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Participants' Q&A

Question: What should I expect in a management audit?
Answer: You will typically be given comprehensive information about the purpose and contents of the process beforehand as well as about any required or recommended preparation and about the use of the results (Who will receive the report? What will the results be used for?) etc. Generally, you can expect most projects to use a dedicated //requirements profile // or //model of competence// in a sequence of appraisal modules: frequently, these include semi-structured //interviews//, a //case study// designed to match strategic or operational challenges, //practical simulations// set in the scenario of the case study, testing the communicational/interactive element (e.g. presentation exercises and/or a simulated leadership incident/meeting with an employee). The procedure will end with interim feedback about the main observations and impressions. You will typically receive a comprehensive report, which can be used in a later, practice-oriented feedback review at the company. In this review, other appraisal elements (e.g. 360° feedback conducted before, at the same time, or after the procedure) will be considered and concrete development activities or ideas for your on-boarding process will be discussed.

Question: How can I prepare most effectively for a management audit?
Answer: It is possible to prepare by using what has become a large body of literature on the subject. Nothing speaks against this, not least since a more detailed insight into what you can expect will be a source of confidence and reassurance for you. However, there is a danger of losing sight of the essential purpose as a result of such preparation. Other risks can arise when you discuss the process with colleagues who might have gone through a similar process: there is the natural problem of them speaking about aspects that might not be relevant for you and that might bias you in some form. It is a common occurrence that a person’s experience and perception of the entire method will be coloured by how he or she experienced and performed in that one specific process. People who consider themselves successful participants might tend to make the process and its challenges appear even more demanding than is the case, whereas people who were less happy with their performance might also overemphasize the difficulty of the process. The best way to prepare is to revisit your own professional and personal background, your unique development, and your professional ambitions. If you then even have the time to think about some basic relevant questions about your career and possibly discuss your insights with a trusted friend, you will normally have had the best possible preparation (“What are the sources of my success? Why did I achieve what I achieved? What do I still want to achieve? How do I differ from other people? What do people appreciate about me? How did I develop over the last (ten) years? Etc.). It emphatically does not make sense to prepare for the typical case studies or interpersonal simulations that are used in such procedures! The danger of channelling too much attention on the potentially incorrect assumptions about what the observers expect is too large. Simply try to behave in the same way that you would use in similar situations in your real life. This gives the observers a near-authentic vision of your personality and helps them reach a valid assessment and rating, which will be of benefit for you. In the end, it makes sense to see the management appraisal as an opportunity to show yourself how you really are. Remember that you have something to give to the company and – if this takes place as part of an application – that you are an equal partner of the recruiters in the process of getting to know each other.

Question: The few hours of a typical management audit are not enough to get to know a person and experienced manager in his or her entire complexity. How can you justify such an approach?
Answer: A half-day or full-day procedure indeed does not suffice to cover a person in his or her entire and complex personality. We can assume that an entire life would not be enough. Nonetheless, it makes sense to invest some more effort than “only” considering past performance or conducting haphazard interviews when it comes to mitigating the risks of important staffing decisions (poor appointments are often not only a nuisance for both sides, but costly for the employer and of existential importance for employees). Anticipating relevant future tasks and duties (that might not have played much of a role in your career to date) in the simulation exercises of a management appraisal opens up more perspectives to shore up the decision-making process for all parties concerned and minimize the risks of a flawed decision.

Question: My track record of successes and experience should be sufficient proof of my capabilities. Why should I be required to take part in a procedure that seems more suited to school leavers?
Answer: An intensive, discursive exploration of your biography indeed reveals many relevant aspects of competence. Nonetheless, research has proven repeatedly that the additional use of other appraisal techniques leads to a more comprehensive impression that can reduce the risks of a poor decision.

Question: Are assessment procedures methodologically valid? There are many critical voices.
Answer: Assessment centres are not standard, patented procedures. There are good and bad providers. One can assume that the multi-modal approach that should be used in such procedures will produce the most meaningful and valid results that exceed the validity of individual procedures. A word of caution: the many indiscriminate procedures available in the market that promise to produce more useful results with much less effort should be treated with more than a pinch of salt.

Question: Will I be informed about the results of the audit? Which results will the client receive and which will I be given?
Answer: It is standard practice to give the participant first, admittedly “sketchy” feedback at the end of the procedure, which concentrates on the immediate strengths and weaknesses or opportunities and risks and his or her unique success factors and needs for development. In most projects, a comprehensive report will be drawn up after the end of the audit. This report will include a profile of your results, a detailed summary of the observations, a comparison of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as recommendations for HR development or on-boarding (often distinguishing by “autodidactic study”, “training”, “coaching”, and “supervisor’s support”). Some projects also ask for a shorter management summary (often in the form of so-called one-pagers for the busy reader). These will include the same statements that are given in the long reports, only expressed in a more condensed format. Frequently, additional information of relevance for the client’s management and the decision-making process are also included. For instance, aggregate portfolios for all or multiple candidates are collated from the individual reports. The personal data of other candidates can, of course, not be disclosed to the participants.