Recruitment plays a major role in any organisational structure. It has to do with the selection of the best candidate for a specific and vacant job posting. There are numerous methods and techniques which it uses to accomplish the objective of choosing the right candidate for a role. It is the responsibility of the Human Resources department to carry out the task of recruitment. At the heart of every organization is the recruitment and selection process (Robert 2007). In the process of so doing, there are various methods which it uses in order to come to the decision of hiring a candidate, out of numerous candidates to fill a vacancy.
Below is a summary of the whole process of recruitment and selection as illustrated by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development:
There are various recruitment and selection methods which hiring managers can use to make decisions about recruitment. These include the use of interview techniques, the use of the candidates, resume/CV, assessment centres, work-based tests, competency-based assessments, graphology, simulations, application forms, interest inventories among others (Roberts 2005). All the mentioned types of recruitment and selection processes all have varying unique components which make them applicable for use by different recruiters. There are also limitations to the usage of certain recruitment methods over other methods and hence the need for the recruiter to be aware of the right method for the job description, which in turn will enable them to select the right candidate. What are the benefits of using interviews in the recruitment over non-competency tests? How are assessment centres better than using methods like graphology in selecting candidates? It all depends on the Human Resources team to know what will work best and hence, take the appropriate measures to implement the correct recruitment plan.
For the purpose of this paper, I will be focusing on the use of assessment centres in the selection process. An in-depth analysis of assessment centres will be carried out. This will involve the evaluation of its strengths, weaknesses and the perceived utility. How these centres work and what is the main purpose of the assessment centre? In what ways is it unique and distinct, when compared to other recruitment and selection processes? These questions will be answered during the course of this analysis.
The term assessment centre refers to an approach or method which is used to analyse candidates, through the use of tests that are designed specifically to evaluate individual characteristics by being geared towards a developmental approach. It is very hands-on approach and enables the candidate to be fully involved in the various evaluations used. Therefore, it is typical for candidates to be invited to assessments centres where they are involved in tasks where they are evaluated based on their approach to certain projects, while at the same time being monitored by assessors, whose roles are to provide the feedback at the end of the period. The tasks performed are similar to the actual requirements of the job for which the candidate is being recruited for. It is usually inclusive of general skills tests like teamworking and relationship building, leadership, flexibility, communication, decision-making among others (Pigford 2000:33). The use of psychometric tests as well as interviews are employed. Therefore, it is very important that the candidates prepare thoroughly and try to be as natural as possible.
Assessment centres are very efficient when a large amount of candidates apply for one position. It has the unique effect of short-listing the best candidates using the various tools of assessment. These centres are also very effective in observing the candidates in simulated conditions, in order to ascertain their suitability for the role. This is really important because there are processes of selections, whereby the candidates put up an appearance which is completely false. Hence, when they are offered the job, they cannot meet the expectations of the company because they never had the right skills in the very first place. This danger is easily eradicated by the use of assessment centres.
Another advantage of an assessment centre is that it uses various approaches to determine the interpersonal skills of prospective candidates. These skills include communication, leadership, teamworking and decision-making just to mention a few. These centres are also very cost-effective because they usually are held and conducted for not just one individual, but a group of them. The cost benefits are also intangible at first, however upon a closer examination, its cost-effectiveness can be felt. For instance, the cost to the business of making the time to interview candidates at different dates is reduced when all the candidates are invited to be in one venue. As noted, this process is very time efficient as it is cost-efficient. For the same reasons of bringing the hiring managers and candidates together in a very short space of time is definitely an excellent advantage.
In addition to the above mentioned, assessment centres are very unique because they can combine numerous selection methods together. For instance, assessment centres also conduct competency based tests, psychometric tests and they also use interview skills in some cases. The result of this is that the feedbacks from such assessments are of very high quality because they have taken various aspects into consideration.
A unique advantage of assessments centres are because they can be used interchangeably for the purpose of assessment and for the purpose of development. In other words, assessment centres help both the candidates and employers to re-address aspects of their practises, with the desire to improve upon them. Finally, for the candidate, the assessment centre is serves as an excellent way to demonstrate practical skills which the employer is looking for. More often than not, it is not uncommon to have candidates with a wide variety of skills and attributes which they display at the assessment centre, thereby leading to an impressive display and performance, which the employer is impressed by. These centres are all about performance management (Edenborough 2005:22)
Assessment centres are very objective and are used to examine candidates and ‘cross-examine’ them again, in other words, actually proving that the resume and the person specification actually are a definite match. This is an advantage which it has over interviews, where candidates sometimes say what the recruiters would like to hear (Price 2007).
Traditionally, assessment centres were known to test candidates to the limit, after which they were given some scores and results indicating their results. This was seen to be a one-sided technique because the candidates were not allowed to actively participate in the activities. Therefore, development was non-existent. Even with modifications to the original ideology of these centres, there are still occasions when such takes place. In this case, this serves as a limitation and defeats the entire purpose of assessment centres. Assessment centres do not place a great deal of emphasis on self-assessment. Therefore, the candidates has little self-evaluation and feedback.
To the average candidate, the assessment centre tends to be seen as very daunting. Due to the very essence of its nature, a lot of candidates see it as stressful as sitting for examinations. Therefore when they go to these centres, they do not particularly look forward to it. Furthermore, in comparison to selection procedures like interest inventories, the assessment centre cannot be comparable and is often not seen as fun or discovering the true personality of a candidate and matching their personas with the job specification. Interviews, are sometimes incorporated into assessment centres, however, candidates seem to be more forthcoming with interviews than the concept of the assessment centre approach.
