Assessment Center: what it is and how it is used in Personnel Selection
Recruitment is a part of human resources that includes a series of processes and strategies to find the best candidate for a given job position (or vacancy). Within personnel selection, we find the Assessment Centers (AC), sometimes called Situation Assessment Interviews .
AOs are recruitment methodologies that allow several candidates to be interviewed at the same time. They consist of a series of tests and activities conducted by one or more interviewers. In this article we will know what they consist of, how they are developed and what aspects they allow to evaluate.
Assessment Center: what is it?
An Assessment Center (AC) is a methodology for the evaluation of group candidates , typical of the Human Resources sector; specifically, it belongs to the field of personnel selection. It is a group selection process, which enables more than one candidate to be interviewed at the same time (in fact, groups of people are assessed, which may vary in number).
There are various types of Assessment Center, but broadly speaking, we are talking about group interviews where some challenge, test, dynamics, etc. is posed. (normally, more than one).
In the Assessment Centers, various techniques and strategies are used to select the best candidate (or candidates) for the position offered; all these techniques are developed under the supervision (and direction) of one or more assessors.
These assessors, for their part, are Human Resources professionals , who may be psychologists, graduates in labour relations, Human Resources technicians, etc.
In the Assessment Center there are a series of activities, debates, dynamics or games that must be solved in group (although there can also be individual activities). Thus, in a certain way, it is a group dynamic that includes individual tasks, and that aims to evaluate the competences and skills of the candidates through a series of pre-set parameters.
As mentioned above, it involves one or more evaluators (usually, and ideally, more than one); in fact, it is advisable that several participate, in order to be able to observe and analyse the behaviours, attitudes and responses of the participants.
The objective of an Assessment Center is to determine which candidate(s) is/are best suited to fill the position(s) in which the interviewer or assessor is working.
Generally, Assessment Centers are used in a complementary way to other selection processes (e.g. telephone interview, face-to-face interview, psycho-technical tests, etc.). However, it can also be used as the first and only filter for selecting the right worker.
In turn, the Assessment Center seeks to create an environment from which candidates can develop the specific competencies sought for the position to be filled. In other words, in the AC the candidate must demonstrate that he/she has these competencies, as well as the skills required for the vacancy.
Assessment Centers are typically held in larger or smaller rooms, with a table and chairs for candidates. It is advisable to have bottles of water available for them. They can also be held outdoors; it all depends on the philosophy and way of working of the company.
Sometimes, in addition, a camera is used to record the entire session; this is done so that the responses and attitudes of the candidates can be analysed in detail. The use of the camera is also frequent in consultancies , that is, in companies that work for other companies, looking for candidates for their positions.
In this case, the client of the consultancy (which is another company) asks for a series of candidates to cover “X” positions; what the consultancy does is to record the Assessment Centers it develops and then send the material to its client, so that the latter can decide which candidate to select.
How long do they last?
The duration of the Assessment Center will depend on the type of position to be filled, the number of vacancies, the number of candidates applying for the offer , as well as other variables related to the company and the offer in question.
Generally, however, the duration ranges from a few hours to even days (the latter being less common).
When is it used?
Assessment Centers are suitable for almost any type of selection process . The positions on which the Assessment Centers work can be positions that require certain types of studies (for example, marketing technician, human resources, publicist, etc.) or positions that do not require studies – or that require less advanced studies – (for example, telephone operator, salesperson, etc.).
Even so, is more often used when the positions are higher in terms of requirements for the candidate (level of studies) and in terms of salary.
However, although an Assessment Center can be used for a wide variety of job offers, we must take into account that this procedure usually has a high economic cost , since carrying it out involves many hours of design, planning, preparation, development, etc., as well as subsequent hours of evaluation of results.
In any case, although it has a high cost, if applied properly and thoroughly, an Assessment Center can be a good option due to its high validity (always if the design is appropriate), and can even save certain costs to the company, preventing it from hiring unsuitable candidates for the position.
What is assessed in Situation Assessment Interviews?
Depending on the positions to be covered, the design of the Assessment Center and what is intended with it will vary; thus, in some processes, specific aptitudes, capacities or skills will be assessed, and in others, others.
1. Capacities and skills
There are some of these skills or capacities that are usually especially valued : for example, organizational capacity, leadership capacity, decision making, analysis, planning, social skills, communication, problem solving, teamwork, working under pressure and the capacity of suggestion.
2. Personality traits
Personality is a construct that can also be assessed in an Assessment Center, although more superficially than through another type of individual test or personality test.
The personality variables that are usually evaluated, and which are most valued in the different jobs (in general) are initiative, proactivity and motivation . In other words, showing initiative in solving questions, participating in debates that may arise in the assessment, and helping other colleagues, are actions that are usually valued positively by companies. Moreover, contributing ideas, knowledge and opinions also favours the image that the assessors are forming of themselves.
On the other hand, the motivation we mentioned refers to the candidate’s desire to solve the problems posed in the Assessment Center, as well as the interest generated by the job position offered.
Types of tests
We have already mentioned that the tests carried out in an Assessment Center are diverse. Specifically, three types of tests are usually used:
1. Situational testing
This type of test, also called the professional test, evaluates the specific skills for the particular position to be filled . They are tests that emulate real situations, and that require the candidate to develop or solve a series of specific tasks.
Examples of situational tests are role plays, discussions, case studies, etc.
2. Knowledge tests
Knowledge tests involve the person developing a series of answers, from specific questions asked for the vacancy being filled . That is, they evaluate specific knowledge required for the position.
This knowledge can be of different types (depending on the vacancy): languages, computer science, chemistry, mathematics, etc.
3. Psycho-technical tests
Finally, within an Assessment Center (and other selection processes) we can find the psycho-technical tests, which evaluate different personality traits, as well as specific skills and competences.
This type of test is mainly used to determine what degree of adaptability the candidate has for the position to be covered , that is, to what extent he or she is a good candidate to carry out the tasks of that position.
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- Olaz, A.J. (2011). Methodological development of an Assessment Center based on a competency-based management system. Lan Harremanak, 24: 197 – 217.
- Richino, S. (1996). Personnel Selection. Appendix, Group Evaluation Techniques. Editorial Paidós.