• Neil McDiarmid
  • 19 March 2012

Assessment centres: making recruitment work for you

A recent survey carried out by online recruiter, Totaljobs, paints a picture of a highly competitive jobs market with 46 applicants for every vacancy in the service sector with 2012 expected to bring a further 42% rise in applications. The graduate recruitment market is even more swamped with over 70 applicants on average applying for each graduate vacancy. How do you effectively shortlist and screen that number of applicants?

I wrote a blog recently about how to assess competency in the FM sector and touched on assessment centres in that piece. As a result of this blog I’ve been approached with requests for further information about the mechanics of an assessment centre and, more importantly, the benefits of going through this process. Looking at the statistics it’s clear that the recruitment process needs to be more intelligent in order to operate efficiently.

Assessment centres are not an ‘off the shelf’ product and need to be designed with several factors in mind; the requirements of the role, the ethos and culture of the hiring organisation and whether you are interviewing external candidates or promoting from within. Most importantly, though, employers need to understand exactly what they hope to achieve from the process.

An assessment centre is a consultative process and must begin with CIPD qualified HR professionals agreeing a programme of events with the hiring organisation that candidates will go through. Each exercise must reflect the requisite of the role and the culture of the organisation. Again, there is no set structure for an Assessment Centre and the format can include interviews, group exercises, presentations, in-tray exercises, case studies, psychometric tests and written tests. In my experience some organisations will use an assessment centre to whittle a ‘long list’ of applicants down to a ‘shortlist’ for interview and some will use them to identify the strongest applicant out of a predetermined shortlist. I would expect the hiring organisation to work closely with the HR consultant before, during and after the assessment. It’s a cliché but the more the employer puts in to the process the more they get out of it.

There are many benefits to using assessment centres as a recruitment tool rather than interviews alone. Based on the exercises employers are in a more informed position to predict the future performance of an employee, greatly increasing the chances of selecting the right candidate for the job and reducing the risks and subsequent costs (both time and money) of an ultimately flawed recruitment campaign. A thorough recruitment process also reflects well on the employer, leaving candidates with a positive image of the company due to the rigorous but fair process applied.

Don’t be afraid to spend time on the recruitment process. Are you really ‘too busy’ to recruit the right person? Qualifications, CVs and references are a good starting point for selection but there can be no substitute for assessing applicants in a ‘live’ environment.

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