Assessment Center and Situational Evaluation

Through the assessment center, a company can evaluate how competent a candidate is for a certain job. They do this by observing them in a situation that's very similar to the position they're applying for.
Assessment Center and Situational Evaluation
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Written and verified by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 02 August, 2023

The work environment is more competitive every day. In addition, it’s become hard to select the right candidate for each position. The good news is there are various selection methods; the assessment center is one of them.

This article will discuss the assessment center, which is one of the most current ones, and also a good predictor of candidate behavior in specific situations.

How can you select the right candidate? What skills are valuable? What steps must you follow? How do you do a situation assessment test and how effective is it? What should you do in this kind of interview if you’re the one looking for a job? The assessment center is an enriching process, so knowing it will help you answer these questions.

Today’s article will tell you about the competency assessment system that’s currently used. It’s a great tool for recruiters, but you should know about it if you’re a job seeker.

What’s the assessment center about?

An assessment center is a form of evaluation for labor skills. It emphasizes the observation and recording of certain behaviors displayed by a person via situational tests.

Various evaluators specialized in this technique are responsible for assessing the competencies of candidates. To do so, they design a scenario with which they can watch a person’s performance with the intention to predict how they would behave in a situation typical of the job they’re applying to.

A person looking at plastic figures under a magnifying glass.

The evaluators propose tests that vary depending on the characteristics of the open position. However, there must always be a simulation moment for it to be an assessment center. In addition, the scenario must be really similar to the reality of the position a company is trying to fill.

Thus, it’s a process that allows the registration, classification, analysis, and evaluation of the various competencies demonstrated by a given candidate.

The main characteristics of the assessment center are:

  • Management tools.
  • Group application.
  • It adapts to the skills needed by each organization.
  • Preferably, 3 to 12 candidates should participate.
  • It should last from 4 to 8 hours.
  • Also, it should be applied in multiple sessions.
  • It consists of a moderator, a few observers, and a few participants.
  • The participants must have the same opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
  • It’s possible to combine this technique with other psycho-technical tests.

Note that the person in charge of applying the methodology can design the tests. To do so, they must take into account the skills that are necessary for a given position, the skills they seek for it, and those that are good for achieving the company’s goals. Furthermore, the evaluation must be rigorous in following the requirements of a methodology.

The most sought out skills in an assessment center

Corporate competencies are the skills, knowledge, and attitudes defined by a company or organization. They should reflect the values, service, behavior patterns, and management of the strategic goals. In addition, these skills should contribute to the productivity of the organization when developed.

For example, a sales company would need entrepreneurs with leadership capacity. Thus, there are specific competencies for each position and it’s important to analyze them from three perspectives:

  • Cognitive. This is the knowledge that a person must have to do well in a certain position.
  • Technical. This is the specific knowledge and skills required to occupy a position.
  • Attitudinal. It consists of a worker’s attitude to demonstrate their ability to get quick and effective results. Also, the personal qualities an individual should have to do a job.

Companies have been looking for certain skills over the years. These are some of the most sought out:

  • Service attitude. It consists of arranging ideas, emotions, and behaviors in relation to a client’s needs.
  • Time management. It consists of the ability to plan, organize, and establish strategies that minimize and optimize the time of the activity.
  • Verbal aptitude. The ability to express oneself effectively, demonstrating knowledge of the professional and technical language according to their level, experience, and position.
  • Numerical analysis. The ability to analyze, systematize, and display numerical data accurately.
  • Self-control. The ability to manage emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a given situation.
  • Ability to learn. The ability to acquire new knowledge and use it at work.
  • Creativity. The ability to generate new ideas within a job environment.
  • Listening. The willingness to receive and understand information.
  • Ethics. The ability to internalize the rules and moral principles of the company and the position.
  • Loyalty. The sense of belonging.

The procedure

The person in charge of choosing the candidates and their team are the ones who must decide what actions to take before, during, and after the assessment center. This is the procedure for it:

  • Before. They must create a profile of the position to evaluate in order to be clear about the criteria they’ll use to assess the candidates. For this, it’s important to have a list of behaviors to look for and then design the situational tests focused on the position to fill. Then, they must find a suitable environment to apply the technique. In addition, there must be moderators and evaluators.
  • During. They must evaluate the behavior of the candidates taking into account what’s the desired behavior for the position. Then, they must evaluate it according to performance levels, from 1 to 5, 1 for poor and 5 for excellent. In addition, they can do it at a qualitative level and record whether a person could fully develop the skills, if they don’t have them, etc. Thus, they must observe and evaluate every competency. Also, don’t forget that the situation the candidates need to simulate must be clear.
  • After. The evaluators must reach a consensus on the results and write a report. Finally, they should communicate them to the candidates.

As you can see, they must be very rigorous in each step. Therefore, it’s important to be clear about the criteria they’re going to evaluate. They can establish formats and keep them handy during the assessment. In addition, evaluators must communicate assertively.

It’s important to have one format for the profile criteria and another one with the activity plan, as well as an observation and competency record sheet and a consolidated participant sheet. All for the purpose of being able to compare the various performances.

A group of people taking a test.

How to prepare for it

It’s important to assume a role in any situation that may arise. Through it, you’ll have the opportunity to show your skills. It’s also important not to pretend because the evaluators are highly trained and know the common behavior for any situation they’ll propose.

Being familiar with the company will help you know what its values are. And even though it isn’t 100% accurate, it’ll help get you closer to what they expect of you. In addition, you must take into account the position for which you’re applying, since knowing it will make you feel more secure.

Behave as if the position was already yours. This is what the evaluators will expect, so taking it seriously is your best bet. Pretending will keep you from projecting insecurity; not only through words but also through non-verbal language.

The assessment center is one of the most reliable methods for assessing the skills of a candidate to fill a vacancy. Without a doubt, it’s a wonderful way to assess the competencies of the participants and allow them to demonstrate what they’re capable of.

In fact, a study by Richard Klimoski and Mary Brickner, published in Personnel Psychology, states that the assessment center is quite effective for predicting behavior.

It’s an effective method when carried out rigorously, especially by experts. In addition, companies are increasingly using it as it provides a vision of how candidates will behave in a given situation if they fill the position. It helps contribute to a favorable selection for all parties involved.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Klimoski, R. & Brickner, M. (1987). Why do assessment centers work? The puzzle of assessment center validity. Personnel Psychology, 40 (2), 243-260.
  • Pinilla, M.D (2006). Assessment Center Paso a Paso. Psicom Editores.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.