What Assessments to Use

The AC process is said to have a high level of realism because it simulates many actual tasks that an employee needs to perform on the job. The most often used exercises in an AC are the in-basket exercise, leaderless group discussion (LGD), and case analysis. Sometimes there are also role-play exercises and interviews. Which exercises to include in an AC depends on what skills and behaviors you want to observe and evaluate. Each of the above exercises will be explained below.

An in-basket exercise is a simulation of the administrative tasks needed to perform the job in question. The name of the exercise comes from the in- and out-basket on many of the managers' desks to hold memos and documents coming to and going from the manager. The candidate is asked to pretend it is the first day of a new job or to take up new tasks because a colleague is on leave. The task is to deal with each memo or document in the basket. The candidate must decide and write down the appropriate actions to take in order to complete the tasks at hand. After the candidate has completed the exercise, he or she may be interviewed by an assessor to explain the rationale for each of the actions taken. The behavioral dimensions that are usually assessed in an in-basket exercise include decision making, planning and organizing, ability to delegate, decisiveness, independence, and initiative etc.

A leaderless group discussion (LGD) is a simulation of a situation where a small group of individuals is given a problem to solve. The name of this exercise comes from the fact that there is no one in the group designated as the leader or the supervisor. Usually there are six candidates at the same job level sitting around a conference table to discuss a solution to the problem at hand. The problem could be a cooperative one (e.g., to decide whether to launch a new product) or a competitive one (e.g., to divide up a scarce resources among different departments). The assessors sit at the back of the room to make observations. The duration of an LGD is usually between one and two hours. The behavioral dimensions that are usually assessed in an LGD are oral communication, tolerance of stress, adaptability, resilience, energy, leadership, and persuasiveness.

In a case analysis, each candidate has to come up with a solution to resolve an organizational problem based on some background information given to them. The content of the case changes according to the level of job or the position being considered. For high-level positions, usually information such as company history, financial data, marketing strategy, and organizational structure will be given. Sometimes information concerning new products launched, customer trends, and technology are also provided. The candidates are to give recommendations based on the given information. For middle level management, the case is usually on the design and implementation of operational plans. For first level management positions, the case is usually around subordinate conflicts, or similar issues faced by managers at that level. The behavioral dimensions that are usually assessed in case analyses are oral and written communication, presentation skills, planning and organizing, decisiveness, resilience, and analysis.

In a role-play exercise, the assessor or a role-player roleplays a certain position and the candidate's task is to handle a problem or a situation, such as comforting an angry customer. If there is a role-player, the assessor will sit at the back and record the behavior of the candidate. At times, the assessor may be both the role-player and the observer at the same time. The behavioral dimensions being assessed usually include oral communication, problem solving skills, tolerance of stress, and emotional stability.

An interview in an AC is usually a background interview in which the assessor asks questions about the job activities or experiences of the candidate that represent the the behavioral dimensions being evaluated in the AC. The interview should be a structured interview in which a standard set of questions are asked.