Assessment Centers

Refer our High Quality Management Encyclopedia at:

You may also like to refer the other related topics at: (Recruitment and Selection), (Performance Management and Appraisal), (Three Sixty Degrees Appraisal System), (Interview Skills), (Interview Preparation for Job Seekers)

What is an Assessment Center?

  • An assessment center consists of evaluation of behavior of the participants/candidates based on certain chosen inputs.
  • It may include extended period of assessment tasks, exercises and games, observations and interviews.
  • It uses simulation techniques meaning that the tasks, exercises and games that are chosen simulate the real life situations.
  • It uses well trained expert observers/evaluators/assessors. Always multiple observers are appointed for assessment center evaluation.
  • Evaluations of the participants/candidates made by each expert evaluator are pooled in a meeting among the assessors. They debate on the evaluations thus made and try to arrive at a consensus evaluation for each candidate.
  • Also, statistical processes are used to arrive at the evaluation of the participants.
  • Assessment centers may be used by recruiters for the purpose of selection in an organization or for assessing the potential of the employees of an organization for their performance appraisal for purpose of building an appropriate human capital in the organization.
  • Normally, in one assessment center, small group of participants (candidates/employees) ranging from around five to twenty, form a batch.
  • It is called "assessment centre" because organizations normally conduct these extended assessments in a single center or venue, either an appropriate office space (say, training or learning center) of the organization or in an external venue, such as a hotel or resort or training/learning center of another organization.

Assessment Centers May Be Used For

  • Recruitment and selection.
  • Promotion and other rewards.
  • Identification of leaders, self-directed team members and followers.
  • Potential appraisal.
  • Training and development needs.
  • Matching competent people for jobs.
  • Organizational development.
  • Skill/competency enhancement through simulation exercises.

Main Elements of Assessment Centers

  • Analysis and zeroing in on relevant behaviors to be observed and evaluated.
  • Selection of appropriate measurement techniques based on shortlisted behaviors.
  • Use of multiple measurement techniques emphasis given on inclusion of simulation exercises.
  • Careful selection of assessors. They may be internal (from the organization itself) or external.
  • Appropriate training and briefing of the assessors.
  • Careful design of the evaluation sheet, classifying the behaviors to be observed in meaningfully relevant categories/dimensions.
  • Multiple observations made for each dimension and for each candidate/participant.
  • Assessors’ observations and evaluation for each candidate entered/recorded into evaluation sheets.
  • Finalization of assessments for each candidate by the assessors.
  • Thus, assessors’ tasks include observing the behavior of the participants in simulation exercises, recording observed behavior on evaluation sheets, classifying observed behaviors into appropriate dimensions, giving rating to each dimension based upon behavioral evidence and sharing the assessment thus made in the meeting of all the assessors.
  • Pooling of the individual assessor’s evaluation of each candidate and integrating them by process of discussion, reasoning and consensus for each candidate/participant.
  • Use of statistical processes in arriving at final evaluation of the candidates/participants.

Assessment Centers Are Not ……….

  • Multiple panel interview or sequential interviews.
  • Aptitude or IQ tests.
  • Clinical assessments.
  • Multiple measurement techniques without any integration.
  • Normally understood performance appraisal.
  • Buildings or venues labeled as “Assessment Center” but not having the essential features of an assessment center mentioned in earlier paragraph.

Why Are Assessment Centers Used Over and Above Other Methods?

  • Assessment centers are believed to be more accurate process of assessing or evaluating the behaviors relevant to job situations.
  • Traditional employment interviews or performance appraisals for the already recruited employees are not necessarily thought to be accurate way to predict a candidate’s future performance (the potential assessment). It is also thought that the assessments made through conventional interviews or performance appraisals get influenced by interviewers’ or appraisers’ bias.
  • Candidates/participants at assessment centers are usually evaluated more objectively in terms of highly structured and well identified competencies/behavior. This is so because they are rated on simulation exercises they undertake in the assessment centers and these exercises reflect the work they will be doing in the organization.
  • Since assessment centers involve one group of many participants in one batch, the assessors are in a position to assess a key personality trait i.e. team work or getting along with others etc which is normally not possible to be done objectively in other methods of assessment.
  • Therefore, as a whole, assessment centers are thought to be fair.

Partial List of Examples of Typical Simulation Exercises Used in Assessment Centers

  • Management games: Participants work together to achieve the specified objectives in the best possible ways.
  • Role-plays: Participants are put through simulation of situations that are likely to occur in workplace.
  • Case studies: Participants are given a real life case which they have to study, reflect, analyze and present their points of views on the case.
  • In-basket exercises: Participants respond to a series of problems that simulate typical organizational tasks.
  • Group discussions: Participants, in a group, discuss a given live issue and try to arrive at a group solution or consensus within specified time.
  • Interviews: Participants are given some typical real life situations and are asked as to how they had handled them in the past and how they would respond to those situations now or in future.

Organizational Process Concerning Assessment Centers

  • Selection criteria and accordingly, short listing of the participants/candidates for nomination to assessment centers.
  • Participants’ briefing and orientation.
  • Participants’ tutorials to facilitate their tackling of simulation exercises.
  • Analysis and zeroing in of the behaviors those need to be observed and assessed.
  • Selection and training of assessment center administrator(s) and training.
  • Selection criteria and accordingly, selection of internal and external assessors.
  • Assessors’ training and briefing.
  • Data/information management, confidentiality and security.
  • Process of feedback.
  • Combining assessment centers’ evaluations with evaluations from other tests, interviews, performance appraisal etc for using them in various organizational decisions involving the participants vis-à-vis the organization.
  • Validity period of the assessments.
  • Re-assessment policy and processes.

For More Guidance, Assistance, Training and Consultation


Originally posted at Sunday, January 3, 2010


About Shyam Bhatawdekar

35 years’ industrial/business experience as a top executive & 35 years’ parallel academic/consultancy experience in general management, behavioral sciences & technology. Areas: general management, production, human resources, industrial engineering, systems, MIS, computers, corporate planning, audit, sales/marketing. Penchant for information technology & behavioral sciences; integrated with conventional technology makes him unique thought leader. Conversant with academic theories & realities of business, fuses the two into practical approaches. Was associated with Tata Motors, Hindustan Motors, Hindustan Aeronautics & ThyssenKrupp; held top positions as highflier executive. Presently Chairman & Managing Director, Prodcons Group associating with 250 organizations; providing management & I T consultations & conducting seminars/workshops. Been a faculty for IIM’s, TMTC, Railway & HAL Staff Colleges, Symbiosis. Speaker with 35000 hours’ experience benefitting more than 100,000 people. Published 35 articles in Economic Times, Indian Management & Computers Today. Authored 27 books. Invited as key speaker in seminars by AIMA, HRD Network, NIPM, QCFI, CSI, NPC. Widely traveled. Education: Engineering & Management.
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