Assessment Centers: Current Practices in the United States

  • Tasha L. Eurich
  • Diana E. Krause
  • Konstantin Cigularov
  • George C. ThorntonIII



The goals of this investigation were to review current AC practices in the United States by evaluating whether they follow the Guidelines and Ethical Considerations for Assessment Center Operations (International Task Force on Assessment Centers, 2000). We both expanded upon and compared our results to a prior benchmarking study (Spychalski et al. in Personnel Psychol, 50:71–90, 1997), and investigated practices regarding job analysis, AC development, dimensions (i.e., job requirements), exercises, assessor characteristics and training, behavior recording, data integration, organizational policy, assessee rights, AC evaluation and AC technology. Data were collected via an online survey completed by individuals from human resource departments of organizations (N = 54) across the U.S; organizations to whom the survey was sent were selected by sampling Fortune 500 organizations based on economic sector.


Results indicate that 93% of organizations reported considering the Guidelines for AC development and use. More specifically, the investigation reports specific findings regarding job analysis, AC development, AC dimensions, AC exercises, assessor characteristics, assessor training, behavior recording, data integration, organizational policy, assessee rights, AC evaluation, and AC technology.


We provide two types of conclusions. First, based on two concerns, we provide two recommendations for improving current practice. Second, we present two commendations (i.e., positive trends that should continue). Finally, to continue to advance AC practice, we discuss our results in the context of observations on recent developments in AC practices by Lievens and Thornton (Assessment centers: Recent developments in practice and research. Blackwell, Malden, pp 243–264, 2005).


Despite the importance of assessment centers (ACs) for personnel selection and development, no recent benchmarking studies exist.


Assessment centers Selection Development Technology Human resources 



We thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments. We also thank the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Institution) for their financial support during Diana’s visiting research stay at Colorado State University.


