The French-style Assessment Centre!Reading Time: 2 minutes
The impact of culture on the implementation of the approach
The Assessment Centre is originally a method developed in the US and UK, and this fact is important. To illustrate this cultural difference, nothing is easier than noting the surprise of “Latin peoples” discovering the questions drafted in the American ESTA application form: “Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?” Closed questions are used in the structured interviews of Anglo-Saxon Assessment Centres.
Does this remind you of anything? Those were the days when people believed that you had to put candidates under pressure and back them into a corner. Humanist trends have since moved forward and the power relationship between candidates and recruiters has disappeared to give way to a more transparent and benevolent relationship. Pressure is no longer considered to be beneficial. On the contrary, if there is too much pressure, the individual takes refuge in automatic reflexes, whereby defence mechanisms interfere with natural behaviour.
What has become of the Assessment Centre in France?
Assessment Centres arrived in Europe in the 1990s and were first used in their original form: several role play exercises with structured interviews. The key ingredients of the explosive cocktail for the assessed candidate were very much at work: maximum pressure for the systematic deployment of the individual’s defence mechanisms. Today, Assessments are still used to select finalists from a pool of candidates, sometimes using structured interviews.
The Assessment Centre is “collective” in the wrong sense of the term: to see which profiles stand out, through a role-play situation that seems more like a competition. Here we find classic stereotypes: dominant profiles contrasting with more reserved profiles which cannot demonstrate their strengths when placed in this kind of power struggle.
The assessment is reduced to a few observations: the capacity to lead a group versus the capacity to work as a group. Adapted to our specific cultural features, skills assessment is a tool that allows us to go much further. What if a person lacks leadership? Little insight is gained when the mechanism underpinning this lack of leadership has not been understood.
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