Personality Correlates of Assessment Center
Consensus Competency Ratings: Evidence
from Russia
Svetlana Simonenko*, George C. Thornton III**,
Alyssa M. Gibbons*** and Anna Kravtcova****
*DeTech Group, Moscow, Russia
**Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. george.thornton@colostate.eduЭтот адрес электронной почты защищен от спам-ботов. У вас должен быть включен JavaScript для просмотра.
***Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
****Saratov State University, Saratov, Russia
Controversy has revolved around whether assessment center ratings have construct validity to measure intended dimensions of managerial performance. In contrast to much recent
research on the internal structure of assessment center ratings, the present studies investigated the relationship of final competency ratings derived by consensus discussion with external questionnaire measures of personality characteristics. Expanding on previous studies
showing correlations of dimension scores in relation to individual trait measures, this study
investigated the relationship of complex competencies with both single personality traits
and with composites of personality traits. Evidence from two samples of managers in Russia
shows that final competency ratings are related to predicted composites of personality factors more consistently than to single factors. Taken together, these findings provide evidence that assessment center ratings derived by consensus discussion show construct validity
in relationship with predicted composites of personality characteristics.
1. Introduction
or the past 25 years, the only major criticism of the
assessment center (AC) method is that AC ratings
do not demonstrate construct validity to measure jobrelated performance dimensions. Whereas much of the
criticism is based on analyses of relationships of ratings
within the AC method, in the present studies, we
investigate the relationships of final AC competency ratings with external measures of theoretically related personality characteristics.
Most recent research on AC construct validity has
focused on the internal structure of assessors’ ratings,
and the question of whether ratings of performance dimensions compared across different exercises share
sufficient common variance to be considered meaningful constructs (Lance, 2008a, 2008b). That criticism has
been countered with reviews of supportive evidence
(Thornton, 2012; Thornton & Rupp, 2012). More recent studies continue to show construct validity in
post-exercise dimension ratings (PEDRs). Guenole,
Chernyshenko, Stark, Corkerill, and Drasgow (2011,
2012) found that when assessors are certified to understand and follow a common frame of reference
when assessing, meaningful variation in ratings is attributable to dimensions. In addition, research has shown
that dimension loadings from factor analyses of PEDRs
are equivalent across exercises, and thus it is meaningful to combine these ratings into across-exercise ratings (Guenole et al., 2012). Furthermore, Kuncel and
Sackett (2013) found that when PEDRs are aggregated across as few as three exercises, dimension variance dominates over exercise variance. In addition,
Putka and Hoffman (2012) found that PEDRs are a
complex function of agreement in ratings of the dimensions across assessors, a stable component across exercises and dimensions, and a situationally variable
component reflecting the combination of the assessee,
exercise, and dimension.
By contrast, there is now considerable consensus that
AC construct validity should not be established only, or
primarily, by treating dimensions and exercises within an
International Journal of Selection and Assessment Volume 27 Number 4 December 2013
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AC as if they were the ‘traits’ and ‘methods’ respectively in a multitrait–multimethod matrix (Arthur, Day, &
Woehr, 2008; Howard,1997, 2008). Although there is
value in studying the internal structure of within-AC ratings, such internal analyses are equivalent to studying
the items on a test. Item-level analyses provide information about how the items relate to one another, but
they provide limited information about whether the
items actually measure the intended construct. For that,
evidence from outside the test itself is needed: for example, evidence about how the test relates as predicted
to relevant criteria and to other related constructs
(American Educational Research Association, American
Psychological Association, & American Council on
Measurement in Education,1999; Society for Industrial
and Organizational Psychology, 2003), and how variations in test scores produce variation in outcomes
(Borsboom, Mellenbergh, & van Heerden, 2004).
Evidence that AC ratings predict outcome criteria
is quite extensive (Gaugler, Rosenthal, Thornton &
Bentson, 1987; Hardison & Sackett, 2004; Hermelin,
Lievens, & Robertson, 2007; Thornton & Byham,1982).
