Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

A Preparation Guide For The Assessment Center Method: Be Your Best Self

Book CoverCan You Be Yourself In Your Assessment Center?

Someone who knows my thoughts about how to best prepare for an Assessment Center copied a review of my book from the Amazon site and sent it to me, indignant over how wrong he thought it was. The reviewer gave me five stars and essentially said my book proves his belief that you can’t do well in an Assessment Center promotional process if you say what you really think and use your real experiences.

I assume the person who wrote the review had participated in an Assessment Center and didn’t get promoted and saw someone he didn’t respect or like get promoted instead. Or perhaps he read my book and decided he didn’t even want to test because he thought he would have act phony to do well. I’m sorry about that and I know he would feel differently if he fully understood the process or had talked to experienced assessors.

Often a candidate will not rate as high as he expected and assume one thing he said in one exercise was the sole cause. Assessment Center results are based on more than one or two ratings. In a typical process a candidate may receive 45 ratings (3 exercises x 5 competency areas x 3 assessors). Unless a candidate says something that is outrageously wrong or offensive it will have very little effect on his or her overall results.  Another thing to consider is that a candidate usually does not have access to the notes or discussions of assessors, so he would not know all of the issues upon which they based their ratings. Even if he received a feedback report, it only summarizes a few notes, not all.

I replied to the reviewer’s comments and asked him to contact me six to eight months before his next test, so I can send some additional material and maybe talk to him about it. I want to help him see that he can use his experiences and personal philosophies, if they reflect the best practices of the profession and are appropriate for the testing exercises in which he is participating.

How Effective Is The Real You? 

Even if you are not in the law enforcement profession or are not participating in promotional testing, you may feel that you must submerge your real feelings, your fundamental beliefs and your real personality, to be successful or accepted. If it is true, you may be in the wrong work, school or personal setting or trying to get into the wrong setting. Find the place or situation where you can flourish. Or, you may find you can flourish where you are if you adjust or change some aspects of what you consider to be the real you.

It’s hard to accept, but often we have habits, peculiarities, traits, idiosyncrasies, opinions and foibles that cause others to reject us–and until we make some changes we will never be fully successful. Or, like some very successful people have found–they could save themselves a lot of trouble and stress if they weren’t the real them quite so often!

August 7th, 2015 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | no comments

Police Assessment Centers — Why They Work For You

Whether you have a complex Assessment Center or just one or two components of an Assessment Center, the concept works for you. It allows you to demonstrate what you can do, and forces others to do so as well. That gives you the same chance as someone who is glib but not skillful, or slick but not knowledgeable.

How a Police Assessment Center Works

Exercises: The concept of an Assessment Center is to provide multiple techniques (exercises) in which you participate while being observed or having your work examined by several trained assessors–usually from outside your organization.

The panel: You may wish you had your friends or those who know you, on the panel–but think about the increase in fairness for all, when what is rated is what the candidate can actually do, rather than what people think he or she can do or wish he or she would do. Most of us have enough issues to live down that it is preferable to be able to show what we know, rather than fighting an uphill battle against a negative feeling going in.

Assessors are trained before the process to understand the differences between your behavior and their opinion. They are usually scrupulously honest about keeping those separate. That also works for you.

Notes about your behaviors: The assessors will take notes about all of your behaviors (what you say and do and how you say and do it, and the thought processes you express about it). Then, they will link those behaviors to the competencies that have been identified for the job. Those should be no surprise, even if you are not told specifically what they are.

Competencies: If you wonder what compentencies you should demonstrate, check the job description, or just think about it: Communcations skills, problem solving and decision making, job knowledge, role readiness, interpersonal skills, planning and organizing and professional development are among the most obvious. Everything else will probably fit within those, whatever they are called in your process. For example, leadership, flexibility, conflict resolution, community knowledge or team building, all can fit within those basics.

Linking notes to competencies: The assessors hear you, see you or read what you have written. They take notes, based on what they know to be significant, because of their knowledge and experiences in the rank you have and the rank above you (what they probably are right now). They link those notes to the competencies and decide what supports those competencies and what would detract from them.

Your rating in each competency and for the whole exercise: Then, they give you a rating, usually from 1-10, to reflect their judgment about how well you demonstrated the competencies from the viewpoint of the role you seek. 0-4 is usually low, 5-7 is usually acceptable, 8-9 is usually excellent, 10 is usually considered outstanding.

