Finding the perfect person for the position

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am

Assessment centres help organisations make more informed decisions during the recruitment process

JOB INTERVIEWS USUALLY cover many aspects of a candidate's qualifications, work history and personal motivation but are not foolproof. Even expert interviewers find it difficult to predict how recruits will fit into a company's culture and how they will react to day-to-day pressures in the workplace.

However, by using some of the latest screening and assessment tools, HR managers can proceed with greater certainty.

At a recent seminar co-organised by the Classified Post and the Hong Kong Productivity Council, participants were invited to 'learn about the assessment centre to enhance workplace performance'.

Raymond Cheng, principal consultant for the council's Total Enterprise Management Consultancy division, introduced the assessment centre - a method of selecting candidates that gives consistent results.

Basically, an assessment centre is a complete recruitment process. It consists of carefully designed exercises which are job-related and reveal the abilities and personality traits of candidates in situations that simulate what happens in the workplace. This helps in matching people to jobs and lets HR managers make more informed decisions.

'A good result in the assessment centre indicates good future job performance,' Mr Cheng said. 'HR managers can identify candidates who meet the requirements of the company and the position.'

Before implementing the process, employers must decide on the competencies needed for each position so that appropriate tests are used. These should be designed to find out three key things about the candidates: whether they are aligned with the corporate culture, can contribute effectively to the team and are smart enough to get things done.

'When companies recruit people who get along in the work environment, training is more efficient,' Mr Cheng said.

One test of alignment uses the Chinese Work Behaviour Scale (CWBS). It evaluates the integrity of applicants, which is especially important in the financial sector and for roles that deal with money.

'Integrity covers a broad spectrum, not just matters related to possible corruption or bribery,' Mr Cheng said. 'For instance, an employee who misuses company assets for personal gain is also acting dishonestly. With the CWBS, we can learn more about a person's truthfulness.'

Certain personality types are obviously best suited to particular jobs. The Chinese Personality at Work (CPW) test can identify 15 key characteristics and link them to most of the core competencies required in a specific role. A sales representative, for example, should be outgoing and client-orientated, while a researcher should be more analytical.

The CPW test accurately predicts future work performance but HR managers should not forget that it was designed with Chinese candidates in mind.

To assess general intellectual ability, there is an analytical reasoning test (ART). It contains 35 questions to check the applicant's skill in finding either similarities or differences in various groups of patterns. It reveals non-verbal reasoning skills and shows whether people can translate basic data into useful information. The test takes 25 minutes and is helpful when recruiting executives.

Depending on the position, the assessment centre can also include panel interviews, individual presentations and group discussions. For maximum effectiveness, questions and suitable case studies should be prepared in advance and adapted, if necessary.

Since the assessors play such a key role, they must receive specialised training and have guidelines on how to understand behaviour and analyse candidate performance. When grading an interview, they must give marks based on evidence, not impressions or preconceptions.

'The final result is not an average of the marks given by each assessor, but is what they agree together at the integration session,' Mr Cheng said.

As part of the overall evaluation process, assessors can also ask candidates for feedback and comments about the whole procedure. This will allow the HR team to fine-tune details and make improvements. By doing so, candidates and recruits will benefit, while the company stands to gain in terms of image and prestige.

'The assessment centre is a highly reliable and objective way of evaluating people,' Mr Cheng said. 'It can be used not only for recruitment, but also for career development and deciding on promotions.'

THe right choice

The assessment centre is a well-designed programme used to evaluate the capability and personality of candidates.

HR managers should identify the competencies and characteristics needed for each position before deciding on the assessment methods.

A variety of tests can be used in combination with interviews, presentations and group discussions.

Assessors must receive the necessary training and guidelines to apply the techniques effectively.