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Five Common Assessment Centre Exercises and How to Administer Them

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s survey on ‘Recruitment, Retention and Turnover’, 34% of employers use assessment centre exercises when recruiting managers, professionals and graduates. 

However, a huge chunk of this figure either do not administer the exercises the right way or do not utilise them to their full potential. A quick fact, even with the current surge in assessment centre administrations, this form of assessment has been used across the globe for centuries.    

Its recent popularity could be due to the global knowledge made possible by the internet or organisations seeking better ways to assess candidates other than the traditional assessment style.   

An assessment centre would typically consist of different exercises assessing competencies using different methods and delivery approaches. Depending on the competencies, resources available, job context, the number of assessment centre exercises deployed to test candidates can range between two and five. There are many exercises that can be used during an assessment centre. However, for the sake of this article, we would focus on the five most commonly administered exercises, their uses and resources required for effective administration.   

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What are five common assessment centre exercises?  

Competency-Based Interview (CBI)   

In no particular order they are;  

  • Competency-Based Interview (CBI)   
  • Group Exercise   
  • Case Study Analysis   
  • Presentation Exercise   
  • Role Play Exercise   

The assessment centre admin would determine which assessment would come first and in which order they would follow from their assessment schedule. Generally speaking, there has not been any study to indicate that a particular approach or order in exercise administration impacts the performance or output of an assessment centre exercise. Therefore, feel free to explore. However, we will generally advise you to start with the CBI as it’s always the longest .  

Without further ado, let’s dive in.   

Competency-Based Interview (CBI)   

The CBI is one of the most popular and widely used assessment methods. On a lighter note, merely conversing with someone to better know them can be classed as an interview.   

However, when it comes to an assessment centre, the interview form has to be competency-based. Questions asked in this exercise are scenario-based; that is, one could ask a candidate to share a time they did something in the past that speaks to the competency being assessed. For example, in assessing for problem-solving, rather than asking a question like “whenever there is a problem, how do you come up with a solution?”, for a competency-based interview, the question would be asked as “Tell me about a time you were able to proffer a solution to a problem”, then probing questions can follow.   

By asking questions like this, the candidates would think back to when they actually demonstrated being a problem solver. In addition, this kind of question approach would eliminate any avenue for candidates to provide a textbook response of what the interviewer wants to hear.    

Also, it is important to add that a candidate might not relate well to a question asked; the assessor/interviewer can ask a different question under the same competency using the standard approach.   

Uses    

The competency-based interview is used to understand, first hand, a candidate’s journey, experience vis-à-vis the competencies being assessed. Candidates would typically share past experiences, which would provide the assessors with concise information about the candidate. Also, the CBI is an exercise that can be used to assess any competency.   

Resources Needed   

  • Panel of Assessors   
  • Candidates   
  • Sample Interview Guides   
  • Evaluation Sheet  
  • Observation Sheet   

Group Exercise   

As the name implies, this assessment would be administered with a group of candidates, typically between four to six candidates. There are 2 unique approaches to administer this exercise;   

  1. Assigned Role Group Exercise – Roles are assigned to candidates in the same group for the group exercise. Their argument or group contribution would be influenced by the role they are assigned to.  
  2. Non-Assigned Group Exercise – Every candidate has the same brief to discuss and agree on solutions/recommendations to the brief.   

For both of the approaches identified above, the candidates would be given time to read and understand the brief individually, after which they are instructed to start the group discussion for a specified time. Unlike the CBI, the assessors would not interact with the candidates for this exercise as the conversation would be between the candidates. Assessors are only expected to talk to the candidates to give instructions on when to start and stop reading the brief and when to start and stop the discussion.   

Assessors would only be expected to observe and record the candidate’s contributions during the group discussion.   

Uses   

The group exercise would be the best exercise to assess the candidate’s teamwork, leadership, interpersonal skills, etc.   

Resources Needed   

  • Group Exercise Candidate Reading Material   
  • Assessors’ Brief   
  • Evaluation Sheet   
  • Observation Sheet   
  • Panel of Assessors   
  • Between 4 – 6 Candidates   

Case Study Analysis   

Presentation Exercise   

This exercise immerses candidates in a scenario where they are charged to assume a fictitious role to address a challenge, analyse the situation, and develop solutions and recommendations. This is an individual exercise, and candidates are expected to work alone for this exercise. In most cases, their responses would be prepared on a PowerPoint document, which would inform the next exercise; Presentation.  

Uses   

This exercise can be used to assess a candidate’s analytical thinking, problem-solving, ability to take the initiative and more. Depending on the case study and reason for the assessment, it can be suited to address its immediate need while the project is being implemented.  

Resources Needed   

  • Candidate’s Reading Material   
  • Assessors’ Brief   
  • Evaluation Sheet   
  • Observation Sheet   
  • Assessor   
  • Candidate   

Presentation Exercise   

This is the case study analysis outcome, where candidates would be expected to present their solutions and recommendations from the case study analysis. However, presentation is also an individual exercise. The candidates are expected to defend their recommendations with logical reasons, as the assessors are expected to probe the rationale behind their thinking.   

In some cases, the presentation exercise might not be linked to the case study exercise and might be a standalone exercise where candidates are given a topic to present on. This, in some assessments, is referred to as Extempore Presentation.   

Uses   

This exercise can be used to assess communications skills, problem-solving, agility, drive for results and more.   

Role Play Exercise   

The candidate assumes a role for this exercise guided by a script or case study. Then, the candidate converses with an actor to act out the role while assessors monitor the engagements.  

Uses   

This exercise assesses communication, problem-solving, ability to take the initiative, interpersonal effectiveness etc. The exercise is mostly administered for customer or client-facing roles.   

Resources Required   

  • Assessor Brief   
  • Candidate Reading Material   
  • Actor Guide    
  • Evaluation Sheet   
  • Observation Sheet   
  • Actor   
  • Candidate   
  • Assessor  

Generally, before administering an assessment centre, a clear and concise competency framework would have been designed to guide assessors on what they are assessing provide an understanding of the competencies by definition, detailed behavioural indicators and evaluation scales. This information would be used throughout the assessment to guarantee a valid assessment.   

For more information on administering different assessment centre exercises to test for required competencies, simply schedule a free consultation here, and we will be in touch with you. 

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