Just what are Assessment Centers?
The term "assessment center," connotes a location where
one goes to be "assessed." In truth, it is only a method, not a
location. The method itself is basically a series of exercises where each
participant is given an opportunity to demonstrate his or her skills to a
group of skilled observers who carefully monitor the candidates behavior.
The observers are called "assessors." Usually, the assessors are at least one
to three ranks above the candidates.
However, a trained
assessor need not actually be a higher rank, but must be thoroughly familiar
with the assessment center method, the dimensions and behaviors required of
the position being tested for and trained in observing and recording behavior.
Many of you recall being put through a variety of role-play scenarios in
college, the Academy or in In-service training courses. These are very
similar, but the difference is in the dimensions that are being
assessed. According to Pat Maher, President of "Personnel and Organization
Development Consultants", in Southern California; "Assessors should adhere to
the minimum professional standards as recommended by the International
Congress of the Assessment Center Method."
The key though, according to Maher, is that the
foundation of the assessment center method is in the evaluation of recorded
After extensive discussion as to the various dimensions
the candidates demonstrated, the assessors rate the candidates. Most trained
professional assessors will go through a minimum of a three-day intensive
training program prior to serving as an assessor. This is not always the case,
as departments seek to cut costs, as assessment centers are not inexpensive!
Unfortunately, this "cost savings" can be even more expensive when the wrong
candidate is selected for the position when the selection is made from less
Actually, there may be promotional exercises that are
billed as "assessment centers" but in fact are not true
assessment centers. The International Congress on the Assessment Center
Method has established certain standards for assessment centers.
job analysis of relevant behaviors must be conducted to determine the
dimensions, competencies, attributes, and job performance indices important to
job success in order to identify what should be evaluated by the assessment
Behaviors displayed by participants must be classified into meaningful and
relevant categories such as dimensions, attributes, characteristics,
aptitudes, qualities, skills, abilities, competencies, and knowledge.
techniques used in the assessment center must be designed to provide
information for evaluating the dimensions previously determined by the job
analysis. Assessment center developers should establish a link from behaviors
to competencies to exercises /assessment techniques. This linkage should be
documented in a competency-by-exercise/assessment technique matrix.
Multiple assessment techniques must be used. These can include tests,
interviews, questionnaires, sociometric devices, and simulations. The
assessment techniques are developed or chosen to elicit a variety of behaviors
and information relevant to the selected competencies /dimensions.
assessment techniques must include a sufficient number of job-related
simulations to allow opportunities to observe the candidates behavior related
to each competency/dimension being assessed. At least one and usually
several job-related simulations must be included in each assessment center. A
simulation is an exercise or technique designed to elicit behaviors related to
dimensions of performance on the job requiring the participants to respond
behaviorally to situational stimuli. Examples of simulations include, but are
not limited to, group exercises, in-basket exercises, interaction (interview)
simulations, presentations, and fact-finding exercises. Stimuli may also be
presented through video-based or virtual simulations delivered via computer,
video, the Internet, or an intranet.
Multiple assessors must be used to observe and evaluate each assessee. When
selecting a group of assessors, consider characteristics such as diversity of
race, ethnicity, age, sex, organizational level, and functional work area.
Assessors must receive thorough training and demonstrate performance that
meets the guidelines in the section, Assessor Training, prior to
participating in an assessment center.
systematic procedure must be used by assessors to record specific behavioral
observations accurately at the time of observation. This procedure might
include techniques such as handwritten notes, behavioral observation scales,
or behavioral checklists. Audio and video recordings of behavior may be made
and analyzed at a later date.
Assessors must prepare a report of the observations made during each exercise
before the integration discussion or statistical integration.
integration of behaviors must be based on a pooling of information from
assessors or through a statistical integration process validated in accordance
with professionally accepted standards.
following kinds of activities do not constitute an assessment center:
Assessment procedures that do not require the assessee to demonstrate
overt behavioral responses are not behavioral simulations, and thus any
assessment program that consists solely of such procedures is not an
assessment center as defined herein. Examples of these are
computerized in-baskets calling only for multiple-choice responses,
situation interviews calling only for behavioral intentions, and written
competency tests. Procedures not requiring an assessee to demonstrate
overt behavioral responses may be used within an assessment center but
must be coupled with at least one simulation requiring the overt display
Panel interviews or a series of sequential interviews as the sole
Reliance on a single technique (regardless of whether it is a simulation)
as the sole basis for evaluation. However, a single comprehensive
assessment technique that includes distinct job-related segments (e.g.,
large, complex simulations or virtual assessment centers with several
definable components and with multiple opportunities for observations
in different situations) is not precluded by this restriction.
Using only a test battery composed of a number of paper-and-pencil
measures, regardless of whether the judgments are made by a statistical
or judgmental pooling of scores.
Single-assessor evaluation (i.e., measurement by one individual using a
variety of techniques such as paper-and-pencil tests, interviews,
personality measures, or simulations).
The use of several simulations with more than one assessor but with no
pooling of data (i.e., each assessor prepares a report on performance in
an exercise, and the individual, unintegrated reports are used as the final
product of the center).
A physical location labeled as an assessment center that does not
conform to the methodological requirements noted above.
the complete text of the Guidelines, refer to the