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The history of the Assessment Centre



Virginie Graziani

Talent Management & Synergologist

11 November 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Initially used during the First World War, the Assessment Centre was born in the military world. At the time, the Germans used this technique to select their officers. The British army followed suit and decided to experiment with this approach. During the Second World War, the United States also adopted this practice, notably with the creation of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and the famous Station S. The aim was to recruit soldiers and civilians for espionage in a more objective and reliable way.

A little history

Following the publication of the book “Man and Assessment”, which describes the assessment centre techniques used by the OSS, many American companies wanted to adapt the principle of simulation to the professional world.
In the 1950s, American Telegraph & Telephone (AT&T) became the first company in the private sector to use the Assessment Center as a method for evaluating the potential of their managers. Dr Douglas Bray, Director of Human Resources at AT&T, led a study that tracked the careers of managers as they progressed through the company over a period of 25 years.

A scientific approach

The results of this large-scale experiment demonstrate the reliability and high predictive value of the Assessment Centre technique. Indeed, the approach enables a company to predict a person’s success in a given position.
The Assessment Centre has also been adopted by many other large companies such as IBM, Sears, Standard Oil, GE and J.C. Penney. The Assessment Centre is coming to Europe through the subsidiaries of these large American and Anglo-Saxon groups in general.

A booster for corporate strategy

It was not until the 1980s that the concept of behavioural assessment arrived in France for the recruitment of young graduates or salespeople. Air France, Carrefour and Monoprix were among the first French companies to test the Assessment Center.
Today, the Assessment Center is a method used throughout the world in both the public and private sectors to refine the selection of employees and identify their development paths.
This assessment method is based on professional situations: simulation or professional role-playing and the observation of behaviour as well as business skills, but also transversal skills such as personal, relational and leadership dimensions.

About the Assessment Center

The Assessment or Development Center are methodologies that use a professional situation. The objective is to carry out a precise diagnosis of the strengths and areas for improvement of a candidate or employee. In the context of recruitment, this stage enables the company to advise on a suitable integration plan for the individual’s personality and skills. Also, having a global vision of talent is essential to prepare a new organisation within a company. In the case of internal mobility, the assessment includes specific recommendations on a development plan.


Whatever your objectives, we can help you attract, motivate and find the right talent. To contact us, use the contact form or write to us directly at contact@apostrof.fr



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RH Consulting – Talent Management
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