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The Psychometrics Centre

Cambridge Judge Business School

The public sector increasingly values best practice approaches in selection and assessment incorporating psychometric principles.

The London Borough of Barnet commissioned us to develop an Assessment Centre to recruit graduates into a newly created role of Housing Officer. The project was led by Almuth McDowall. Borough representatives aimed to create a team focused on client needs. In depth job analysis confirmed that the role centred on client-centred skills combined with practical problem solving potential, realistic expectations and the ability to work under pressure.

Based on this analysis, we designed a three day bespoke assessment centre which 11 candidates attended each day. The Assessment Centre involved:

  • Testing: the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (W-GCTA) and the Rust Advanced Numerical Reasoning Appraisal (RANRA) identified individual's potential. W-GCTA and RANRA are benchmark tests in the assessment of two critical business skills: the evaluation of verbal and numerical information. Both tests emphasise practical, work-related aspects of these competences.
  • Bespoke in-tray exercises and group work: these involved solving a realistic job related problem in a team, to identify high potential in stimulating real-life demands.
  • Structured interviews:  involving two trained assessors
  • Demonstration of IT skills.

Candidates gained a realistic picture of the job demands and requirements. From the start, the borough stressed the need to establish realistic scenarios and to minimise potential disappointment for prospective jobholders. We gave personal feedback from the assessments to all candidates. This is good practice, reflects well on the borough and enables successful and unsuccessful candidates to further their own professional development. We finally choose 12 outstanding candidates out of the pool of 33. All of the successful candidates took up the posts offered, knowing what to expect and feeling valued by this extensive yet rewarding process.

Candidate comments about the Centre were excellent, highlighting our "professional", "friendly" and "relaxed" attitudes. This project shows that psychometric principles can be applied to techniques other than formal 'testing', as well as the importance of creating the right atmosphere for candidates. This combination of scientific knowledge and practical skill is central to what we do.

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