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Assesment Centers

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Essay title: Assesment Centers

Assessment Centers

An Assessment Center can be defined as "a variety of testing techniques designed to allow candidates to demonstrate, under standardized conditions, the skills and abilities that are most essential for success in a given job" (Coleman, 1987), it consists of a standardized evaluation of behavior based on multiple evaluations including oral exercises, counseling simulations, problem analysis exercises, interview simulations, role play exercises, written report/analysis exercises, and leaderless group exercises. These centers allow the candidates to make proofs of their knowledge through a number of job and special situations (Joiner, 1984).

Assessment centers are varying concerning the number and type of exercises which are included. The most common exercises are the in-basket and the oral exercise. In the in-basket exercise, the candidates are given time to review the material and initiate in writing whatever actions they believe to be most appropriate in relation to each in-basket item. When time is called for the exercise, the in-basket materials and any notes, letters, memos, or other correspondence written by the candidate are collected for review by one or more assessors. Often the candidates are then interviewed to ensure that the assessor(s) understand actions taken by the candidate. If an interview is not possible, it is also quite common to have the candidate complete a summary sheet.

Recently, the in-basket has become a focus of interest because of it's usefulness in selection across a wide variety of jobs (Schippmann, Prien, & Katz, 1990). A variety of techniques have been used to develop in-baskets. Quite often information on an in-basket's development is not available for review because the reports do not contain the critical information. A recent review indicated that nearly 50% of the studies do not describe how the in-basket was constructed (Schippmann, et al., 1990). There is also a great deal of variation among the ways in which the in-basket is scored. There is a range of objectivity in scoring with some scoring systems utilize almost entirely human judgment, while others utilize a purely objective approach. The in-basket exercise may be thought of as an approach which assesses a candidate's "practical thinking" ability by having a candidate engage in implicit problem solving for a job-relevant task.

It is now well recognized that a content valid approach to constructing an in-basket is one which is professionally accepted as a technique which has passed legal examination. However, despite the acceptance by the courts and practitioners, the reporting basis for content validity is often deficient. Schippmann et al. (1990) point out that all the studies they reviewed failed to establish a link between the task portion, and the knowledge, skill, and ability portion of the job analysis in order to provide a firm foundation for the construction of the in-basket. Often there has been no procedure for translating the job analysis information into development or choice of the test.

Like all assessment center exercises, oral exercises can take many forms depending on the work behaviors or factors of the job being simulated. Common forms of oral exercises include press conference exercises, formal presentations, and informal presentations (briefing exercise). In oral presentation exercises, candidates are given a brief period of time in which to plan/organize their thoughts, make notes, etc., for the presentation/briefing. Traditionally, the audience is played by the assessor(s) who observes the presentation and makes ratings. Candidates may also be asked a series of questions following their briefing/presentation. The questions may or may not relate directly to the topic of the presentation.

Today, the assessment center method is utilized in a variety of settings including industry and business, government, armed forces, educational institutions, and safety forces to select individuals for supervisory, technical, sales, or management positions. These assessment centers vary in length, time, and selection of exercises. The current trend is in the development of assessment centers open to mass testing. Today, the use of audio taping, and the use of objectively scored in-basket exercises permits the assessment of a much larger number of candidates per day, because the rating of the exercise takes place at a later date. This allows a more widespread use of the assessment center technique, because it is becoming a more time and cost effective method.

In the assessment center approach, candidates are generally assessed with a wide variety of instruments and procedures. These could include interviews, ability and personality measures, and a range of standardized management activities and problem-solving exercises. Typical of these activities and exercises are

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