  1. Arthur, W. A., Jr., Day, E. A., McNelly, T. L., & Edens, P. S. (2003). A meta-analysis of the criterion-related validity of assessment center dimensions. Personnel Psychology, 56, 125–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowler, M. C., & Woehr, D. J. (2004). Assessment center construct-related validity: A big picture perspective. Poster presented at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  4. Boyle, S., Fullerton, J., & Wood, R. (1995). Do assessment/development centres use optimum evaluation procedures? A survey of practice in UK organizations. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 3, 132–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brannick, M. T., & Levine, E. L. (2002). Job analysis: Methods, research, and applications for human resource management in the new millennium. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Bray, D. W., & Grant, D. L. (1966). The assessment center in the measurement of potential for business management. Psychological Monographs, 80, 1–27.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Briscoe, D. R. (1997). Assessment centers: Cross-cultural and cross-national issues. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 12, 261–270.Google Scholar
  8. Caldwell, C., Thornton, G. C., III, & Gruys, M. L. (2003). Ten classic assessment center errors: Challenges to selection validity. Public Personnel Management, 32, 73–88.Google Scholar
  9. Cascio, W. F. (2003). Changes in workers, work, and organizations. In W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen, & R. J. Klimoski (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: Volume 12 industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 401–422). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Chan, D. (1996). Criterion and construct validation of an assessment center. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 69, 167–181.Google Scholar
  11. Colquitt, J. A., Conlon, D. E., Wesson, M. J., Porter, C. O. L. H., & Ng, K. Y. (2001). Justice at the millennium: A meta-analytic review of 25 years of justice research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 425–445.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32, 554–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Development Dimensions International. (2006). DDI opens newest executive assessment center in NYC. Retrieved August 5, 2006, from
  14. Development Dimensions International. (2009). Validity of DDI assessment centers. Retrieved August 5, 2006, from
  15. Díaz-Canepa, C. (2005). Transferring technologies to developing countries: A cognitive and cultural approach. In R. J. Sternberg & R. J. Preiss (Eds.), Intelligence and technology: The impact of tools on the nature and development of human abilities (pp. 159–180). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Feltham, R. (1988). Assessment centre decision making: Judgmental vs. mechanical. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 61, 237–241.Google Scholar
  17. Fitzgerald, L. F., & Quaintance, M. K. (1982). Survey of assessment center use in state and local government. Journal of Assessment Center Technology, 5, 9–21.Google Scholar
  18. Fletcher, C. (1994). Questionnaire surveys of organizational assessment practices: A critique of their methodology and validity, and a query about their future relevance. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 2, 172–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gaugler, B. B., Rosenthal, D. B., Thornton, G. C., III, & Bentson, C. (1987). Meta-analysis of assessment center validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 493–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaugler, B. B., & Thornton, G. C., III (1989). Number of assessment center dimensions as a determinant of assessor accuracy. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 611–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gephart, R. P. (2002). Introduction to the brave new workplace: Organizational behavior in the electronic age. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 327–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greenberg, J. (1993). The social side of justice: Informational and interpersonal classes of organizational justice. In R. Cropanzano (Ed.), Justice in the workplace: Approaching fairness in human resource management (pp. 79–103). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Griffiths, P., & Goodge, P. (1994). Developmental centers: The third generation. Personnel Management, 25, 307–319.Google Scholar
  24. Hausknecht, J. P., Day, D. V., & Thomas, S. C. (2004). Applicant reactions to selection procedures: An updated model and meta-analysis. Personality Psychology, 57, 639–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hennessy, J., Mabey, B., & Warr, P. (1998). Assessment center observation procedures: An experimental comparison of traditional, checklist and coding methods. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 6, 222–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hogan, R., Hogan, J., & Roberts, B. (1996). Personality measurement and employment decisions. American Psychologist, 51, 469–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hollenbeck, G. P. (1990). The past, present, and future of assessment centers. The Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, 28(2), 13–17.Google Scholar
  28. Howard, A. (1997). A reassessment of assessment centers: Challenges for the 21st century. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 12, 13–52.Google Scholar
  29. Hunter, J. E., & Hunter, R. F. (1984). Validity and utility of alternative predictors of job performance. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 72–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. International Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines. (2000). Guidelines and ethical considerations for assessment center operations. Public Personnel Management, 29, 315–332.Google Scholar
  31. Joiner, D. (2002). Assessment centers: What’s new? Public Personnel Management, 31, 179–185.Google Scholar
  32. Joiner, D. A. (2004). Assessment center trends: Assessment center issues and resulting trends. Paper presented at the 28th annual meeting of IPMAAC, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  33. Krause, D. E., & Gebert, D. (2003). A comparison of assessment center practices in organizations in German-speaking regions and the United States. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 11, 297–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krause, D. E., Gebert, D., & Thornton, G. C., III (2007). Interkulturelle Unterschiede in der Assessment Center Anwendung [Cross-cultural differences in the use of assessment centers]. In H. Schuler (Ed.), Assessment Center zur Potenzialanalyse (pp. 359–378). Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
  35. Krause, D. E., Kersting, M., Heggestad, E. D., & Thornton, G. C. (2006). Criterion validity of assessment centers and cognitive ability tests. An empirical study on the executive management level. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 14(4), 360–371.Google Scholar
  36. Krause, D. E., & Thornton III, G. C. (2004). Cultural values and assessment center practices in the Americas, Europe, and Asian Countries. Presentation at the 32nd International Congress on Assessment Center Methods, Las Vegas, NV.Google Scholar
