Are Assessment Centres fair to all?
Over the years of facilitating Assessment Centres for all different types of job roles, we have seen a trend where the most talkative, interactive and engaging candidates score higher than those who are quieter or contribute less in the quantity of what they say.
This hit home for our team even more so recently, when a family member of one of our employees was not successful at a Graduate Assessment Centre by virtue his ‘quietness’. The feedback from the company was he did well in the interview, but not as well in the Group Activity. When the family member reflected on this feedback, he said it was impossible to talk as every other team member was talking and trying to hold the floor.
This is not surprising as this is the approach of most Graduates to an Assessment Centre. Graduates are smart and are well connected. They listen and they learn from what they hear from organisations and their peers, and are savvy enough to adapt themselves to what is going to get them to their goal. Graduates know that if you talk the most and make yourself visible to the people around you, nine times out of ten, you will score higher than those that don’t.
So why is this a problem?
Well, there are several goals organisations are trying to achieve that are dependent on their selection strategies. Such as:
- We want our graduates to be the future leaders of our organisations!
- We want a collaborative work culture!
- We want diversity!
- We want innovation!
- We want high performing individuals and teams!
The above approach will certainty go a long way in achieving the first two, but it will not help in achieving their other goals.
What is happening is those observing and rating candidates in an Assessment Centre (assessors) are only focussing on 1-2 behaviours, which are valuable and critical for success, but are not the be all and end all when it comes to success in a workplace.
What is the solution?
From our experience, Assessors who are properly trained in the art of assessing (both in a training session, and in practice) are less likely to have these biases.
Training needs to cover critical aspects of assessing! Below are some examples of what best practice assessor training should include:
- What are the critical behaviours for success in this role? In the case above, most of the graduates were applying for an Auditor role. Yes, contributing ideas, influencing and collaborating are useful in the role, but what else is critical for success? Seeing the big picture, understanding the customer’s needs, decision-making is also just as critical.
- How will I see these behaviours in an Assessment Centre? Someone who is great at problem solving may not say too much in a group activity, but what they say is gold. Or someone who is great at getting results will do the actual work; by listening and collating all the information from the group to ensure the group achieves the result.
- What are my biases and how does the impact on how I see behaviour? This is where many organisations face a barrier to achieving diversity. Every person has these, but it is the assessor knowing what their biases are and having practiced techniques to get around these.
Organisations who are successful in using Assessment Centres have Assessors who have been through the training a few times, have experience assessing, and have self-awareness when they are being biased in their assessing.
In these cases, talkative + friendly = success, isn’t always the winning formula.