The Assessment Center is an approach to selection whereby a battery of tests and exercises are administered to a person or a group of people across a number of hours (usually within a single day).

Assessment center Assessment centers are particularly useful where:
  • Required skills are complex and cannot easily be assessed with interview or simple tests.
  • Required skills include significant interpersonal elements (e.g. management roles).
  • Multiple candidates are available and it is acceptable for them to interact with one another.

Individual exercises

Individual exercises provide information on how the person works by themselves. Individual exercises are very common and have a correlation with cognitive ability. Other variants include planning exercises (here’s problems, how will you address them) and case analysis (here’s a scenario, what wrong? How would you fix it?).

One-to-one exercises

In one-to-one exercises, the candidate interacts in various ways with another person, being observed (as with other exercises) by the assessor(s). They are often used to assess listening, communication and interpersonal skills, as well as other job-related knowledge and skills.
In role-play exercises, the person takes on a role (possibly the job being applied for) and interacts with someone who is acting (possibly one of the assessors) in a defined scenario.

Group exercises

Group exercises test how people interact in a group. Leaderless group discussions (often of a group of candidates) start with everyone on a relatively equal position (although this may be affected by such as the shape of the table).
These groups can be used to assess such skills as negotiation, persuasion, teamwork, planning and organization, decision-making and, leadership.
Business simulations may be used, sometimes with computers being used to add information and determine outcomes of decisions.


A neat trick is to ask candidates to assess themselves, for example by asking them to rate themselves after each exercise. There is usually a high correlation between candidate and assessor ratings (indicating honesty).

Develop instruments

Make exercises as realistic as possible. This will help both candidates and assessors and will give a good idea what the candidate is like in real situations.
Design the exercises around the criteria so they can be identified rather than find a nice exercise and see if you can spot any useful criteria. Allow for confirmation and for disconfirmation of criteria.
Include clear guidelines for player so they can get 'into' the exercises as easily as possible. You should be assessing them on the exercise, not on their memory.

Select assessors

Select assessors based on their ability to make effective judgments. Gender is not important, but age and rank are.
There are two approaches to selecting assessors. You can use a small pool of assessors who become better at the job, or you can use many people to help diffuse acceptance of the candidates and the selection method.
Do use assessors who are aware of organizational norms and values (this militates against using external assessors), but do also include specialists, e.g. organizational psychologists (who may well be external, unless you are in a large company).


After the center, follow up with candidates and assessors as appropriate. A good practice is to give helpful feedback to candidates who are unsuccessful so they can understand their strengths and weaknesses.