In my earlier column I discussed various dimensions that are observed by the raters during the exercise. Now I would like to discuss the basics of the process.
Often times the persons associated with promoting the Assessment Center state that the advantage of the Assessment Centers are:
- They are the best predictor of success of all testing method
- They are viewed as being fairer, non-discriminatory
- They have a high degree of credibility with job candidates
- Internal departmental bias and personality issues are totally eliminated
- Centers replace one on one interviews and or seniority systems.
I don't necessarily agree with all of the above statements but that is how they feel. Assessment Center Exercises are either group or individual and while the format of the exercises is basically the same, the content changes, depending on the job level and organization. Basically the Assessment Centers Exercises will consist of:
- A Group Discussion will start without an appointed leader. During the exercise, the participants with leadership ability will assume leadership of the group.
- An In Basket exercise simulates the working situation in which some work is generated by documents assigned and forwarded to the candidate. Difficulty and stress can be increased or decreased by controlling the amount of time, the number of individual items, and the complexity of the items.
- A Written Problem requires the candidate to review a certain amount of material and prepare a written report. The report could be (but is not) limited to performance evaluations, budgeting requests, staff reports, or press releases.
- An Interview Simulation could simulate any number of situations in which the candidate must interview others for a job.
- An Oral Presentation requires the candidate to make a formal presentation to a group of persons who are usually the raters.
- A Social Gathering is a situation where the raters will evaluate you on your interaction with others.
Following is a brief overview of the Assessment Center. If you are going to participate in an Assessment Center, your preparation is basically the same as for an Oral Board, only your testing process may be extended anywhere from one day to a five-day evaluation. The best advice I can give you is to be yourself and don't fight to take control of a situation. A good leader assumes control while allowing his competition to make the mistakes. I don't mean that you should sit back and say nothing, but listen to your fellow competitors, quickly analyze their statements and if you agree with them, expound on what they said to make it yours. If you disagree, then do it in a respectful but strong manner, which will make people take note of your position. Be sure you are correct in your statements because you will either live by them or die by them, but don't be afraid to make the decision! Above all, remember that you are in competition with the others in the Assessment Center.
The following examples are given as areas of concern so that your actions, or lack thereof, will not be misinterpreted. You are being continually evaluated as you go through the process, so always keep your guard up.
Case in point:
When I was competing for the Chief's position at Fountain Valley, I was going through the Assessment Center Exercise, which was being conducted by a renowned consultant in the Assessment Center field. I had completed many of the exercises along with my fellow competitors, and we were standing around during a break having coffee. I spoke with a few of the candidates but I also wanted some alone time to concentrate on my performance. Later, during the interview process of the Assessment Center, it was brought to my attention that I had been observed during the breaks as not intermingling with my fellow candidates and that I was aloof. I asked the rater to explain how he came by this conclusion, especially since I did not see him constantly watching me during the breaks. He explained that he did not always see my actions during the breaks because he had other matters to attend to but when he did observe me, I had little interaction with the others in the group. Since this was affecting my rating and my professional goals for achieving the Chief's position, I had to explain my actions to him. Afterwards, he stated that he understood and that he had misinterpreted my actions. Had I not had the ability to discuss this matter with this rater, it could have jeopardized my chances for that position.