Individual-focused Assessment tools in Competency Mapping

Before analyzing the different types of assessment tools used in competency mapping, let us first define what an assessment is. Assessment refers to a process of gathering information using a combination of tools or methods to arrive at some assumption about the characteristics and behavior of the person being assessed. Assessment does not refer to psychological testing. Psychological testing is just a part in the complex process of assessment.

In the process of competency mapping, assessment tools are used as a technique to provide some measure about the candidate.

To arrive at an objective and accurate result, it is necessary to use assessment tools that are standardized, reliable and valid, that is, the tools have high psychometric properties. The tools used, may differ in nature – some maybe more structured than the others – because of the approach used to assess and gather information about the person being assessed.

Assessment centers make use of a battery of tools to get a comprehensive, well-substantiated result. These assessment tools may be individual-focused or group-focused. The various types of individual-focused assessment tools used in Competency Mapping are as follows:

  1. Written exercises. If the job incumbent needs to perform any written work, then a simulation of that is given to the candidate which is to be completed by him. This helps to gauge the extent to which the potential candidate is competent to complete written work on the job. The following are the most widely used written exercises.
    • In-tray: This exercise simulates the typical pile of papers that might challenge the job incumbent on a given day. The “In-tray” can also include simulated e-mails. The participant is asked to respond the way the he/she would typically respond in a real-situation. This exercise typically measures competencies such as planning and prioritizing, written communication, thinking and problem solving, and demonstrating accountability.
    • Analytical exercises: In this written exercise, participants are engaged in an analytical task such as an issue which the candidate. They need to analyze and write about the situation. This exercise highlights the cognitive competency of the candidate.
    • Interactive exercises: In this written exercise, the participants are required to give a written component of the interaction. For instance, they may be asked to write the outcome of a group discussion. Such an exercise highlights the cognitive competencies and removes ambiguity.
  2. Case studies. A case study is a report or a record on a particular event or situation. Such a tool typically measures the competency to analyze complex data and issues, seek solutions, project planning and present findings. For instance, a case study on a release of a new product can be assigned to a job incumbent for the role of project managers.
  3. Presentations. Through this assessment method, candidates are given a particular topic and are asked to develop content and present on that topic. The content can be developed as “pre-work” or on the spot as part of the assessment. Presentations can be a useful method of assessing technical knowledge, relationship and result-oriented competencies, along with communication skills. There may be separate technical knowledge assessments to assess technical skills and knowledge of the candidate.
  4. One-to-one exercises. These exercises are role-play based. The candidate majorly plays the role which entails fact-finding, decision-making, or negotiation. The choice of setting and roles depends on the job role. For instance, managers may be asked to provide feedback to a marketing department staff member.
  5. Fact-finding exercises. This exercise highlights research-oriented competencies of a person. The exercise includes research and retrieval of information on a given subject.
  6. Work sample. It is one of the most involved assessment center exercise. It is a method that determines the proportion of time spent by the candidate on various activities. This method involves the candidate working on a specific task for about one to three hours followed by an interview by the assessors. The way the candidate handles the work sample is a key to understanding his or her stress tolerance, approach to work and other task-related competencies.
  7. Vignettes. In this method, video-vignettes can be used. The vignettes present participants with video-taped consistent situations to which the candidate responds orally. Vignettes are a form of situational testing.
  8. Psychological tests and inventories. These include psychometric tests, personality inventories, attitude measures, and ability tests to obtain an objective measure of the candidates’ psychological attributes.
A single method or a combination of these tools may be used for competency mapping assessment. Before starting, the competency framework should identify the objectives of the framework, and the objectives of the assessment centers. Based on the context, one needs to decide which individual-focused assessment tool is to be chosen. It is advisable to choose an exercise with a suitable psychological test and inventory in order to substantiate the results and make it more objective and accurate.