However, to paraphrase Sackett and Tuzinski (2001),
such overall predictive relationships indicate only that
ACs measuresome constructs that are relevant to success in organizations; they do not tell us whichconstructs. There is evidence that overall AC ratings are
not simply measures of general cognitive ability (Dayan,
Kasten, & Fox, 2002; Dilchert & Ones, (2009),
Goldstein, Yusko, Braverman, Smith, & Chung,1998;
Hardison, 2005; Krause, Kersting, Heggestad, &
Thornton, 2006), nor of broad personality traits such as
the Big Five (Dilchert & Ones, 2009; Goffin, Rothstein,
& Johnston,1996; Hardison, 2005). These sorts of evidence address potential alternative explanations of the
constructs underlying AC ratings; however, it tells us
what those constructs arenot, rather than what they
are. If we wish to be confident that AC ratings such as
leadership or communication truly reflect the candidate’s attributes on those dimensions, we must examine
the nomological nets of AC ratings. In light of the nature
of the competencies assessed in the ACs in the organizations in Russia yielding data for the present studies
(described in subsequent sections), it is particularly informative to investigate the construct validity of competency ratings in relation to personality characteristics.
Few studies have examined nomological nets of AC
final dimension ratings and personality traits. Most early
ACs used personality tests as an integral part of the assessment process (Thornton & Byham, 1982), but only
the authors of the Management Progress Study reported
the relationship of assessment ratings with personality
trait measures. Bray and Grant (1966) reported that
factor scores comprising sets of AC dimensions were
correlated with selected scales of personality questionnaires. For example, dominance on the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS) correlated with a
number of AC factor scores, for example, administrative
skills and interpersonal skills. The assessment of general
effectiveness, passivity, and dependency correlated with
general activity and ascendancy on the Guilford-Martin
Inventory of Factors (GAMIN). Bray, Campbell, and
Grant (1974) reported that dominance on the EPPS and
ascendancy on the GAMIN correlated with several factors in the assessments. In both reports, the preponderance of the correlations was trivial.
However, those studies do not provide independent
evidence of construct validity of assessors’ ratings because the personality information was a direct, integral
part of the consensus discussion in those ACs. Shore,
Thornton, and Shore (1990) did use personality measures that were independent of the AC ratings. They
classified AC dimensions broadly into ‘cognitive-style’
and ‘interpersonal-style’ and found that, as predicted,
cognitive-style dimensions were more strongly correlated with cognitive ability than were the interpersonalstyle dimensions, whereas the interpersonal-style
dimensions were more strongly related to personality.
For example, AC ratings of amount of participation
were correlated with16PF scales of shy-bold, and
submissive-dominant. Dilchert and Ones (2009) found
that AC ratings of problem solving were related to cognitive ability (r= .32), but minimally related to Big Five
personality traits. The opposite trend was observed for
dimensions such as drive, influencing others, and consideration of others, which were unrelated to cognitive
ability but more strongly related to the personality
traits. In a meta-analysis of 65 studies, Meriac and
Woehr (2012) found that three factors of AC dimensions correlated in different patterns with external
measures: administrative dimensions correlated more
strongly with general mental ability (GMA) than with
personality characteristics. In addition, GMA correlated
more strongly with administrative dimensions than with
interpersonal and activity dimensions. Furthermore, the
personality characteristic of extraversion correlated
more strongly with the activity dimension than with the
administrative dimension. Although these findings do
provide some support for the argument that dimension
ratings measure what they were intended to measure,
they are still quite broad.
More specific evidence of construct validity might include proposing and testing a nomological net for each
individual construct (competency) measured within the
AC. For example, if the AC measures leadership, examining personality characteristics (or other external variables) that are theoretically associated with leadership
would provide convergent evidence for the validity of
this particular competency. Linking personality to AC
competencies, however, raises important questions
about scope and breadth. Narrow measures of single
traits are widely believed to be more appropriate pre-408 Svetlana Simonenko, George C. Thornton III, Alyssa M. Gibbons and Anna Kravtcova
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 27 Number 4 December 2013
©2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
dictors of specific dimensions of job performance than
broad traits such as the Big Five (Hogan & Roberts,
1996). However, AC dimensions are typically more
complex than single personality trait measures; any
single trait may capture only part of the variance in a
complex competency such as leadership, leading to
relatively small correlations between traits and dimensions (Ones & Viswesvaran, 1996). Schneider, Hough,
and Dunnette (1996) recommend, instead, compiling
composites or constellations of multiple narrow traits
that are logically or empirically related to the performance dimension in question. Such composites of narrow traits can predict constructs of medium breadth
better than either individual scales or broader trait measures (Ashton,1998; Christiansen & Robie, 2011). Thus,
one appropriate comparison standard for AC dimensions consists of such personality composites.
