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Making effective use of assessment centres in recruitment

Author: Jacinta Hargadon


  • An assessment centre is a recruitment selection process where the organisation typically assesses a group of candidates at the same time and place using a range of selection exercises. (See What is an assessment centre?)
  • Assessment centres are one of the most effective methods for predicting a candidate's suitability for a job and can help organisations to avoid making poor recruitment decisions and the costs associated with them. Candidates are more likely to have a positive experience at an assessment centre than where they are assessed by interview alone. (See The business case for using assessment centres)
  • Some organisations use assessment centres only for high-value roles. (See When is it appropriate to use assessment centres for selection?)
  • Organisations can choose from a variety of selection exercises, including structured interviews, work-sample activities, group exercises and role-plays. (See Assessment centre exercises)
  • To choose the exercises for selecting candidates at an assessment centre, the organisation should conduct a job analysis and prepare a job description and competency profile. The exercises it selects should be relevant to the role. (See Choosing the appropriate exercises for an assessment centre)
  • Employers can use off-the-shelf exercises, develop bespoke exercises or use an approach that combines the two. The format of exercises can be either paper-based or online. (See Off-the-shelf and bespoke assessment centres)
  • The organisation needs to prepare for the costs involved in designing and hosting an assessment centre, for example, personnel, materials and accommodation (if required). (See Practical considerations)
  • In addition to the usual shortlisting tools, organisations can use pre-assessment centre exercises to reduce the initial pool of candidates to a more suitable shortlist. (See Shortlisting candidates to attend the assessment centre)
  • The key roles in assessment centres are: assessment centre designers; assessors; facilitators or administrators; role-players; and quality controllers or checkers, and the organisation should provide training to employees undertaking these roles. (See Key roles in developing and operating assessment centres and Developing internal expertise to host assessment centres)
  • After the candidates have completed the assessment exercises, the assessors should hold a decision-making session (known as a "wash up") where they integrate candidates' scores, arrive at an overall assessment rating for each candidate, and make a final selection decision. (See Making a final selection decision)
  • Organisations should create a level playing field for internal and external candidates. Assessors should not use prior knowledge about internal candidates when scoring them. (See Assessing internal and external candidates)
  • Organisations should provide meaningful feedback to candidates who have attended an assessment centre. This is important for several reasons, including the organisation's reputation and candidate development. (See Providing feedback to candidates)
  • Assessment centres can be costly to develop and host, so organisations should evaluate whether or not the cost justifies the outcomes. (See Evaluating assessment centres)