An assessment center is a battery of job simulations/exercises geared towards measuring essential management and supervisory skills of promotional candidates. Common exercises include one-on-one role-plays, group presentations, tactical simulations, in-basket/inbox simulations, and written problem-solving exercises. An assessment center exercise puts the promotional candidate in a situation that is similar to a duty he/she will perform on the job.
Assessors, who all have industry-specific management experience, rate the candidate on essential management and supervisory attributes/dimensions that will determine the candidate’s success on the job. The assessors use specific rating criteria that were developed by experts in the industry.
The result of the assessment center is a list of candidates who are most likely to perform at the highest level in the target position. The assessment process also yields an abundance of feedback from the assessors about candidate performance that can be used for developmental purposes.
Assessment centers are simply the best way to predict how candidates will react to/handle specific job situations. Oral interviews are a useful promotional tool, but they lack the high level of fidelity that assessment centers achieve. The assessment center method also allows for a broad range of skill assessments. You are able to use a variety of simulations that assess many different skills and abilities. This is a desirable feature as your goal in promotional selection is to identify the most well-rounded and qualified candidate.
Candidates are also more prone to feel that assessment centers are fair evaluations of their promotional suitability as it is readily apparent that the assessment center is a valid and comprehensive way of making a promotional decision. Finally, an assessment center is also a developmental tool. The results of an assessment center can be tailored to assist an individual candidate towards improving performance in a specific area. Data from a large number of candidates can also be used to help agencies identify training needs.