Behind the scenes of an Apostrof Assessment Center
Reading Time of Article: 8 min
A major player in recruitment in the Lyon area, the Apostrof team gave us a behind-the-scenes look at a day in an assessment center…
The Lyon offices start to wake up at around 8.30 am. Located at the heart of the stylish Les Brotteaux district of Lyon, Apostrof is one of the few firms that offer behaviour analysis using workplace simulations and role play.
Some people sing the praises of serious games, which share the same background: both techniques were developed by the US Army. However, they were ultimately used for very different purposes: assessment center are an assessment tool, whereas serious games are an information and training tool with fun interfaces and video game technologies. Other people are familiar with MRS (method of recruitment by simulation), which is much less exhaustive but was also inspired by the basics of the assessment center.
So how are assessment center run at Apostrof? On the top floor of the building, the candidate arrives in the light, stylish office space. They look slightly stressed on this cool morning… Already on duty, one part of the team puts the candidate at ease while the other part prepares the different role play situations. The day starts with a straightforward discussion with a consultant. The objective is simple: to correct any preconceived ideas about this tricky exercise so that the candidate is in a calm and constructive frame of mind for setting to work. The candidate is kept abreast of what’s happening: at each stage the consultant explains what to do and conducts the first debriefing immediately afterwards to give essential feedback to both parties.
Over the course of one day, several exercises and debriefings are carried out, with relaxed coffee breaks and a lunch break in between. The first surprise is that the candidate is at no time made to sit at any of the omnipresent computers. More consultants join the team at each stage. They all take part in exercises throughout the day, but each in their own way. And that’s what’s so unique about the assessment centers run by Apostrof: the observation is done by human eye and the role play isn’t programmed like a computer game. Far from it! Apostrof’s team of consultants give the candidates their cues, the exercises are not fixed and each person’s role adapts in accordance with their interaction with the candidate’s behaviour and views. A genuine role play dynamic develops and the group works as one. It’s hard to tell the difference between what’s going on here and everyday working life. It all ends with a final debriefing interview for the candidate and feedback provided by the consultant.
It’s quite an emotional day… but in a very professional way. Behaviour analysis is sometimes so accurate that it makes you smile that slightly embarrassed smile of recognition that someone has summed you up exactly. The consultant points out skills that would win points for managers, but also discusses behaviour that could have counter-productive side effects. The feedback given at the end of the day is particularly valuable, even though everyone is starting to feel tired and is looking forward to getting home. Days like this come along once in a blue moon. It’s an incredible experience, and although at times it’s not easy, it’s very close to the professional reality of many people!
Apostrof was set up in 2009, at a time when assessment center in France were still not very common. Six years later the company is a key player in the sector in France, with two offices to cover all bases: a Lyon office, the company’s historic headquarters, and an office in Paris, where workforce skills mapping and talent identification for major groups and small businesses alike is increasingly in demand.
At the outset, Apostrof was the crowning achievement of a diverse professional career. Having worked in a variety of roles abroad and in France, Virginie Graziani set up the company on her own. Having received special training in behaviour analysis, followed by training from Axel Boucher in reading body language, Virginie wanted to develop an individual and human approach to running assessment center. “The great strength of assessment is the awareness it gives: with simulation exercises we can share an immediate and intense workplace experience with a candidate or employee. The mirror effect is important; the person being assessed is fully involved in what happens throughout the day. They quickly see the kind of behaviour they exhibit that doesn’t work. For some employees, it also provides detailed feedback on their interpersonal, commercial or managerial practice and other skills. Often the routine activity of a company makes it impossible to observe or give feedback to employees in this way.”
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