Article of the week 17 – 2023

Assessment-Center – sense or nonsense?

Assessment-Centers (AC) have been in existence for over 100 years. Among other things, they can be  traced back to the military, where they were used to select suitable candidates, detached from their social background. Since the 60s, the procedure has been used for the first time, especially in personnel development and selection.

ACs are available in various versions, from individual tasks to selection procedures lasting several days. As a rule, the tasks have to be completed under time constraints and the performance tests are designed in such a way that hardly all requirements can be met.  The ACs servethe aptitude analysis of the candidate  and his character traits, skills and abilities. There are different variations of the ACs. 

Possible variations of an AssessmentCentre:

  • One-on-one assessment
  • Group assessment
  • Online-assessment
  • Development-Center und Management-Audits

All variations are united by the approach to transparency in personnel selection, which, due to the uniform evaluation and assessment, allows better comparability than the review of application documents allows. Especially in the case of positions with a flood of applications, for example, a suitable pool of applicants can be determined in advance by means of the online assessment.

Methods and exercises:

  • Personality and intelligence tests
  • Structured interviews
  • Group discussions
  • Role play
  • Presentations 
  • Questionnaires
  • Inbox exercise “Postkorbübung”
  • Case study
  • Fact Finding

The selection and scope of methods and exercises is highly dependent on the position to be filled. Depending on their scope, ACs vary in complexity and cost-intensive both in preparation and implementation. Therefore, it helps to answer the following questions in advance:

  • What is the expected number of applicants?
  • How many positions are there to be filled?
  • If the applicant needs special character traits, e.g. Leadership qualities?
  • What skills are you looking for?

Quality plays a decisive role in the implementation of the Assessment-Centre. The Forum Assessment e.V. provides the following quality standards for personnel development in business and administration (source: 149_pe-standards.pdf (

Quality standards:

  • Systematics
  • Goal orientation
  • Analysis and planning
  • Aptitude diagnostics
  • Development measures
  • Responsibility
  • Competence
  • Qualification
  • Transparency
  • Success

In order to be able to take into account and meet the quality standards,  it is therefore necessary to regularly evaluate the Assessment-Center procedure, to train the staff in the implementation and, above all, to select the right composition of the AC as required. 

Strengths of the Assessment-Centre:

The use of an Assessment-Center ensures transparency in personnel selection, as the personnel decisions are made on the basis of the results from the AC and can therefore be proven in a comprehensible and, above all, documented manner. Applicants are not only selected on the basis of their documents and their presentation, but are also tested in several areas for their qualification for vacancy.

Criticism of the Assessment-Center:

Applicants can adapt to exercises and situations or have an advantage through repetition after several ACs. In the personality tests it is possible to influence one’s personality by incorrect/disguised answers. This bias can be minimized by the scope of the AC and complex personality tests with control questions and consistency indicators, but increases the effort in the AC. Another point of criticism is therefore the cost intensity and the training and design effort of good ACs.


Assessment-Centers are useful and well invested in filling certain positions and skills.

In order to obtain good results, it is essential to determine the type and scope of the AC in a meaningful way, to train the performers sufficiently and qualitatively, and to regularly evaluate the AC for changed framework conditions – both in terms of content and composition.

An ill-conceived Assessment-Centre with untrained assessors only costs money and does not deliver valid and useful results.

„The charm of an Assessment-Center lies in getting a differentiated picture of someone you didn’t know at all before in a short time. Ideally, applicants will also learn something about themselves that they may have only suspected until then. “ (Christof Obermann, business psychologist, 2011, Spiegel)

Ralf Dinter – Senior Consultant


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