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Sarah Mandeville


Recruitment Manager

Read more about Sarah Mandeville

How to design and conduct an effective assessment day


Assessment centres allow you to interview several candidates in one day and see considerably more behaviours and characteristics than you would in conducting a one hour interview.

The assessment centre process must be a positive experience for the candidates involved as they will be assessing you as a company too.

First impressions count on both sides, therefore lack of planning and organisation from your end will be clearly visible if the assessment day is not a sleek and smooth running process.

To be successful an assessment day must be an interactive, positive and fun process for all involved.  It is crucial to follow these key steps both in advance of the day and at the event itself to ensure an effective assessment day;

  • Prepare  candidates – It is up to the attending candidates to demonstrate their abilities to you at the assessment day. However, it is your responsibility to ensure they are as fully prepared as possible.  Candidates should be fully briefed in advance of attending and be issued with a full information pack detailing not only the basics (location/dress code etc.), but also outlining the full format of the day so they know what to expect.  If your candidates are prepared for the day they are more likely to focus on their performance and demonstrate their skills rather than be anxious about what may come next.
  • Select and prepare assessors – When inviting assessors select those you believe will add value to the day.  It is imperative that each assessor is fully briefed and understands the extent of their involvement.  There should be sufficient assessors for the group size; an individual will also be required to administer the day, and another to run the assessment day. The style in which the assessor delivers the day will create the atmosphere – formal or informal, relaxed or intense, their behaviours will be reflected on the candidate. All assessors have the responsibility for ensuring candidates are comfortable so make sure the chosen individuals are welcoming and approachable.
  • Identify desired traits – Before selecting the exercises for your assessment day you need to have a full understanding of what traits your team of assessors want to see candidates demonstrate and those which will be important in selecting the most suitable candidates for the role. Without sight of these your chosen exercises may not deliver the desired results. 
  • Variety of exercises – Once you have identified the traits you are looking for in your new recruit you are now able to design or select relevant exercises to enable individuals to demonstrate these.  Exercises should involve a selection of individual, paired, group activities and case studies or presentations if relevant. Think about the atmosphere you want to create at your assessment day and ensure the exercises reflect this. The likelihood is that most of your exercises enable candidates to think on their feet, however including an activity that involves preparation in advance of the day such as a presentation will allow you to see what they can do with more time to prepare.
  • Break time – It is crucial to ensure time is set for frequent breaks. For both candidates and assessors, assessment days can often be long and intense days, therefore sufficient breaks for stretching legs, plenty of water, healthy snacks and fresh air will allow the brain to work more effectively.  Breaks are an ideal opportunity to see candidates in a more natural setting, allowing time for the group to build relationships and enable assessors to spend time with candidates in a non-professional setting. Make the most of spending this time with your group; observing behaviours at these points during the day are as equally important as assessing formal exercises and performance.
  • Wrap up and review – Allow some allocated time at the end of the day to review and gather feedback from all of the assessors whilst it is fresh in their minds.  Chances are they will have seen lots of candidates and reviewed many exercises and presentations that it will be difficult to remember exact thoughts and feedback after a night’s sleep.  Share feedback between all assessors on the day and collectively come to a decision to identify a suitable candidate.

Remember as with one to one interviews an assessment centre is still a two way process, the success of an assessment day lies with not just the candidates but the organisers and assessors. It’s not all in the planning but the execution too.

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Sarah Mandeville

Recruitment Manager

Read more from Sarah Mandeville

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