Several basic exercises have become fairly standard in
today's assessment centers. They are:
Group discussion/Leaderless group
Interview Simulation; often called the
Role play Emşployee counseling session
presentation (often a personal
6. Panels/Oral Boards
Panels and Orals are not considered part of a true assessment center, but
you will likely encounter them in most cases. You may as well get ready for
Actually, the exercise could be almost anything as long
as it can be shown to be job related.
"WHAT ARE DIMENSIONS?"
Dimensions are those behaviors that are (job-related)
observable, measurable and specific to the position being tested for. They
may also be referred to as tasks or traits. They are also someştimes known as
KSA's (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities.)
An actual dimension then of Planning, would be the
how and what a candidate did to demonstrate that they had a
satisfactory grasp of this dimension. The observers then would observe
this behavior and record it for a rating scale later. For example,
using the same analogy of Planning, let's say candidate A "used a Daily
Planner to schedule meetings". Candidate A also "made a list of things to
complete prior to the meetings," and "delegated tasks to subordişnates to
accomplish with specific instructions or deadlines." This is just a brief
example, but the key is that you must actually demonstrate those behaviors!
These dimensions should be things you are intimately
familiar with, particularly if you have done any studying or reading about the
position you are applying for. For example, just what are the basics of
supervision? Of Management? If you break them down into identifiable
behaviors, you will find they suddenly become very clear. As supervisor, you
plan, schedule, organize, etc. Remember the old acronym PODSCoRB? If
you haven't heard of this, you should be familiar with it if you are a
supervisor or manager:
and Urwick, 1937)
It is a good example of specific dimensions that
assessors will be looking for you to demonstrate! We will now look at a few
of the more common exercises and see how the behaviors and dimenşsions are
This exercise is often found at a midlevel or higher
management position. We see them for both fire and police testing. They aren't
going to go away, but they may be hopefully, more reflective of the actual
type of in-basket you would actually encounter on the job They may range
from an hour to several days! But generally, they give you a scenario where
you are the new superşvisor or manager and you have a very limited time frame
to go through about 30-40 memo's, reports, telephone notes, letters that have
to be dealt with within the given time frame as you are "scheduled to leave on
a extended trip". Some will be items that are critical and must be handled
Some may be entirely irrelevant, or can be handled by
either a subordinate or can be "tabled" until your "return". The important
point is that you prioritize the items within the time frame. You will be
asked later to give your reasons why you did or didn't handle a specific item.
You need to be alert though to those items which may be related somehow. You
may want to put notes on most of the papers indicating what type of priority
you have given it, and what you plan to "do" with it; i.e., either delegate,
hold, sign and forward on, or hold for some future date. The key is that no
one will know anything if you don't communicate via your notes!
Remember you are going to be leaving soon on your "trip"
and won't be around to answer any questions. If you are a mid-manager or
manager, you want to give some thought as to whom you want to replace you
while you will be "gone".
This must be communicated to the fictional staff. You
will usually get an organizational chart and a calendar so you can delegate,
advise, inform, etc., and schedule meetings, due dates and follow up on
You may find the following dimensions measured in this
Written Communication ability
Planning and organization
Ability to take risks
In effect, the candidate should:
Be able to organize/prioritize the items in the exercise
Be able to work through most if not all, of the items in the time frame
Arrange to delegate most items (to a subordinate)
Give clear and concise instructions
Give reasonable and timely deadlines when delegating
Insure follow up methods
Use the calendar properly; schedule meetings, arrange for due dates and
Manage conflicts by planning/scheduling/delegating
This exercise may
include either an assigned role or an unassigned role (or a facilitated LGE)
for the candidate. Generally, the group is given a series of problems or
information that must be acted on. The group is to come to a mutually agreed
upon decision. For example, the Chief tells all of you who are Sergeants or
Fire Captains, that you are to meet with your peers and come up with a plan to
implement some new training that has been mandated by the state. The dilemma
most of us face, is that we think we know what the assessors are looking
for, and we may forget the true purpose of the exercise. In reality, the
raters are really just looking to see how well YOU helped the group move
forward to a consensus, agreements, moved them forward when they got behind
and whether your role was helpful in achieving the goal the Chief asked you to
do. That's all. You don't have to stand on the table and wave your arms and
shout to be heard. Just follow the instructions and be yourself, keeping in
mind the dimensions that are being assessed. The truth is this: you really may
nor may not have the ability to help the group or add anything to the group.
That's not unrealistic if you have never had anything to do with group
dynamics, is it? The key then would to get as much experience as you can in
teaching, giving presentation, running small mind mapping exercises with your
cohorts. After all, these are just skills that are learned over time. There no
mystery to the exercises once you take a hard look at the job description and
the dimensions that are listed.
assessor should, if at all possible, have put the program together to reflect
a set of scenarios that are realistic and relevant to your present
organization. The issues should be timely and reasonable concerns supervisors
or mid-managers would have in a normal work setting. Keep in mind that most
assessors have done a job analysis of the rank and know what a good Sgt, Lt.,
Bn. Chief, etc., should be able to actually do. The more you can demonstrate
that, the better supervisor you'll be, regardless of the testing process.
What Should your Role
What types of dimensions would you be expected to
demonstrate here? Being a good listener? Being able to summarize a point?
Being a facilitator, a mediator and keep everyone else on track? Being
organized, speaking clearly, and being persuasive are also clear dimensions in
this exercise. You want to show the assessors these dimension, and you must
participate in order to succeed! You cannot sit back and simply watch the
other participants engage in the discussion. Not if you want to demonstrate
any behaviors that would lead them to believe you would make a good Sergeant,
Lieutenant, Fire Captain, Battalion Chief or ??? Always keep in mind though,
that this whole group of exercises is the only chance the assessors will have
to "judge" you. So make it count!
In addition to the dimensions mentioned above, which of
the following behaviors would you be demonstrating?
- Interpersonal relations -
- Problem Analysis
Keep in mind that the behaviors demonstrated ought to be
reflective of the job dimensions. Which behaviors would you demonstrate?
- Keeps them on track
- Monitors time
Gets others involved
- Initiates discussion
- "Sells" or sways the group
- Recaps key points
- Clarifies issues
This exercise is very common and is often a "role-play"
scenario where you act as the "supervisor" or "manager" and have to discipline
a wayward employee. The assessors are watching you to see how well you
demonstrate that dimension critical to this type of action.
You should be aware of some of the major problems
underlying most behavior patterns that result in disciplinary action: They
Alcohol or drug problems
These are just to name a few. You can see how complex
this exercise could become.
During the exercise, imagine youre talking to that
person as though they really were having the types of problems that come up.
What would you want to do? How would you present your ideas for them to get
back on track? Would you:
- Give them specific goals?
- Include specific completion/due dates?
- Build in some form of monitoring their
- Let them know what your expectations are?
- Be specific as to what will happen if they
fail to meet your goals or expectations?
- Try to elicit a verbal contract or a least
some form of buy-in and ownership of the problem and the solution?
- Conclude on a positive note or a negative
note? After all, think of how you would feel after coming away from the
How are you Rated?
It is crucial that you understand that if you do not
demonstrate the behaviors outlined in the various dimensions,
you do not give the assessors much to work with. Generally, you are rated with
a minimum scoring of 1-4, with a one being low. In effect, a "4" would mean
that you clearly demonstrated those behaviors outlined in the dimensions. A
"1" would then mean that you either demonstrated a small amount or even none
of the dimension.
Remember: What will they write
about your performance? Its up to you to get ready for the job NOT the