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Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


The rise of the DIY assessment centre

Recruitment trends - part two

DIY assessment centre video

What’s your approach to DIY? If you’ve got a room that needs painting, do you roll up your sleeves and get the dust sheets out? Or would you rather watch a professional just get on with it?

In the end it’s a decision about time, money and quality. Do it yourself and you’ll save money but it will take longer and might be of a lower quality.

Hire a professional and it will be done quickly and to a high standard. But your wallet might suffer.

In this, the second of my reports into what’s trending in recruitment and selection, let me introduce you to the DIY assessment centre.

As a result of tighter budgets, there is currently a move towards a leaner, meaner, more do-it-yourself approach to assessment centres.

Organisations are increasingly (and rightly) demanding a more efficient and cost-effective approach to assessing candidates.

But at what cost?

How does the move towards DIY assessment centres benefit organisations and what is the impact on the validity of hiring decisions?

Budgets are tight. Time is tight. Organisations want to recruit new employees as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Which has led to a number of changes in how candidates are being assessed.

Shorter assessment centres

Assessment centres used to be quite the time commitment, typically running over two days. Now though, they’re often no more than half a day. This is due to:

More focused assessment exercises

There’s been a move away from comprehensive/holistic assessment to a more focused approach. Organisations will identify the specific skills and behaviours a candidate requires to be successful in a role and only test for those, rather than do a broad assessment of their capabilities. For example they may only assess written communication if it’s an essential part of the job – not if it’s a nice-to-have.

This can make it easier to make a decision – a more ‘numerical’ approach is back in favour, focusing on scores in key competencies rather than ALL competencies. It also means less time is required for the wash-up.

Shorter assessment exercises

Exercises are increasingly being designed to take less time to complete than previously. A written exercise, for instance, is likely to take no more than an hour to complete, compared to one to two hours in the past. This trend is putting pressure on the off-the-shelf market to create leaner versions of tests and exercises.

A rise in online sifting

Organisations are increasingly using online testing to sift candidates early on in the recruitment process and thereby reduce the numbers they’re inviting to an assessment centre.

Increased reliance on interviews

Many organisations are moving away from using assessment centres at all, often relying on face-to-face interviews, perhaps alongside a candidate presentation.

All these trends make it easier for organisations to do-it-themselves, with line managers delivering candidate assessments rather than external assessors. Another cost-saving.

But there is a cost to taking a DIY approach to candidate assessment.

  1. Line managers don’t assess every day. They have other, equally (more?) important things to do with their time. But when you only assess intermittently, it’s hard to reach the standards required to deliver effective and reliable assessments.
  2. Plus, in order that exercises can be delivered in-house, they often have to be simplified. Which may not provide the quality of evidence needed to make an informed hiring decision.
  3. Focusing on assessing particular candidate skills rather than taking a holistic approach may make it easier to score candidates, but it might not give you all the data you need to truly assess your candidates.
  4. The evidence generated by interviews is less predictive of how a candidate will perform in role compared to assessment tests and exercises. Especially a mix of exercises and tests.

Trends in recruitment training

All of this creates another trend – a greater focus and emphasis on training in-house assessors and making materials more accessible.

But there has also been a move away from all day training towards manuals and webinars. This means managers can digest the information and guidance when it suits them but it can mean they don’t get the opportunity to practise using the materials, thereby embedding the know-how, before going live.

The concern is that all of this will result in a drop in the quality of candidate assessment. Leading, potentially, to poor quality hires, increased attrition and associated business costs.

Only time will tell.

Tips on how to DIY it

In the meantime, if you’re taking a DIY approach to candidate assessment, here are my tips to help you ensure it’s of as high a standard as possible:

  • make sure you have quality assurance in place to monitor the standard and fairness of assessments
  • conduct assessor training and refresher courses to maintain assessor skill levels
  • track who is doing what assessments so you can monitor which assessors may need extra support
  • download my free good practice guide to assessing candidates
  • check out the British Psychological Society’s research on what works at assessment centres.

One Comment

  1. realtekh says:

    nice……….thank you for your sharing

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