There is another limitation with assessment centres which is overwhelmingly describable – the duration for which it lasts. The thought of continuous assessment for a couple of days can be viewed as being too long and very rigorous. It puts the candidates under intensive and sometimes under extra strain. It is advised that these centres should not be too pressurised( Sabbagh)
Unlike the interview sessions, assessment centres do not afford the candidates and assessors opportunities to develop strong interaction and good rapport. Whereas in face to face and one-on-one selection processes, the candidates and interviewers can communicate more up-close unlike in assessment centres. The reason that this is necessary is because there are certain traits and perceptive characteristics, which the hiring manager can only discover about candidates when there is a more face-to-face selection process. Inasmuch as the assessment centre is a more rigorous and perhaps objective method of selection, there is not enough provision for feedback from the candidate. Expanding on this point further, there may or may not be the incorporation of periods for candidates to ask specific questions regarding the company and the job advertised.
Assessment centres generally have few assessors dealing with a large volume of candidates. This may be a cost-effective strategy employed by the business, however, it also has its limitations. With few assessors, the chances are that it can be alot of work on the part of the assessors. When they could be focusing on ways of harnessing the interpersonal potentials of candidates, they are busy trying to meet the needs of all candidates. It is therefore challenging in such regards and has its negative implications.
Assessment centres are more interested in the present needs of the company and how these can be fulfilled. In this regards, it can be viewed as an approach to selection which covers short term business needs and not long-term business need. This is reflected in the outcome of the selection of candidates, as only those that can meet the present business needs are chosen. This therefore tends to neglect harnessing opportunities from good candidates that are capable of adding
continuous value to the business both in the present and in the future as well. Therefore, it can be suggested that these centres are not exactly the most efficient in terms of harnessing great potential in a wide pool of candidates.
More often than not, the assessors at these centres tend to be the actual hiring managers themselves. For this reason, they are not specifically trained in efficient co-ordination of recruitment and selection methodologies. However, because they are perceived to give better feedback on how the candidates react to simulated effects, then it is assumed that they make good assessors. It is important to note however, that the role of the actual manager and the human resources personnel are different, however, they need to work in conjunction with each other to secure the best suited candidate. Therefore, it should not be solely left to the hiring manager to deal with the selection process as it is not entirely the expertise field of the manager.
The feedback process for assessment centres tend to be specifically focused on particular needs of the company and may not be as comprehensive to both the candidates and the company as well. There is usually a slow process of feedback for the performance of candidates and this has its consequences. For instance, during the sometimes lengthy period of awaiting feedback, the likelihood of candidates accepting job offers elsewhere is tremendously increased.
These limitations are very apparent and in order for a company to secure the best candidates, it is of absolute importance, that these limitations be addressed in a timely and efficient manner. It is undoubtedly of crucial importance because there is alot at stake, which should not be undermined.
Utility of the Assessment Centres
The assessment centre is a re-invention of recruitment and selection and has many innovative techniques to offer to the organisations. Indeed the testimonials received from various human resources teams are indicative as to the fact that this has been a breakthrough in the area of candidate recruitment. These centres are of tremendous assistance to organisations that have a large number of candidates applying for specific jobs. It makes it easier to narrow down the numbers and retain ‘perceived high-quality’ candidates for future screening. The approach of using this selection method has become popular in recent times and is set to continue to with such a track record (Minden 2004)
As assessment centres are used by companies to recruit external candidates. It will be a good prospect in the near future to extend this on to internal candidates who apply for positions. The need to so do is neglected because these candidates are already in the company system. However, it can be viewed distinctly as an approach used to assess suitability of candidates and ensuring that they have been taking advantage of the numerous self-enhancement facilities, courses and programs which are designed to help employees during the course of working within the organisation.
Assessment centres do need to place greater emphasis on the developmental aspects of the recruitment process. It is generally geared towards selection and the entire aspects leading up to this process. However, it is just as important for the right candidate to be selected as it is for self-assessments to take place. There is scope for development in this area which will in return reap greater benefits. For instance, with such incentives, companies will see the need to synergise the assessment and developmental functional processes, thereby resulting in greater, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
As stated earlier, most candidates view assessment centres as very rigorous. In order to change such a perception, there is the need to incorporate selection processes which have similar recruitment and selection objectives but are less subjective an intense, and yet still give the same result. There are numerous advantages to be derived by so doing. When different types of selection strategies are used, it becomes more of a multi-assessment which can be customised to the different candidates. For instance, interest inventories can be used to identify the personal preference or liking for specific job types and their corresponding activity. Furthermore, it is helpful in covering a wide variety of areas, ordinarily not identifiable by the assessment centre approach. The use of ability tests are also another aspect that need to be incorporated into assessment centres and are less rigorous than numeracy and psychometric tests. Its techniques need to be harnessed more than it regularly is. From situational interviews to competency-based interviews or the biographical interviews, there needs to be more interview sessions incorporated into the assessment centre selection process. Biographical interviews tend to focus more on the information provided via the resume of the candidate and is aptly suited in detecting consistencies or inconsistencies and other personal attributes that can only be provided by the face-to-face interviewing of candidates.
In conclusion, the availability of many recruitment and selection methods is so vital in the whole process of hiring candidates. The different methods all have unique strengths, weaknesses and utilities. In order to derive the best benefit from whichever process, it is important to ensure that it is the best approach to suit the needs of the business and will definitely attract the brightest potentials on board.