You are not assessed about the role you have. Rather, about the role you seek. You must demonstrate that you can do the work of the rank you seek, not that you are doing well at your current work. In addition, assessors don’t rate you based on whether they like you, just on how you demonstrate competencies. Ironically, we used to complain about in-house interviews for promotions, and now I hear officers say they don’t like Assessment Centers and want to go back to in-house interviews! Those are usually officers who think they deserve a higher rating. But we all think we deserve a higher rating!

The book I think you should read over and over until you can apply it in your sleep: My book on preparing for police Assessment Centers, A Preparation Guide To The Assessment Center Method, has been helpful for thousands of officers, based on the sales and the wonderful emails I receive. Check it out at Amazon. If you have read it and found it useful, please write a review. Or, link to me in your own website or blog, so others can have the information. (I’m finding that to very helpful.)

The process works. However you prepare for your Assessment Center, remember this: The process, as it was developed, works. How your organization implements it might be problematic, but if a professional company produces it, you can feel very confident about its fairness and effectiveness.

Of course, I remind people of what Paul Whisenand, an AC developer and police author, said: “We identify people who have the basic skills to be effective in the role. It’s up to the organization to make sure they live up to their capabilities.” Very true!

Keep in touch about your promotional process plans! 

May 5th, 2008 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews | no comments

Police Assessment Centers and Promotional Testing — Start Preparing Now

Police Assessment Centers and Promotional Testing — When should you start preparing? That is a question I am asked repeatedly. Let me share some thoughts about that, and you decide.

I’m getting things together for the class I present entitled: Professional Development Through Assessment Center Preparation. It’s for law enforcement officers who are preparing for Assessment Centers for promotion to the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and captain.

An Assessment Center is a process employing multiple processes (called exercises) and multiple assessors (usually 3 to a panel) to produce judgments regarding the degree to which a participant displays selected competencies–Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSAs)–needed for a position.

The average Assessment Center has 3-5 exercises, which might include a

  • Role-Play
  • In-Basket Management exercise
  • Structured Interview
  • Written Exercise
  • Oral Presentation
  • Critical Incident exercise
  • Staffing exercise or similar activities

 The panel observes each candidate while he or she presents or participates in the exercises, or the panel reads the work of a candidate, and assigns ratings about how many behaviors are displayed in the competency areas being tested. Among the competency areas are often: Oral and Written Communication, Job Knowledge, Problem Solving, Interpersonal Awareness And Skills, Leadership Traits, Role-Readiness, and other key competency areas.

The concept is very logical and is designed to identify candidates who have a high potential for success in a rank, rather than relying solely on a one hour Oral Board or similar process.

(I think this is when I’m supposed to mention that I have a book on the subject of Assessment Center preparation, which has been used by candidates and those developing ACs, and found to be helpful in many ways. Don’t hesitate to buy it!

All of that brings me to the title of this post and the question I’m often asked: When should I start preparing for an Assessment Center? I usually say, “Now!” What I’m thinking is, “The day you started at the Academy is about right.” Preparing for an Assessment Center involves first preparing for the rank or position, and that is a career-long process, no matter what the rank or position.

 The same thing is true of any promotional situation, in any profession. A promotional interview or assessment requires a foundation of effective experiences and those take time to accumulate. It’s true that verbal skills are helpful, but that’s not the only skill required for success.

Building a solid career is done through:

Effective work
Volunteering to participate in work that helps expand knowledge and skills
Being a good organizational citizen 
Reading, researching, communicating and reflecting.
Thinking past the basics and expanding your views of yourself and the organization.

You can’t do all of that in the two weeks before a promotional process!

If you intend to apply for promotion you will need to draw from every experience you have had in your career. In the time you have before you are interviewed or assessed, make lists that reflect your experiences and what you gained from them that could be applied to the new position. Look for chances to expand your thinking and develop your knowledge, skills and effective attitudes. 

It’s not too late to do better than you might have done otherwise. But remember, it’s never too soon to prepare yourself for increased responsbility–whether or not that involves a promotion.

Police Assessment Centers and Promotional Testing — When should you start preparing? Last year or the year before would have been good, but at least start today!

January 19th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development | 2 comments