What is an assessment center and should you fear it?
So, what is this “Assessment”? The word “Assessment” means “getting a score, a mark”, and getting a mark in almost all of us causes unpleasant feelings even from school. But if at school only our grades and, to some extent, the reputation in the class depended on this, now salary, career and professional prospects depend on it.
Assessment Center is the most objective, but at the same time the most costly and psychologically ambiguous method perceived by jobseekers. And it is especially scary for those jobseekers who participate in such an assessment for the first time. However, this method of assessment has become very popular and widespread in the business environment. Many jobseekers have already attended this procedure, and for those who were not yet know what it is, we will briefly describe main parts and features of a standard assessment center.
An assessment Center consists of a specially selected set of tests in the form of individual and group exercises, business and role-playing games, discussions and other tasks in which participants can best demonstrate their professional competencies. It is these professional competencies that are assessed during an assessment center.
During an assessment center, the behavior of the participants is assessed by specially trained observers (external consultants, employees of the personnel service or company managers). They observe how participants demonstrate certain competencies and, when giving marks, use scales for assessing individual skills.
Why employers use assessment centers/days?
Standard objectives of assessment are:
- Assess how the professional competencies of candidates correspond to the ideal competency profile for a certain position;
- Assess the employee’s potential for further career growth and development;
- Form a development program for employees (taking into account their strong and weak skills).
Therefore, if you are invited to the assessment center, feel positive about it. Rejoice, because this is a unique opportunity for you from many points of view.
First, this is a chance to show your potential and show yourself from your best side. Often, young job seekers do not always have such an opportunity in a normal work situation, and during the assessment center in game situations such conditions are created where you can demonstrate your previously unclaimed knowledge and skills. In our practice, it often happened that employees who participated in the assessment procedure began to actively move up the career ladder even before we presented a general report on the assessment results. And all because their manager saw them from a new and better side during the assessment center.
Why assessment center is good for you
Secondly, through balanced, objective and structured assessment, you yourself begin to better understand your strengths and weaknesses and track how they manifest themselves in your actions and words. It is very difficult to see your cons on your own. We tend to close our eyes to them, and we do it unconsciously. However, it is important not only to understand your weaknesses, but also to see and evaluate your strengths. Your strong competencies are the key to your professional success, and understanding how to best use them will help you achieve your goals with the least effort and more impact.
It may even turn out that your competency profile is more consistent with a different job or activity. And it would be nice for you to think about changing your career direction in order to ensure faster progress. You can invite your company’s management to use your abilities in a different way within the company. This will not only benefit you, but also the employer. Usually, the experts conducting the assessment also give recommendations to the company’s management about horizontal rearrangements in the company in order to optimally use the potential of employees.
Thirdly, you receive competent recommendations and advice for further professional development. Understanding what and how to develop will greatly accelerate your progress. And if the company’s HR aims at the further development of the assessment center participants, then you have a real opportunity to undergo training paid by the company, while not learning something “in general”, but training, the program of which is formed taking into account the needs of the participants.
Well, among other things, assessment center, since it contains elements of training and group work, gives you an excellent opportunity to get to know your colleagues better, establish informal relationships and just have an interesting, and sometimes even fun, time.
So, feel positive – you are going to the assessment! But at the same time, do not relax, this is still an assessment. And you should prepare for it.
How to prepare for an assessment center?
What should you expect at a standard assessment center?
Psychometric aptitude tests
Some employers make the first selection of candidates using psychometric aptitude tests online. They send you a link to take the test at your home. Then, only the candidates with high scores get an invitation to an assessment center and interviews.
Other employers want you to take psychometric aptitude tests in a controlled environment at their office. This way, you are to take the tests right before the assessment. For example, most FMCG and trading companies make assessment day the way that we describe below.
All applicants get invited for an assessment center which consists of:
- psychometric aptitude tests for 40-60 minutes,
- then, candidates with high score are invited for a group discussion and group case study,
- after that, best candidates are invited for an HR job interview,
- and only a few best candidates are invited for a job interview with company management.
As you can see, an assessment center consists of selection stages, and after each stage only the best candidates get invitation to the next one. In top FMCG companies like Procter&Gamble, MARS, L’Oreal and others competition is so fierce that up to 500 job seekers apply for 1 position in management trainee programs or management. Thus, when you come to an assessment center, you will see up to 80 other applicants with you.
Then, after you take the aptitude test and score high, you will see 35-40 applicants remaining who will make a company for you for a group discussion and group case study. After that stage, only 20-25 applicants will be invited for a HR interview. And after it, only 10-12 will have a job interview with the company management.
Should I prepare for psychometric aptitude tests?
Many studies show that candidates who practiced psychometric aptitude tests in advance show up to 50% better results comparing to those candidates who have never seen or practiced such tests. Thus, candidates with experience in psychometric aptitude tasks have a real advantage.
So, the only way when you should NOT practice is when you have already seen hundreds of such tests and taken 2-3 real pre-employment tests before.
In any other situation, you must practice psychometric aptitude test in advance to score high and get the job you want. Practice makes perfect. Read more about tips of psychometric aptitude test in our articles:
The next important part of an assessment center is self-presentation. You will need to speak to the group with a 3-4-minute story about yourself. You should cover your experience, strengths and weaknesses, your goals and plans.
