Diversity FAQ’s No 13: How is Diversity linked to candidate performance at assessment centres?


Given the ‘global’ character of today’s talent in the labour markets, and in order to ensure only the best are selected, it is imperative that those tasked with the responsibility for the design (and indeed delivery) of assessment centres ensure that the exercises, tools and indeed the actual facilities cater to the needs of the  typical 21st century candidate.

As a very fundamental premise, assessment centres should first and foremost be all about ensuring that all candidates, regardless of background, are able to perform to the best of their potential. This is ‘the benchmark’ and constitutes the key link between Diversity and assessment centres: ensuring that fairness, inclusivity and transparency govern the very exercises chosen, the pre-agreed criterion used for making selection decisions, the premises where the assessments are taking place, and indeed the people or assessors actually managing the assessment centre itself.

Below are some guiding questions relating to the above and to be further used as a guide for ensuring candidates are enabled to perform to the best of their potential:

  • Do psychometric tests chosen adversely impact one group of people over-against others? Indeed, are they able to truly ensure the full demonstration of potential regardless of candidate background?
  • Do the tests and exercises actually reflect the skills and competency requirements of the job?
  • Is there a reasonable adjustment process in place to assist those who may require further assistance, i.e., candidates with dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc?
  • Have diversity considerations be factored into selecting those on the interview panel?
  • Have accessibility considerations be factored into the choice of venue, online based assessment exercises, etc?
  • Where group exercises are used, are they used in consonance with other exercises to ensure candidates are give an equal opportunity to demonstrate their true potential?
  • Are those tasked with making key selection decisions diversity trained?
  • Do the skills and competencies that the assessment centre benchmarks against bear in mind talent variety and inclusivity requirements?
  • Is the language used for varying assessment types unduly complex? Do they pass the plain and simple English test? Are they gender and/or age biased?

In addition, according to on-going psychological research, there is the thinking which suggests that assessment centres that do not have a balance of a cross section of assessors from various backgrounds, can have an adverse psychological impact on the performance of candidates from non-traditional backgrounds, which can also lead to under-performance at assessment centres. Called the ‘White Juror Syndrome’ it advocates that organisations take action to proactively eradicate the possibility of bias from the assessment process by ensuring a diverse range of assessors which is proven to positively enhance candidate performance from a psychological viewpoint.

Taking a look at all we have discussed above, in reality, what we are actually and simply talking about is taking practical steps to ensure that assessment and selection procedures are able to deliver talented and capable candidates as an overall end-product – of which diversity actually sits at the heart of.

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One response to “Diversity FAQ’s No 13: How is Diversity linked to candidate performance at assessment centres?

  1. I think Jude-Martin that the diversity is poorly understood and accounted for at the development stage and that it is a secondary consideration, playing second fiddle to reliability and validity rather than being on an equal footing. Providers, especially to the public sector often do not understand the obligations and requirements and the neeed to support the client in meeting their statutory obligations (e.g. providing data for equality impact assessments and the equality duties) unless pressed whereas this should be routine for providers. I have a big concern around how the content and scoring of exercises often has more to do with a desire to make the exercise face valid than be fair. For example the impact of stereotype threat is well known yet we still see tests of ’emotional intelligence’ and competencies with titles like ‘strategic perspective’. yet we know that this can adversely affect the AC performance of some candidates regardless of the underlying ability (in fact it affects the most able candidates more). I look forward to reading the blog on psychometrics as I think all publishers have much to learn, and are missing a marketing trick by not having talent diversity at the centrre of development.

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