Assess Candidates

There are various formats and methods to assess candidates. The table below lists the more common examples of tests.

Psychometric Tests
  • Multiple choice
  • Taken on paper or via computer
  • Includes aptitude, ability and psychology tests used to gauge competencies (eg language, reasoning, intelligence, skills) and ability to fit in with the organisation.
Aptitude and ability tests:
  • Analytical ability
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Language
  • Logical thinking
  • Intelligence
  • Social context
Personality tests:
  • Behavioural traits
  • Communication style
  • Personal values
  • Work style
  • Interests.
Written Tests
  • Essay or subjective questions
  • Examines your ability to articulate your thoughts and opinions in written form.
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Language
  • Time management
  • Work skills.
In-tray Exercise
  • Involves a tray full of documents or a list of tasks to organise by priority
  • You are expected to elaborate on why you chose to prioritise one task over another as well as predict problems and recommend solutions.
  • Delegation
  • Organisation
  • Time management
  • Prioritisation.
  • You will be given a scenario to act out with other participants or with an assessor.
  • Ability to carry out work tasks
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • You will present on a given topic in front of a panel, individually or in a group
  • The presentation can vary from a two-minute self-introduction to a 15-minute campaign strategy presentation inclusive of PowerPoint slides.
  • Candidates may be given the topic on the spot or in advance, depending on the preparation required.
  • Communication
  • Confidence
  • Language
  • Professionalism
  • Public speaking.
Case Study Analysis
  • You will read a short passage or view a short film describing a real or fictional business situation, and then be asked a few questions about what you’ve just seen
  • You will be expected to identify the lessons and opportunities, and give informed predictions and solutions together with reasonable and logical justifications.
  • Analytical skills
  • Comprehension
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving.
Group Discussion
  • Applicants will be divided into groups and given a topic to discuss briefly. Each group is expected to come up with a conclusion or a solution
  • Assessors will observe (and sometimes facilitate or participate with) the teams and rate each candidate in a number of skill areas.
  • Analytical skills
  • Body language
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Etiquette
  • Initiative
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork.
  • Similar to a regular interview but tend to be more technical and incisive
  • May be one-to-one or group interview.
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Personality
  • Technical and industry
  • knowledge

Some Advice

If you are selected to participate in an assessment centre by a potential employer, consider it an excellent opportunity to showcase your abilities. Organisations employing assessment centres are more than likely to invest significantly in the personal and professional development of their employees.

Do your homework prior to attending a group assessment. You can practise by trying out free tests online to familiarise yourself with the various assessment methods before you attempt the real thing.

On the actual testing day, don’t panic if you feel you’re doing badly in any of the tests. Some of them are purposely designed so that you cannot complete all the questions on time. Others are designed to put you in a tight spot to gauge your reaction. Just remember to stay calm, get fully involved in all of the activities and learn from the experience.