What Is a Management Assessment Center?

Definition & Examples of a Management Assessment Center

Business managers seated around a table.

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A management assessment center is a series of tests, interviews, simulations, and exercises designed to predict how well a management candidate will perform in a specific role. The assessment center puts the prospective manager through a series of drills and situations and grades their response.

Learn more about management assessment centers and how they work.

What Is a Management Assessment Center?

A management assessment center uses a number of methods to evaluate whether a particular person will be successful in a managerial role. A management assessment center might be a physical location where these tests are performed, or it may be the sum of the tests and exercises.

For example, a management assessment center may be a facility that is run by a company that specializes in assessment methodology, as a place where you can send your candidates to be evaluated. Or, you may have an “in-house” assessment center, which uses your own trained managers or human resources (HR) staff to run the assessments. Sometimes the in-house assessment may employ an outside firm for assistance.

Some companies even offer “virtual” assessment centers as a way to save time and money. With virtual centers, everything is done online with the help of technology such as Skype or Zoom, and the behavioral simulations are video-based.​

Management assessment centers provide a company with evidence of a candidate's predicted performance, which in turn makes hiring decisions more informed. A company may use assessment centers for many different kinds of positions, but centers for management are particularly effective.

How a Management Assessment Center Works

The first step in using a management assessment center is to identify the candidates to be assessed. There may be a shortlist already identified, or a prescreening method can be used to identify likely prospects.

The assessment center will use a variety of exercises to evaluate the candidate or candidates. Some factors the tests may measure include:

  • Competencies
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Planning
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Job knowledge
  • Personality
  • Leadership
  • Situational judgment
  • Intelligence (intellectual or emotional)

The tests that the candidates will experience could be hands-on, simulations, role-playing, or question-and-answer, and may be delivered in-person, electronically, or via video.

An important component of management assessment centers is the raters who will be calculating the results of the assessments. They should be highly trained and qualified.

Assessment center results are only as good as the assessments. It's important to know what it is you want to measure and why. It's also critical that the assessments are fair, unbiased, and legal; assessments that unfairly discriminate could be the basis for legal action.

Assessment Costs

Employment assessment can be pricy. Cost will vary by provider, the type of position you are assessing, and the complexity of the methodology the assessment firm uses. In-house centers and group assessments can save money, but are still a big investment in time.

When shopping for an assessment center provider, beware of firms with a conflict of interest. For example, a recruiting or search firm that offers assessment center-like services might have an incentive to show you that your managers are all low-performing so that they can come in and find you new ones. Or a training provider might want to show you your managers lack skills so they can sell you training programs.

Are Management Assessment Centers Worth It?

A well-designed, valid, and reliable assessment center can usually predict potential success in a role and minimize the chances of making a bad hiring decision. This kind of information can be invaluable.

Assessment centers have other benefits, too.

  • Once a candidate is assessed, if hired, they can get valuable development feedback.
  • If you train your managers and HR staff to participate in a center, they get better at assessment and selection.
  • Most candidates come away impressed with a company’s commitment to its hiring practices and perceive the process as more fair and unbiased.

Whether paying for an outside management assessment center is worth it depends on the importance of the position. Assessments, if done well, can help weed out the pretenders from the contenders.

For C-level executive hiring decisions, where a selection mistake can cost a company millions or even billions of dollars, spending $10,000 or $20,000 to make a better decision makes sense.

Key Takeaways

  • Management assessment centers use a variety of tests and exercises to predict whether a candidate would be a good fit for a particular management role.
  • These centers are foremost a collection of evaluations, but they can take place offsite at a physical location, in-house, or virtually.
  • Management assessment centers may be expensive, but if administered properly and with purpose, can provide a clear return on investment.