It is possible and necessary to prepare for the presentation, since this task is usually given at the beginning of the assessment center and gives the employer a first impression of you, which can influence subsequent assessments. In addition, a good start will give you self-confidence and help you get started quickly and effectively. How to prepare? Many books have been written on the topic of public speaking and oratory. So, seek advice in them. I will give only one piece of advice, which at one time helped me very well. Prepare a detailed story about yourself, rehearse it in front of the mirror and make a video recording of this speech (or at least an audio recording). Review it, listen to it, mark what needs to be corrected, and make adjustments to your presentation. Enhance your presentation until you like what you see and hear.
Also, think in advance how you can say about your weak sides. Employers like such questions, and often such questions confuse a person. Remember that our weaknesses are an extension of our strengths, and vice versa. Stinginess is frugality, stubbornness is perseverance, fixation on trifles is perfectionism, etc. Think ahead of how you can show a positive side by talking about your flaws.
The main part of the assessment center is discussions, business and role-playing games. You never know what employers have prepared for you. But in any case, remember the skills being assessed and build your behavior to demonstrate them. But at the same time, do not dwell on it, be yourself, participate in the games and enjoy it.
A few tips:
Listen carefully and read the instructions. It is important to clearly understand the purpose of the assignment and do exactly what was required. Write the instructions down and check with them as you work. If everything is not clear, ask the mentors and make sure that you understood everything correctly.
Many tasks have a time limit, so keep track of time and your progress in work, adjusting your speed. This is especially important in group work. Often participants are distracted by their discussion and forget about the time.
Sometimes it is useful to mentally distance yourself from what is happening within the group and look at everything from the side, as if through the eyes of an observer. It will become more obvious to you what is really happening in the group, and how well you are going towards the goal. If you see that the group, in your opinion, has gone away, draw the attention of other participants to this, take responsibility for what is happening.
You may also have written assignments. Write your answers and in general everything you have to write legibly and accurately, even just comments and notes. It is better not to write any drafts, you will save time and show that you are confident in what you are writing.
The final stage of the assessment center is HR and management interviews. During interviews, biographical questions, projective questions, and competency questions are commonly used. Biography questions are about facts from your life. Projective questions concern how would you act in some hypothetical situation. And questions on competencies how and in what specific situations you demonstrated those competencies that are being assessed.
Try asking the personnel service for what competencies you will be assessed. But if you don’t get such information, do not worry. Of course, the list of assessed competencies in different companies may differ, but usually the main measured competencies are the same. The most popular competencies are:
- communication skills (skills of persuasion and argumentation, presentation, conflict resolution, understanding of the interlocutor),
- result orientation,
- skills in working with information (analysis, logic, structuring),
- planning and organization skills,
- development orientation,
- leadership and management skills (for managers or management trainee candidates).
From our practice: in interviews, candidates usually have difficulties with questions on competencies, for the answer to which it is necessary to recall specific situations from their own professional and life experience. Therefore, it will be very useful if you prepare in advance all situations from your past experience that you could positively characterize from the point of view of the listed competencies. Thanks to this, you will feel confident enough and quickly give answers to the questions posed, which will have a positive effect on your image.
However, at the same time we strongly recommend not to think up such situations, because an experienced specialist will easily notice this.
Read more about interviews in our articles:
So, you managed to show your best side and benefit from both the preparation for the assessment and the assessment itself. But there is one more final procedure that may be very interesting and useful to you. This is feedback on your results. It is not given to the participants immediately, but later, when all the results of aptitude tests and observations have been processed and grades have been given. Typically, feedback is provided by the assessors. But sometimes it can be personnel service workers or even a higher-level manager who participated in the assessment as an observer. The more professional the person giving you feedback is in assessment and development, the more fortunate you are. Make the most of this moment, since you can practically get a free consultation. What you hear will not necessarily be just praises.
One very important recommendation – do not try to justify, let alone deny your shortcomings or weaknesses. Be open to new information. If observers saw any unpleasant moments for you in your behavior, then these moments may be obvious to other people, although they are not obvious to you.
If low grades are unexpected for you, you can say that you did not expect it, but that you will definitely think about it and try to improve. And be sure to subsequently try to track these manifestations in your behavior. Realizing your weaknesses is the first and biggest step towards. If you resist and justify your mistakes, you will very seriously block your path to development, because you will convince your subconscious that everything is in order for you.
Low marks are not a sentence, but a chance for development
So, take them. Competencies are not innate and immutable qualities. These are skills that can and should be developed and knowledge that should be acquired. Ask a specialist what you can do to develop them. What literature they can recommend for you, what and where there are trainings on this topic, what you can do to develop these skills on your own. Pay close attention to these recommendations, draw up a development plan for yourself with a time frame, and act.
You can come up with some indicator for yourself that reflects the effectiveness of the development of a certain competence and track its progress over time. Remember that your cons are a great stimulus for your development. The question is how effectively you use it. The one who understands this and acts, achieves much better results later than the one who immediately received good results and calmed down on this. Making the most of each assessment increases your success in subsequent assessment procedures and enhances your overall professional success.
Assessment center is a must-have procedure if you want to get a job in a large company, especially in FMCG or marketing. So, be ready for it. Practice psychometric aptitude tests, get ready for an interview and business games. On Aptitude-Tests-Practice.com you will find about 1000 of up-to-day psychometric aptitude tests. 4-5 days of practice will help you to score high on any pre-employment test and get the job.