An assessment centre is an event where assessors (either external consultants or trained in-house personnel such as managers or Human Resources staff) assess the potential of candidates for further progression and development.
The event usually needs plenty of room for the different elements of the day- written and role-play exercises, group discussion and somewhere for assessors or administrators to work. This means they are often held at outside venues- a hotel or a conference centre for example.
The assessment activities are known as ‘job simulations’
This means that certain tasks have been designed to replicate certain aspects of the job you are hoping to achieve. These job simulation exercises don’t have to look exactly like your target job however. You may be going for a role as a manager in a retail environment but find the exercises are set in some alternative context. It doesn’t matter- the types of things you would have to do are often very similar irrespective of setting. For instance, a manager of a department store or a hospital will still need to direct a team towards objectives, manage poor performance and manage a budget. These types of exercises are designed to give assessors a snapshot of your potential i.e. if you do well in this situation you are likely to perform well in a parallel environment.
Who will be there?
Assessment centre days are tightly timetabled and smoothly run.
The administrators know candidates are nervous and will do what they can to put you at ease. All candidates have the same amount of time for their different tasks- one person won’t get longer than another. In fact you will probably notice staff holding stopwatches to make sure they are precisely fair on this point!
Assessors aren’t there to judge you personally (although that’s how it might feel!) but to evaluate you against the required organisational standards and competencies.
Professional actors often perform the role-plays, in order to maintain consistency, and make the scenario as realistic as possible. They will have memorised a script but will still react to you as if it were a real situation. Once you are in the swing of it it’s difficult to remember it’s a simulated meeting or discussion! They won’t be assessing you, but will have information which they can offer if you ask the right questions.