Assessment Centers

An assessment center is an extended work sample. It uses procedures that incorporate group and individual exercises. These exercises are designed to simulate the type of work which the candidate will be expected to do. Initially a small batch of applicants come to the assessment center (a separate room) Their performance in the situational exercises is observed and evaluated by a team of 6 to 8 trained assessors. The assessor’s judgments on each exercise are compiled and combined to have a summary rating for each candidate being assessed. The assessment center approach thus, evaluates a candidate’s potential for management on the basis of multiple assessment techniques standardized methods of making inferences from such techniques and poled judgments from multiple assessors.

Difference between Work Sample Method and Assessment:

Work sample

1) Suitable for routine, repetitive jobs with visible outcomes.
2) Takes a few minutes to test the applicant
3) Evaluated by one supervisor
4) Can be done on location where the applicant performs a small segment of the job
5) Usually completed on one applicant at a time.

Assessment Center:

1) Suitable for managerial jobs, the outcomes are not behaviorally observable
2) Take days to conduct various exercises,
3) Evaluated by a team of trained observers
4) Requires a separate facility. The center is conducted for variety of task segments (that may not be the real job) that may be included in the real job.
5) Usually performed on groups of applicants at the same time

Initially small batches of applicants come to the assessment center (a separate room). Examples of the stimulated exercises based on real life included in a typical assessment center are as follows:

The in basket: here the candidate is faced with an accumulation of reports, memos, letters and other materials collected in the in basket of the simulated job he is supposed to take over. The candidate is asked to take necessary action within a limited amount of time on each of these materials say by writing letters, notes agendas for meetings etc. The results of the applicant’s actions are then reviewed by the evaluators. The baskets are typically designed to measure oral, and written communication skills, planning, decisiveness, initiative and organizations

The leaderless group discussions (LGD); this exercise involves groups of managerial candidates working together on a job related problem. The problem is generally designed to be as realistic as possible and is tackled usually in groups of five or six candidates. A leader is not designated for the group but one usually emerges in the course of the group interaction. Two or more assessors typically observe the interaction as the group tries to reach consensus on a given problem. The LGD is used to assess dimensions such as oral communication, tolerance for stress, adaptability, self confidence, persuasive ability etc.

Business games: Here participants try to solve a problem, usually as members of two or more simulated companies that are competing in the market place. Decisions might include how to advertise and produce, how to penetrate the market, how much to keep in stock etc. Participants thereby exhibit planning and organizational abilities, interpersonal skills and leadership abilities. Business games may be simple (focusing on very specific activities) or complex models of complete organizational systems. The may be computer based or manually operated rapidly programmed or flexible. In computer based games, participants typically draw up plans for an organization to determine such factors as the amount of resources to allocate for advertising product design, selling and sales effort. The participants arrive at a number of decisions, and then the computer tells them how well they did in comparison to competing individuals of teams. Business games have several merits: they reduce time, events that might not take place for months or years are made to occur in a matter of hours. They are realistic and competitive in nature. They are also for immediate feedback.

Individual presentations: Participants are given a limited amount of time to plan, organize and prepare a presentation on an assigned topic. This exercise is meant to assess the participant’s oral communication skills, self confidence, persuasive abilities etc.


  • N Narayanan

    the outcomes are not behaviorally observable
    Please clarify this statement! In my experience all these assessments are completely behaviourally observable. the focus is not on outcomes but on process.