An assessment centre is a way of selecting candidates for a role. They might be internal candidates for promotion, external candidates for a job, or it may be internal candidates being assess for their suitability for roles within a new structure. Basically an assessment centre is a number of different ways of assessing someone’s ability to do a job.
Based on the person specification a trained and qualified assessor will choose a number of tests or events that can be assessed. They may be psychometric tools that measure your ability to reason with numbers, or words, they may be problem solving exercises, they may be interactive exercises with other people. Sometimes actors are used to do work simulations. Sometimes you have to do a task in a group. You may be asked to do a personality questionnaire, a presentation or have an interview.
They key thing is that you should be given more than one  opportunity  to demonstrate your ability of each competence, so if you do badly in one exercise you may pick up on another.
Sometimes an assessment centre or  number of psychometric tools are used to pre screen out applicants who do not meet certain criteria. For example if you need to be very numerate to do a role, all the applicants may be asked to do a numerical ability test and only those who score above the cut off point will get to an interview.
A full assessment centre lasting over a day or several days is more likely in a senior role, where organisations like to collect a lot of information about a candidate before making a decisions. They are also used in graduate selection where fewer candidates have work experiences to draw on. Using an assessment centre in this way means that candidates will be screened on their applications before they get invited to attend. You may be asked to do some on line questionnaires before the day; usually this would be a personality questionnaire.
At an assessment centre you will be working with other candidates and doing the same exercises as them. Don’t think that you shod try to compete with them and be overly competitive. Most organisations value team work and interpersonal skills; they will be looking to see how much you are cooperating rather than trying to ‘win’.
What do they do with the results? The assessors on the centre should be pulling together all the information into a report for the selectors to review. Sometimes this report will recommend whether you go further in the process:  sometimes it is there just to inform the selectors about your competence. Some reports will give numerical scores to all the exercises and then give the assessment centre as a whole a score. That would enable the selectors to have a very clear ‘merit order’ of candidates.  Some firms have a profile of their ideal candidates, based on those who they have appointed previously and who have done well, they will be looking for people whose profiles are similar.
In other assessment centres the report will focus on a narrative report stressing your strengths and areas that need further exploration. This would enable the interviewers to ask you searching questions about those competencies that you have not fully demonstrated in the centre.  This gives you another opportunity to demonstrate your competence.  This approach is more about recognising that individuals bring different strength and weaknesses and that choosing someone is about getting the skills that compliment those of other team members, or that might be specifically needed at that point in time. A year later they might chose someone with a different profile.
There are no hard and fast rules about exactly how the results should or are used. Sometimes failure in one exercise can be the end of the road for a candidate. In another organisation  the selectors may decide to ignore the test results altogether and appoint someone they ‘like the look of’. (OK that begs the question why do the tests at all if you are going to ignore them, but I have seen it happen!)
Are the tests always an accurate portrayal of an individual’s skills and capabilities? Well yes and no! Performance in tests can be an inaccurate predictor of performance for many reasons, not least if the candidate has never done anything like this before. However the people who design the tests spend huge amounts of money and time to get them as good at predicating as possible. Don’t think you are a failure if you do badly.. just get some help to learn how to improve.

For further information on how to improve your performance in tests and assessment centres, call me now!

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