1. Purpose of Guide
The aim of the guide is to achieve the following:
v To enable you to get as close to your optimum performance as possible when
being assessed for a role.
v To provide you with the opportunity of developing transferable skills that can be
applied to future selection processes and support your longer-term career
The guide is not about providing answers, which would contravene the British
Psychological Society Code of Conduct, but focuses on ensuring you are aware of
what to expect and therefore prepare optimally for the actual selection process when
it comes around.
2. What is an Assessment Centre?
What is an assessment centre?
An assessment centre typically involves:
· A variety of assessment exercises
· Several assessors evaluating candidates performance
· Assessment against a number of job-relevant competencies
· Feedback on performance against the competencies to inform selection
decisions and future personal development
Why use an assessment centre?
Research has shown that carefully designed assessment centres are more likely than
other selection measures to produce reliable assessment information which can be
predictive of future performance in a role. Assessment centres (and work sample tests)
go well beyond interview methods and actually put candidates in the situation as
opposed to presenting a description of it. As a result it offers insight into abilities to do
the work rather than knowing how to do the work. In addition, multiple assessments are
made at an assessment centre, so it also lends itself to fairness, as candidates are given
a number of opportunities to demonstrate their strengths.
Figure 1: Example of Validities of Different Selection Methods
* Adapted from Anderson & Snell (2000). Also note structured interviews have validity coefficients up to 0.44.
To achieve higher validities and reliabilities care needs to be taken to assess job critical
competencies and associated behaviours, especially those displayed most frequently
amongst top performers.
3. Assessment Centre Techniques
One would hope the following advice would not need to be given but all too often
candidates lack of preparation and organising prevents them from performing at this
best. The following basic steps are strongly recommended:
v Understand the job role in detail prior to the assessment centre.
v Understand the role competencies. If these competencies and their definitions
are not provided to you in advance of the centre, ask for them.
v Learn about what the assessment centre involves (exercises, psychometric
v Arrive in good time; do not go into selection processes feeling rushed.
v Request overnight accommodation if travelling long distances (or at least get
a good sleep) need to be fresh.
v Avoid distractions during the course of the day (e.g. checking e-mail and
1.0 Perfect prediction
0.11 0.33 Unstructured
0.68 Assessment Centres
0.41 Assessment Centres
0.38 Personality test
0.54 Work Sample & Ability
v Try to consider the exercise as actual work. The more you present your normal
approach to work the more likely the assessors are going to get an accurate
representation of your abilities and behavioural preferences.
v Maintain a positive approach to the assessment centre. Whilst the structured
nature of the centre makes it a demanding process, the design ensures
comprehensive coverage of job-relevant competencies thereby enhancing
the accuracy of assessments made.
v Try to relax. It is normal to feel nervous or apprehensive about this kind of
event; remember that none of the exercises will be considered in isolation, so if
one doesn t go as well as expected refocus on the next exercise.
v Manage your time. Often there is a lot of work to do in each of the exercises,
so take a watch with you and set yourself goals within the exercise.
v Demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Remember that assessments are
made on observed, not assumed, knowledge or skills. This is particularly
important with regards to knowledge-based or technical competencies.
v Group Exercises:
§ You need to be actively engaged in the process.
§ If you are making a contribution make sure it is in context. Just saying a
word because you think it is being assessed is counterproductive.
§ Be a good team-player but don t compromise on championing the value
of your ideas. Your goal is to do what is best for the task.
§ Focus on adding value e.g. building on others ideas, coming up with
§ Look at contributing to how the group structures its response to the
§ Get into the role. It is ok to probe/question role-player for further
information if it is not provided in brief. Never make excuses due to role-
play being a simulation rather than actual work scenario. The conditions
are standardised for fairness and expectations are realistic in the times
§ Assessors are interested in core processes (e.g. planning/organising,
problem-solving, leadership) - don t be put off by lack of familiarity with
specific details of the situation.
v Presentation Exercises:
§ It is likely that both content and delivery is being assessed. Pay attention to
§ Clarity and impact of communication is of great importance.
§ It depends on the question but it is generally best to focus more time on
what you are going to do (action) rather than just stating facts.
§ Avoid simply regurgitating facts already provided; assessors are looking for
v In-Box Exercises:
§ Review the entire list of items and prioritise before getting into the detail of
answering how you would tackle issues.
§ Make it clear why certain actions are needed, how they will be executed
and the impact expected once implemented.
§ Explain why different communication methods have been used for
§ Make use of available resources at your disposal.
§ Strictly manage your time.
v Competency Based Interviews:
§ Tailor examples to the competency.
§ Tailor examples to the specific question.
§ Focus on how you achieved success (what was actually done to get
there), rather than the outcome of the situation.
For further advice about competency based interviewing, please see the relevant
document on the McAdam King Business Psychology website