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Why do employers use Assessment Centres for recruitment selection?

Updated on December 2, 2014

Quick introduction to Assessment Centres

When selecting candidates for their job vacancies, employers may use Assessment Centres in addition to the classic interview method and employers aim

  • To seek a fair and objective assessment of candidates
  • Assess candidate performance against key requirements for the role
  • Increase the potential for accuracy of a candidate’s job performance

Assessment Centres are a concept rather than a place and can use any or all of the following:

Interviews: are likely to evaluate attitudes and may have a technical element to them.

What will an employer want to know?

  • Do they have the “right” attitude?
  • Will they be a reliable, honest employee?
  • Do they have potential to progress?
  • Will we get return on investment?
  • Are they really interested in this job and our company?

Psychometric Testing – Personality profiling: not a real test in the sense of getting it right or wrong just a flavour of a person’s attitudes and tendencies. Candidates should not try to fudge these – there are mechanisms that will indicate a false or fake result. In any case, it is pointless to have a result based on someone that you are not. Personality profiling is a controlled product and will have been passed by the British Psychological Society (or similar body in other countries) and, having been validated, only people who have been suitably trained should administer and analyse these.

Group and individual exercises

Elements can include:

  • Ability test (verbal, numerical, spatial, technical)
  • Presentation – topic may be given on the day or beforehand.
    • Be clear about what is required, what media you can use
    • Ensure a logical order
    • Remember: slides/PowerPoint are aid to understanding only, it is the content that is important- don’t get carried away with gizmo
    • Try to keep it interesting, ensure beginning, middle and end with logical conclusions drawn from your content
    • If appropriate: use graphs, bullet points
    • Case study: fact finding to produce recommendations
    • In-tray exercise - simulates a hectic/problematic day
    • Role play: demonstrate your ability to sort through information and direct activities within context
    • Group exercises: data to analyse and form opinion for action, may include negotiating within scenario, these aim to assess planning, timing, involvement, listening, problem solving, interaction with others

General Conduct: although lunch isn’t usually an “assessment” a candidate will often meet very senior people and need to ensure that they behave accordingly. It is worth reminding that behaviour will be noticed and candidates need to consider:

  • Punctuality
  • Personal presentation
  • Being oneself
  • Respect for others
  • Self esteem

CVs: a well written CV is a marketing tool for the applicant and needs to have an accompanying letter to give additional information (usually no more than one page for the letter, maximum two pages for CV).

Needs to be well formatted, concise and clear, include any achievements, voluntary experience, work experience, some hobbies/interests if they are relevant. It is important to tell the truth but not a time for modesty!

A word about social media – if an individual has some unseemly exploits on their Facebook, or similar site, think about removing it. Whilst many companies don’t reference social media, some do and, rightly or wrongly, may already have formed an opinion. Also consider the contact email address given on CV to make sure it is not a potential embarrassment!


The Assessment Centre can actually be interesting and even fun and I often have candidates who tell me that they have been surprised at how much they have enjoyed it. It is also a time for the candidate to learn about the company and whether it is the kind of outfit that they want to be with. There will be winners and losers on the day and not everyone will be successful. But losers can also gain a lot from their experience and reflect on what they would do differently next time. It is worth contacting the company and asking for feedback, after all, both the company and the candidate have invested time in the Assessment Centre.


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