Assessment Center: 5 questions for Birgit Löding

Assessment Center; 5 questions for Birgit Löding, Jan 2015

Birgit Löding M.A. is Managing Director of the consulting firm Birgit Löding Consulting
International BLCI in Düsseldorf, which is active throughout Germany. Specialists and managers get individual coachings and group trainings on assessment centers and development center, as well as job interviews in German and English.
BLCI also offers career consulting, potential analyses, outplacement and business coaching.

1. What is the difference between an Assessment Center (AC) and a classic job interview?

In an interview, you will usually be interviewed by 1-2 people, often the technical supervisor and a personnel officer. The decision on personnel selection is then made on the basis of the personal, subjective assessment of the interviewers after 1-2 interviews of approx. 1 hour and on the basis of the available certificates.

In a group AC, on the other hand, there are numerous observers from the personnel and specialist departments as well as psychologists/management consultants specially commissioned for this purpose. Their behaviour is recorded in writing by these trained observers over the entire period of 1-2 days and evaluated on the basis of defined criteria. In contrast to the classic job interview, the group AC allows you to demonstrate your behaviour in interaction with others. For example, your assertiveness can be observed in the group discussion. Basically, a group AC is about comparing your performance with that of other applicants and selecting the best applicant(s) for the position.

An individual AC (or development center) also has a higher predictive power than a job interview. The process can also be a good complement to an interview. For example, on an individual AC day of approx. 4-8 hours, role plays such as employee interviews or customer interviews are simulated. In addition, case studies in which numerical and text material is prepared and then presented are common.
The employer defines criteria in advance for both individual and group procedures which are to be observed and evaluated. This should ensure a high significance of the AC results.

2. Why do companies increasingly rely on this selection process as an alternative to the classic job interview?

Because the predictive power of assessment centers for the successful filling of a new position is significantly higher than after an interview. This has the following reasons:

  1. an interview is 1-2 hours much shorter than a single-AC/Development
    Center of 4-8 hours or a group AC of 1-2 days.
  2. in the job interview you only get a subjective impression of the social competences through the personal conversation. In AC, the social and, above all, methodical competencies such as leadership skills, delegation skills, communication skills, dealing with conflicts in the AC exercises can be checked several times. Through a partially structured depth interview and psychological testing procedures you can then also use the observations from the exercises to be additionally occupied. The significance of an AC therefore has a higher validity as that of an interview.

3. what do observers in AC pay particular attention to among applicants?

The AC focuses on your methodical and social competence. Your professional aptitude for the position will be assumed after a previous review of the application documents and an interview. The employer is particularly interested in the AC as to whether you are a team player or how well you are able to assert yourself. Which competencies are observed depends on the criteria of the position to be filled and can be largely determined for the applicant from the job advertisement.

4. what exercise can applicants expect in almost every AC?

  1. Role plays: Staff appraisals, customer appraisals
  2. group discussion
  3. Structured/psychological depth interview
  4. self-presentation
  5. case study
  6. mailbox

5. How do I prepare myself optimally and comprehensively for the multitude of possible tasks in an AC?

  1. Analyze the job advertisement: What social and methodological skills are required?
  2. Try to consciously show the required competences (of course only if they correspond to your personality). In any case, you should not rehearse a role that you cannot maintain in your daily work.
  3. Lectures and self-presentations of your career can be practised well in advance and feedback can be obtained from friends.
  4. You will receive qualified feedback from a coach about your strengths and weaknesses and how you can present yourself better in the AC. In coaching you can prepare all exercises and role plays in a precised way.
  5. Take a close look at the employer and current trends in the industry. This helps you to stand you ground in group discussions.
  6. Exercises are evaluated completely independently: Don’t let a difficult start demotivate you!

Interview was conducted by