Case Study

Innovative approach to selecting Indigenous candidates

Culturally appropriate assessment centre methodology

The Challenge

A mid-tier mining company in the south west of Western Australia required assistance in designing and facilitating an Assessment Centre as part of the recruitment process to employ eight individuals for the company’s Indigenous Work Readiness Program.

Assessment Centres tend to be transactional in nature with an emphasis on assessing a large number of candidates in a short period of time. There is often less emphasis on creating a culturally safe environment where candidates feel ‘at ease’ and participate in culturally appropriate Assessment Centre activities. As a result, poor selection decisions may be made and candidates often leave with a negative impression of the recruiting company.



To ensure a culturally safe Assessment Centre environment and process that allowed the Aboriginal candidates to feel comfortable, put their ‘best foot’ forward, and display their natural behaviours, People Solutions implemented the following strategies together with our client:

Verbal and Practical Communication

Prior to the Assessment Centre, the communication to candidates involved phone conversations with clear and practical instructions and information. Whilst detailed information about the Assessment Centre was emailed to the candidates, all were contacted at least two times by telephone. This allowed the Recruitment Manager and the candidates to start developing relationships and trust.

Culturally Appropriate Activities

The Assessment Centre was held over two days with 12-15 candidates attending each day. The activities included a behavioural interview; group practical activity; individual written safety assessment; a literacy assessment; and a mine site tour to provide candidates with a realistic preview of the work environment.

All activities and interview questions were reviewed by an Aboriginal representative to ensure culturally appropriate content and the correct level of language.

Culturally Trained Assessors

The Assessors consisted of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal company representatives, such as Line Managers, Recruitment Manager and Indigenous Employment staff, who were carefully selected based on their people skills and practical mindset.

All Assessors were trained in Assessment Centre methodology as well as in cultural awareness in relation to being an Assessor. The training was practical in nature and taught the Assessors what to be aware of; how to effectively interview and rate; and how to build relationships with the Aboriginal candidates. Most Assessors had previously attended the general cultural awareness training provided by the organisation to all staff.

Informal Interaction

There were multiple opportunities for informal interactions between candidates and Assessors on the day such as morning and afternoon tea, and lunch conversations.

The day started with a 30 minutes informal ‘meet and greet’ for candidates and Assessors. This interaction allowed the candidates to meet the Assessors in a relaxed and supportive environment, and there were plenty of opportunities for them to identify family connections and links.

The main purpose on the informal interaction was to develop trust and rapport with the candidates, and for the candidates to feel at ease in the assessment situation.

Detailed Information about Role and Organisation

After the informal ‘meet and greet’ session there was a more formal information session.  This commenced with an Acknowledgement of Country, spoken in the local language. A company representative then provided information about the organisation, the Work Readiness Program and the roles.

The information was presented in a practical manner with a strong focus on the information that would be important to the candidates. For example, they showed a copy of the payslip to explain the remuneration structure.

Two Aboriginal Trainees who completed the Work Readiness Program the previous year also presented to the candidates explaining their personal experiences on what it is like working for the company. This provided a credible source of information for the candidates, and also helped to settle their nerves.


In line with best practice recommendation, the Assessment Centre was held at a venue in a town in the “Country” where the candidates were recruited from.


All candidates, successful and unsuccessful, were provided with verbal feedback on their performance in the Assessment Centre. This provided the unsuccessful candidates with the opportunity to learn how they can improve in future selection and Assessment Centre processes.


The culturally safe environment of the Assessment Centre resulted in highly engaged and relaxed candidates who had the opportunity to show their strengths and natural behaviours they would display on the job. As a result, the following benefits were observed:

  • Better selection decisions based on ‘well rounded’ and in-depth knowledge of each candidate;
  • Candidates left the Assessment Centre with a positive view of the company, and unsuccessful candidates gained knowledge on how to perform better in future selection processes; and
  • The mining company further developed their relationship with the local Aboriginal community by enhancing the community’s sentiment towards the organisation.

For more information about People Solutions’ Assessment Centre and Indigenous Assessment services please contact our office on (08) 9388 0300.

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