Recruitment can be difficult when references and CVs are inaccurate, so assessment centres can improve an employer’s success when seeking new staff. Mark Slaski, chief psychologist at ConsultingTools, outlines the benefits.
Why focus on Selection and Assessment?
Remove people from an organisation and what remains? It’s a well-worn saying but people really are an organisation’s greatest asset. Research consistently shows that quality of staff and the way they work together are the biggest factors driving success and performance. We should, therefore, view as critical the methods by which we bring people into the organisation and their selection for key roles and promotion.
Despite huge advances in assessment centre methods, amazingly many staff are still recruited using the most basic techniques i.e. seeking references and conducting unstructured interviews. Experts have repeatedly demonstrated that references are biased and many interviews are flawed. Most interviewers receive no training, and tend to select individuals most like themselves, often relying on ‘gut feel’. Evidence shows such techniques are a poor predictor of future success and performance.
Current Assessment Centre Methodology
Assessment centres bring objectivity to the selection process. Using a multi-dimensional approach, they allow for a greater range of knowledge, skills and abilities to be tested. The key is firstly to identify precise factors leading to current job success – known as ‘competencies’ – and secondly, to test and measure candidates for these competencies.
Assessment centres regularly employ numerous techniques to judge the candidate’s ‘fit’ to the job role and organisational culture. These include:
- Competency-based interviewing
- Psychometrics; ability and personality
- In-tray and written exercises
- Role-plays and fact finds
- Group problem solving exercises
- Analysis Presentations
- Situational judgement tests
Another advantage of a multi-dimensional approach is that candidates are not judged by one person, but usually a number of assessors, thus making the decision process more open and objective.
New Generation technology
Personality and Competency Mapping
Whilst personality psychometrics are established in assessing candidates’ suitability for the job, traditional instruments have provided only a one-dimensional view of personality. These require the assessor to infer the most suitable personality characteristics for successful performance and cultural integration. New generation instruments such as Facet5 have developed new technologies whereby the personality of prospective incumbents are mapped onto an ‘ideal’ personality generated from profiling ‘star-performers’.
As part of the automatic reporting process the ‘best-fit’ candidate can be identified. The report generates focussed questions that can be used during a behavioural or situational interview process to further explore a candidate’s personality and behaviour. Furthermore, the instrument can link candidates’ personality to strategic competencies such as: leadership, communication style, interpersonal style, analysis, decision making, initiative, planning and organisation. A ‘best-fit’ candidate can once again be identified against star-performance competencies.
The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Until now past performance was usually judged via references or the candidate’s own opinion; seldom are objective, quantifiable results available. In short, the evidence of past performance has been deemed unreliable, with references and CVs largely ignored. However, using new 360 technologies, assessors and recruiters are now able to explore past performance more objectively.
360 assessments were previously designed for large organisational projects, making them prohibitively expensive for use in assessment. New products such as Optima 360 can be used to evaluate even a single candidate. The principle is the same. A number of work colleagues from a previous organisation are emailed an online assessment and asked to rate the candidate’s performance on a number of behavioural competencies. Systems are electronically managed and automatically generate the candidate’s score for each competency. If no competency framework currently exists the assessor can easily develop one from an extensive library built into the system. In this way substantial performance data can be added to the personality and assessment centre data for a more balanced view of a candidate’s potential for success.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are constantly advertised via the internet in addition to the more traditional channels. The ‘throughput’ of applicants and candidates is, therefore, significantly increased. Selection tools and online assessments are a valuable and time-saving resource, not to mention their support to HR functions. It is taking time but they are set to gain recognition in the market for their accuracy and expediency as a necessary element of candidate assessment.