While the origins of an Assessment Center may be traced back to tests and observations applied in order to select candidates for high-level positions in India 1,500 years ago, there is no evidence of genuine attempts at an Assessment Center before the 1930s. Decimated by the World War I and gearing up for another major war, the armies of Germany and United Kingdom searched for candidates for commissioned officers by applying series of tests and observations under supervision of a committee.
An in-depth comprehensive process of evaluation of the candidates’ competence is precisely what matters in testing the employee’s aptitude.

Weaknesses of a job interview

“Should a company decide to rely on nothing more than an unstructured interview in their recruitment processes, it will obtain information such as the candidate’s experience, track record and theoretical knowledge,” says Izabela Szewc, a Program Development Consultant at Spring Professional. Where the employer’s hiring decision is based on this method only, the statistic probability that a new employee will meet the organisation’s expectations and the profile of the job applied for runs at 30-35%1.
The expert emphasizes that an Assessment Center enables collection of much more in-depth data, such as the employee’s skills and the ability to apply his or her knowledge in practice. An Assessment Center also ensures insights into the candidate’s attitudes, behaviour, motivation and job preferences.
“What adds significant value to an Assessment Center is the ability to adjust the tasks given to candidates to the actual position for which the recruitment process is conducted,” explains Izabela Szewc. Various tools used during the session allow the employer to evaluate in detail the project participants’ predispositions and skills, and further to make adequate recruitment decisions. Depending on the position applied for by the participants, the evaluation process may focus for instance on teamwork abilities, negotiation skills or out-of-the-box and creative thinking.

Better than a job interview

Research by Mike Smith shows that work samples generate positive results in ca 54% of cases, whereas proficiency tests ensure 53% effectiveness in finding a proper candidate. The rate generated by personality tests was 38-42%. For an unstructured or typical job interview, the rate was 30-35%.
“Supplementing information from a job interview with insights from an Assessment Center session may ensure prediction at 68-72%,” says Izabela Szewc. Applying diverse tasks in an Assessment Center session in order to expose tendencies in the participants’ behaviour makes the process demanding and exhaustive for them. Even if candidates are well prepared, after two or three tasks they are so tired that their mask drops to reveal their actual potential and ability to resist pressure or stress.

A test for the HR department

“An Assessment Center puts to a test not only the candidates, but the recruiting team as well,” argues Izabela Szewc. “Our experience at Spring Professional shows that preparing a session takes 70% of the time, and 25% is spent on evaluating the output. Hours of tasks and testing administered to candidates only amount to ca. 5% of the total duration of the project.”
This is why many enterprises decide to outsource this process to external experts, such as Spring Professional. Research by the IBD Business School shows that Assessment Centers in Poland are not yet up to global standards .
While 97% of enterprises implementing such projects use simulation, and in 93% of cases each participant is supervised by a dedicated assessor, there is still a lot to be done as far as reporting is concerned. In 51% of cases, reports are not written by each assessor individually, but only after the output is agreed. Only in 36% of the cases the assessors’ knowledge is verified in any way, and only in 18% of the cases validations are ensured to verify the testing effectiveness.
“The key risk is that a session might be conducted in a manner inconsistent with the methodology. Should this be the case, the enterprise risks double loss because it invests both in a costly recruitment process and in a candidate who might fall short of what is expected by the organisation after having been tested in a manner inconsistent with the applicable standard,” say Izabela Szewc. “Therefore, it’s worth trusting proven professionals,” Szewc concludes.

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