  37. Krause, D. E., & Thornton III, G. C. (2007). The design, execution, and evaluation of selection versus development assessment centers—A study in north and central America, Asia, and Europe. Symposium paper presented at the 22nd annual conference for the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  38. Kudisch, J. D., Avis, J. M., Fallon, J. D., Thibodeaux III, H. F., Roberts, F. E., Rollier, T. J., & Rotolo, C. T. (1999). Benchmarking for success: A look at today’s assessment center practices worldwide. Paper presented at the 27th annual meeting of the International Congress on Assessment Center Methods, Orlando, FL.Google Scholar
  39. Lance, C. E., Lambert, T. A., Gewin, A. G., Lievens, F., & Conway, J. M. (2004). Revised estimates of dimension and exercise variance components in assessment center post exercise dimension ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 377–385.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Landy, F. J. (2005). Employment discrimination litigation: Behavioral, quantitative, and legal perspectives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  41. Lievens, F. (1999). Development of a simulated assessment center. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 15, 117–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lievens, F., & Conway, J. M. (2001). Dimension and exercise variance in assessment center scores: A large-scale evaluation of multitrait–multimethod studies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1202–1222.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Lievens, F., Harris, M. M., Van Keer, E., & Bisqueret, C. (2003). Predicting cross-cultural training performance: The validity of personality, cognitive ability, and dimensions measured by an assessment center and a behavioral description interview. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 476–489.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Lievens, F., & Thornton, G. C., III (2005). Assessment centers: Recent developments in practice and research. In A. Evers, N. Anderson, & O. Voskuijl (Eds.), The Blackwell handbook of personnel selection (pp. 243–264). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  45. Lind, E. A., & Tyler, T. R. (1988). The social psychology of procedural justice. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  46. London, M. (2003). Job feedback: Giving, seeking, and using feedback for performance improvement. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  47. Lovler, R., & Goldsmith, R. F. (2002). Cutting edge developments in assessment center technology. Paper presented at the 30th International Congress on Assessment Center Methods, Pittsburgh, PA.Google Scholar
  48. Lowry, P. E. (1996). A survey of assessment center process in the public sector. Public Personnel Management, 25, 307–322.Google Scholar
  49. Meehl, P. E. (1954). Clinical versus statistical prediction: A theoretical analysis and a review of the evidence. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Meyer, J. P., Stanley, D. J., Herscovich, L., & Topolnytsky, L. (2002). Affective, continuance, and normative commitment to the organization: A meta-analysis of antecedents, correlates and consequences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61, 20–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Page, B. T. (1995). Assessment center handbook. Longwood, FL: Gould.Google Scholar
  52. Reilly, R. R., Henry, S., & Smither, J. W. (1990). An examination of the effects of using behavior checklists on the construct validity of assessment center dimensions. Personnel Psychology, 43, 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rupp, D. E., Gibbons, A. M., Baldwin, A. M., Snyder, L. A., Spain, S. M., Woo, S. E., Brummel, B., Sims, C., & Kim, M.-J. (2006). An initial validation of developmental assessment centers as accurate assessments and effective training interventions. Psychologist-Manager Journal, 9, 171–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ryan, A. M., McFarland, L., Baron, H., & Page, R. (1999). An international look at selection practices: Nation and culture as explanations for variability in practice. Personnel Psychology, 52(2), 359–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Salgado, J. F., Viswesvaran, C., & Ones, D. S. (2001). Predictors used for personnel selection: An overview of constructs, methods, and techniques. In N. Anderson, D. S. Ones, H. K. Sinangil, & C. Viswesvaran (Eds.). Industrial, Work & Organizational Psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 165–199). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Shippmann, J. S., Ash, R. A., Battista, M. A., Carr, L., Eyde, L. D., Hesketh, B., et al. (2000). The practice of competency modeling. Personnel Psychology, 53, 703–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. (2003). Principles for the validation and use of personnel selection procedures (4th ed.). College Park, MD: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  58. Spychalski, A. C., Quinones, M. A., Gaugler, B. B., & Pohley, K. (1997). A survey of assessment center practices in organizations in the United States. Personnel Psychology, 50, 71–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tett, R. P., & Burnett, D. D. (2003). A personality trait-based interactionist model of job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 500–517.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Thibaut, J., & Walker, L. (1975). Procedural justice: A psychological analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  61. Thornton, G. C., III (1992). Assessment centers in human resource management. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  62. Thornton, G. C., III, & Byham, W. C. (1982). Assessment centers and managerial performance. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  63. Thornton, G. C., III, & Mueller-Hanson, R. (2004). Developing organizational simulations: A guide for practitioners and students. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  64. Thornton, G. C., III, Murphy, K. R., Everest, T. M., & Hoffman, C. C. (2000). Higher cost, lower validity and higher utility: Comparing the utilities of two tests that differ in validity, costs, and selectivity. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 8, 61–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thornton, G. C., III, & Rupp, D. E. (2005). Assessment centers in human resource management: Strategies for prediction, diagnosis, and development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  66. Tillema, H. H. (1998). Assessment of potential, from assessment centres to development centres. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 6, 185–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Trevino, L. K., Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1990). Understanding managers’ media choices: A symbolic interactionist perspective. In J. Fulk & C. Steinfield (Eds.), Organizations and communications technology (pp. 71–94). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  68. Trompenaars, A. (1993). Riding the waves of culture: Understanding diversity in global business. New York: Irwin.Google Scholar
  69. Tziner, A., & Dolan, S. (1982). Validity of an assessment center for identifying future female officers in the military. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 728–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tasha L. Eurich
    • 1
  • Diana E. Krause
    • 2
  • Konstantin Cigularov
    • 3
  • George C. ThorntonIII
    • 4
  1. 1.CH2M HILLEnglewoodUSA
  2. 2.Management and Organizational StudiesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  3. 3.Institute of PsychologyIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations