What makes an effective international Assessment Centre?
Over the last several years we have steadily increased the amount of international assessment centre work we undertake and are often asked for our advice on approaching designing / running an assessment centre processes for an internationally diverse candidate pool.
These processes often include activities like presentation exercises, role-plays, group discussions and analytical tasks to objectively & accurately identify stronger candidates from a shortlist.
As with any assessment process, our key piece of advice is to ensure you are very clear what you are trying to measure. In other words, know the competencies that you are looking to measure and the contexts / situations / mediums that you feel they need to be displayed – for example, persuasiveness / influencing skills especially during group discussions and presentations.
Consider the language in which the candidates will need to work in to fulfil the demands of the role. Sometimes, it may well be that candidates will actually be operating in several languages – a business / corporate language and their native tongue. In this instance, it is important to consider:
* If candidates need Business English language skills, what level is required and is it conversational skills / written skills or both
* Will candidates need to analyse information in English or will the analysis take place in a different language and then be communicated in English
* How time pressured the analysis might be.
Then select exercises that will provide candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate their competencies in realistic contexts / scenarios for the role.
From an international perspective, it is important to acknowledge that some exercises are less widely used and may be deemed less acceptable in certain countries.
For example, psychometric assessment is less widely used in some countries.
When using personality questionnaires, ensure you offer candidates the option to complete the assessment in their native language. In addition, consider the merits of using ‘local’ comparison groups vs international comparison groups when interpreting the results.
When using ability / analytical tests, consider, linked to the demands of the role, if you need to gauge reasoning skills in business English vs their native tongue or if it would be important to run the assessments in both languages. Also, as above, consider what benchmark / comparison groups would be most appropriate to help interpret the results (local / country specific benchmarks vs international benchmarks).
When scheduling / timetabling the assessment event, consider what would be appropriate ‘preparation times’ for your non-psychometric exercises linked to the demands of the role and the impact on non-native English speakers i.e. is it more appropriate / realistic for candidates to have longer to prepare and analyse business English information in advance of a group discussion.
Consider how you can help candidates to prepare to give of their best in advance of an assessment process which may well be a newer experience for some candidates. Factors to consider would include – briefing documents, online practice materials and the option to phone in advance of the day to ask questions if unclear about any points.
Finally, as with any assessment centre event, the process will only ever be as good as the assessors. From an international perspective, it is important to consider (wherever possible) drawing your assessors from local countries that reflect the typical candidate pool and / or assessors with a good understanding of the likely cultural issues at play. Building on this, assessor training will play a critical part in the success of your process.