Game Day Assessment Center Preparation

There is a lot of information out there on promotional testing about focusing on specific traits — leadership, discipline, motivation, etc. — for assessment centers. But beware of only trying to target and using those key words to get the boxes checked off on the rating sheets.

Too many candidates concentrate on these specific traits because they think or have been told promotional tests are designed to find and qualify candidates for promotion. These candidates put their presentations together solely trying to get those boxes checked off on the rating sheet and nothing else.

We've known for a long time that merely concentrating on trying to get the boxes checked off on the rating sheet for specific traits draws you away from your personal life "nugget" experiences. Stories only you can tell can give you the advantage of killing the competition.

One reason stories work effectively is because they go directly to the brain and entertain. They do not require the mental processing of more formal nonfiction writing. Stories have heart and ring true, and you can check out more on this in our previous article, Stories Get Badges.

A recent candidate called us, asking if we had a check-off list for the oral interview — I told him we don't use the check off sheets because there are too many variables with each agency's check-off list. Some departments have 50 boxes on their check off, others have even more.

If you've ever heard a candidate try to pull off trying to target specific traits, it sounds like a dog and pony show because in trying to ring the bell on the so called specific traits they lose sight of who they really are. They would make a better presentation with the education, experience and life experiences that is the cornerstone of our promotional program and in the process get the boxes checked off, too. It separates them from the other struggling candidates in their attempt to master the rating sheet.

A tale of two candidates
A department in the Northwest was testing for lieutenant. It was a very important test because the list may have expired before the number two guy got promoted. There would be a lot more people eligible for the next exam, so things would have only gotten more competitive. At the end of this type of testing, the final scores can be just a couple of points difference.

Candidate one: Ted flew to California to go through a program for a personal six to eight hour private in-person coaching session concentrating on specific traits.

Candidate two: This was Dave's first time testing for lieutenant, and he approached us. To prepare, he went over some of these questions we supplied:

  • What have you done to prepare for or what do you think qualifies you for the position?
  • What is your five-year plan?
  • What are three of your strengths? What is one of your weaknesses?
  • What projects can you attach your name to?
  • How do you resolve conflict?
  • How do you reduce stress?
  • How would you handle a disgruntled employee?
  • What is the job of an officer?
  • What does customer service mean to you?
  • What does cultural diversity mean to you?
  • Can you take a topic on short notice, develop and deliver a 10-minute speech?
  • How do you administer discipline?

More can be found at Dave decided to concentrate on practicing his answers with a hand-held recorder that went everywhere his car keys went. He was answering the questions with his technical knowledge and lacing them with his personal life experiences and stories to establish his experience, education and abilities.

The final interview was "rule of threes" so the top three technically had an equal chance of getting promoted. It was Ted, Dave and the number three candidate. The goal is to try and convince the panel members that you can do the job before you get it!

Ted was well polished and did a great job, but as he was trained to focus too much on very specific traits, he missed great opportunities to deliver stories of his experience.

Dave was prepared with a ton of general "nuggets" that could apply to different scenarios and questions. The preparation paid off and helped convince panel members that he had been there, done that, got the ball cap, T-shirt and played the game, giving Dave the only promotion badge available.

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