Although we are currently experiencing unusual circumstances, it is a perfect opportunity to look ahead to the future, consider the strategic direction of your organisation, and identify the staff that will help you reach your goals.
In order to ensure your workforce is stronger than ever, we have provided some dos, don’ts, and considerations for anyone looking to refresh or update their current assessment centre process, whether it’s virtual or face to face in its design. Hopefully, this will enable you to hire the right people to work towards a bright future for your organisation. Whether you are a seasoned assessment centre designer or entirely new to the process we hope you will find something useful below.
Plan, plan, and plan some more! Whether you are designing a face to face or virtual Assessment Centre (AC) don’t underestimate the amount of planning required. From timetabling and planning the day itself, to arranging feedback after the centre there are a lot of moving parts to consider. Training your assessors, booking meeting rooms or timetabling virtual meeting sessions, arranging assessment materials, and providing individual timetables for everyone involved will ensure the day itself runs smoothly.
Have a solid basis for your design before you start. Ensure you complete a thorough job analysis to clearly identify the defined competencies or behaviours that you want to measure. These should be qualities that are relevant to success in the role, not just a tick list of ideals. Once this has been outlined you can identify which off-the-shelf exercises you will use, or design bespoke ones.
Engage your key stakeholders. Involving hiring managers, subject matter experts and senior leaders in the process can benefit in two ways: you will have a wealth of expertise to draw upon from people who are closest to the roles, and you will gain buy-in to the process and recruitment decisions from these stakeholders. Use them as assessors to capitalise on their knowledge and keep engagement high throughout the AC.
Channel your inner goldilocks. When considering the length of the centre, and of the exercises within it, consider the impact on both candidates and assessors. A three-day assessment process might gather lots of data, but the strain on the people involved far outweighs the benefits. When designing or choosing exercises, consider fatigue if an exercise is too long. Alternatively exercises that are too short may not allow enough time for participants to demonstrate their natural behaviours and capabilities.
Consider the needs of different candidates. When designing your AC try to ensure that there are a blend of activities suited to different types of people. Consider incorporating both a group task, a role play, and an individual analysis exercise, giving space for people to excel in different areas: whether it is in people-oriented situations or focused solo work.
Measure twice. All competencies or behaviours should be assessed at least twice across the AC to provide candidates more than one opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. On the flip side, ensure that you don’t overload exercises with competencies as this will impact on the assessors ability to identify the most relevant behaviours. Typically, we recommend four or five competencies as a maximum per exercise.
Be specific on rating forms. Support your assessors and ensure objectivity in their ratings by providing specific behavioural examples directly related to the exercise. This enables them to discern between relevant and irrelevant data, and good and bad examples most accurately. Avoid only providing a generic description of the competency, which can leave room for error, bias or misjudgement.
Don’t cut corners with your assessors. Fully brief all assessors on the exercises, timetables, competencies and behaviours for the AC so they are equipped for their role, whether they are seasoned assessors or not. This ensures consistency and fairness in the assessment of candidates. Ensure you provide additional training on biases, ORCE, and general advice for anyone who is new to assessing.
Don’t forget to sell the company. Assessment Centres aren’t just about identifying the best talent, they are also about attracting the right individuals for the role by reflecting your company’s brand and values. Candidates whose values align with those of the company have been shown to have increased performance and retention over others.
Don’t skip the feedback. It’s important to make the right impression with everyone who comes to the AC, whether they receive an offer or not. Providing feedback can boost a company’s reputation, which can have an impact on success in the long term. All candidates are entitled to feedback if they ask for it, so building it into the process for everyone will make a good impression and help support individuals moving forwards.
Don’t invite just anybody. ACs are costly to run, especially face to face ones, so ensure that you have appropriate pre-screening measures in place prior to running the event(s). It is important to invite an appropriate ratio of candidates to available roles – typically we assume a 1/3 or 1/2 pass rate. Inviting the masses and only having one role on offer is usually a poor use of resources. It can also be disheartening for candidates to realise they don’t want the job on the day and then have to continue through the assessment, so allow opportunities for candidates to select-out prior to the day. Use tools such as SJTs to help pre-screen or provide a company brochure to allow candidates to decide if the role and organisation are right for them.
Don’t use emotive scenarios. Be mindful of the scenarios you choose for your exercises, so as not to impact on any diversity and inclusion issues or topics that could cause offense or distress. Don’t discuss illnesses, politics, religion, and don’t assume specific technical knowledge or experiences. Ensure a level playing field for all candidates.
A common theme for all exercises. Some of the best candidate feedback we have received is for ACs with a common theme, or scenario, throughout the exercises. It provides an opportunity to showcase a range of areas of the business or paint a picture of a typical workday at the company. Show candidates a glimpse of what life is really like in the role.
Introduce current role holders. Candidates are likely to have questions about what the role will be like in practice, or about the company overall. Consider building in time for an informal Q&A session or lunch with a previous graduate or someone in the role they are applying for. This allows candidates to better evaluate whether they feel the company is right for them, without being assessed.
Add an element of self-reflection. Building upon the advice above to provide feedback to candidates, why not also prompt some self-reflection during the AC so that candidates leave having learned something. It can be as simple as a few prompt questions at the end of the day or a workbook they take with them throughout the exercises, with time to reflect after each one.
Will technology add to or detract? In some circumstances the use of technology can be powerful, allowing candidates to feel seamless engagement from their invitation to the centre, to the development feedback afterwards. Alternatively, there are some circumstances where attempting to run new software on 20 tablets simultaneously adds another layer of complexity to organising and executing things seamlessly. Think through your use of technology carefully, considering where it could add value and be appropriate.
We hope you have found something useful in our do’s, don’ts, and considerations. Should you wish to discuss refreshing your current assessment centre or if you are looking to design one from scratch DO contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 8090 0147.
To enable the assessment centre design to be more straightforward, we’ve created a checklist that goes through the common challenges in moving to virtual assessment centres. To access this checklist, click the link below.