Occupational Sarah Macpherson personally experienced the dark side of a poorly designed assessment centre. Here she describes the misery she underwent in the name of selection.
Sarah - now an occupational psychologist who designs assessment centres with the applicant in mind - had applied for the position of management consultant. The process began with a series of interviews with a management headhunter. These went well, and Sarah was pleased to be invited to an assessment centre. However, the assessment itself was not quite what she had expected.
"I was pleased when the firm asked me to attend the assessment centre following a series of very positive interviews. Having heard that I was to be assessed by a 'professional consultancy' I anticipated clear communication about the venue, the process, the timing and logistics. But no. I was eventually informed of the time and place - the rest remained a mystery. When I arrived at the centre after a woeful two-hour journey, I was completely unaware of what was going to happen, who it was going to happen with, and when.
"One thing that was apparent, however, was that my suit was horribly out of place. I had arrived looking the part - business suit, hair fixed, nails clean and briefcase in hand. Unfortunately, when I walked in I realised immediately that the company had an informal dress policy, but no-one had thought to tell me. My level of unease was declining rapidly. This was not a good start.
"Unfortunately, informality of dress also generalised to informality of process.
"I wasn't properly greeted, not even given a cup of coffee. There was no warm up, and still the process was not fully explained. Instead, I was led down a corridor and thrown straight into a psychometric test on spatial reasoning, which had no relevance to the job for which I was being interviewed.
"When I questioned the use of the test, the company response was, 'you're a psychologist, you're used to the tests, so we thought we'd give you something different'. An interesting rationale but many miles away from best practice. My comfort level was