Recruitment assessments offer successful candidates valuable insight

Published: 05/06/19
Recruitment Assesments


Make more of the enormous effort put into selection by exploiting the insights it provides.

You have been asked to arrive at 8.30am sharp. Perhaps you stayed in a local hotel the night before. You bump into another candidate on the way and exchange pleasantries through gritted teeth. You had a feeling she would apply. The assessment centre manager greets you with a broad smile and wishes you good luck. You completed three online psychometric tests last week, so your first exercise is a roleplay. Several hours later you are mentally exhausted. You have given it your all. Time to retire to the hotel to rewrite your presentation before tomorrow’s final panel. You are eternally grateful you have not been invited to join councillors and the other candidates for a roundtable dinner. You did that back in 2007 and did not enjoy the ordeal.

Sound familiar? It should, if you have been through a local government senior management leadership selection process. If you didn’t get the job, I expect you asked for some feedback in the following days. You wanted to know where you went wrong and how you could improve for the next time. And why on earth did they give the job to that person?

But what if you did get the job? Did you ask for feedback? Did you get any? What happened to the report that was written about you?

I’ve often wondered how many shelves in human resources archives across the country are groaning under the weight of assessment centre reports – last read by some, not necessarily by all, of the selection panel. If they are well written, insightful reports then this really is a shocking waste of time, effort, energy and talent.

We all know the best leaders are continually learning. They are thirsty for knowledge, eager to understand their own strengths and constantly looking at ways to improve their performance. So why don’t more of us seek to interrogate the information that could help us land successfully in our new organisations? There might be nothing new to learn. But what if there is one new insight that could help you? What if you are reminded of something you half knew, but were choosing conveniently not to fully remember or face up to?

A good assessment centre provides the insight to help those responsible for selecting make good decisions. But it should also provide valuable insight for you, the successful candidate. There are many factors that will influence the success of your first year in a new job.

In no particular order, here are my six suggestions:

  • Achieving operational grip – Your ability to grasp vital operational issues fast, produce quick wins where necessary and establish a reputation for action.
  • Driving strategic clarity – Illuminating the path ahead and determining focus and resource allocation.
  • Navigating cultural sensitivities – How you understand ‘non-negotiable’ norms, values and customs and what, and who, needs to change.
  • Shaping team cohesion – The speed with which you confirm or adjust the composition of your immediate team and how quickly you can build trust and sense of collective mission.
  • Facilitating stakeholder alignment – Understanding the complex, interconnecting web of stakeholder agendas to forge alliances and alignment to achieve organisational objectives.
  • Optimising personal impact – How willing are you to learn and absorb new information, adjusting your approach where necessary?

Success in these areas will depend on ‘how’ you approach them as well as ‘what’ you actually do. This is where personal insight comes in. Truly understanding your strengths, your core capabilities and your weaknesses enables you to plan strategies for success.

My advice? Demand more from the recruitment process. You put the hours in, so make sure you take some of the insight out. Sit down with someone who is qualified to walk you through the results of the assessment centre and help you interpret them. Ask them to help you formulate an action or personal development plan for the next 12 months that helps you achieve optimal performance.

And here’s a thought. If you are making a senior hire this year, what can you and your organisation do to ensure the money you spent on the recruitment process yields a full dividend? Assessment centre reports should not be consigned to the human resources archive. They should be living documents, well-thumbed by those seeking to be the best they can be.

Martin Tucker

This article first appeared in the February 2019 edition of the Local Government Chronicle


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