In the present study, we sought to provide more specific evidence that individual competency ratings made in
ACs relate to externally assessed personality constructs
in nomological nets that are theoretically related
to each competency. Specifically, we examined final
competency ratings, derived by consensus discussion, in
two samples of managers in Russia. We then developed
and tested a set of more specific predictions about the
nomological net of each competency, considering convergent and discriminant relationships of the competencies with both narrow (i.e., individual traits) and broader
(i.e., composites of traits) indicators of external constructs. In the following sections, we provide context to
help the reader understand the competencies examined
in this study, describe the process we followed to identify a nomological net for each competency, and then
present our predictions and results for each of two
1.1. Societal context in Russia
The managerial competencies in the current studies
were chosen to reflect the needs of the Russian organizations in which the ACs operated. Some of these competencies may seem unfamiliar to readers accustomed
to ACs in Western Europe or the US, so a little background may be helpful. To provide a framework for understanding the competencies and the correlates we
studied, this section provides a description of the
emerging context of Russian society and organizations.
The competencies assessed in these ACs were chosen
because the organizations were facing special management challenges in a changing environment.
When a person moves from a totalitarian system and
welfare environment to one more driven by democracy
and market demands, culture shock is possible. The person’s habitual ways of thinking and acting may not work.
The cultural changes may influence demands on leadership and management.
The economy in Russia in recent years has been described as ‘a transitional economy’ (Grachev, Rogovsky,
& Rakitski, 2008). During the Soviet period, economic
policy and many businesses were controlled by the state
or a small group of individuals. Competition was suppressed and decision making was centralized. Starting in
the 1990s, privatization of state property and industry
occurred. New models of economic development
emerged, including new relationships between government and small and large organizations. Competition increased among Russian organizations and with foreign
Building on the earlier work of Hofstede (1980) and
House et al. (2004), Grachev et al. (2008) reported
Russian society to be low on assertiveness, emphasis
on performance, and orientation toward the future. Its
members strive to avoid uncertainty, rely on bureaucratic practices, and have high respect for authority
and privileges. It has become transformed from a collectivistic to a more individualistic society. Suggesting
additional changes in the future, scores on ‘should
be’ were higher than ‘as is’ on the following societal
culture scales: uncertainty avoidance, and orientations
toward performance, future, and the human condition.
Furthermore, the rating on the ‘should be’ rating
of power distance were considerably lower than the
‘as is’ rating. More recently, while McCarthy, Puffer,
and Darda (2010) found that the predominant leadership style of 130 entrepreneurs in the years
2003−2007 in Russia was somewhat like the transformational (vs. transactional) style becoming more prevalent in the US, Puffer and McCarthy (2011) found that
managers in Russian organizations tended to rely on
the more traditional Russian style of strong and authoritative leadership style, and reliance on informal
institutions and personal networks. Taken together,
these findings suggest Russian society and business
have gone through considerable transition in the recent past, and will likely undergo additional changes in
the future.
In the midst of this culture context, Simonenko and
Khrenov (2010) worked with a variety of Russian
organizations to develop leadership assessment and development programs. They formulated a list of the
managerial competencies determined to be important
in the Russian market. They compared this list with
standard competency models that had been developed
at different times in the United Kingdom based on national standards of leadership and management from
1998 to 2004. They found that, despite significant similarities between these models, there are differences in
the standards for success of a manager in Russia versus
the West. The main differences can be found in the
areas of interpersonal skills (e.g., communications skills,
building relationships) and individual traits (e.g., positive
thinking, self-development), which depend to a large
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extent on cultural specifics and the country’s socioeconomic development at the specific moment in time.
Table1shows the competencies, examples of their
subcompetencies, and behavioral descriptions developed
for one of the largest Russian petrochemical companies.
The termscompetency and dimension are often used
interchangeably in the AC literature, but they carry
somewhat different connotations. We use the term
competency to refer to a set of dimensions, each of
which is narrower and defined in more behavioral
terms. Competencies may be considered clusters of dimensions. For example, thoroughness of execution, a
competency, may be composed of, in part, the dimensions responsibility, achievement orientation, and organization. Thus, the nomological net of thoroughness of
execution may be related to the personality traits of
self-discipline and conscientiousness, among others. The
competencies examined in the current studies are
largely interpersonal and motivational in nature; thus it
was appropriate to study their nomological relationships
with personality characteristics.
In summary, the purpose of this research was to explore the relationship of competency ratings in ACs in a
set of Russian organizations in relationship with narrow
and broad personality characteristics. To the extent
that competencies are complex sets of performance
dimensions, it is expected that they will correlate with
different sets of personality characteristics. Several
approaches were taken to set forth our expectations
for the relationship of competencies assessed in the operational ACs studied here with individual and sets of
personality characteristics. We chose a widely used test
to measure personality traits.
2. Study1
2.1. Participants
Sample 1 consisted of archival data from 175 middle
managers who participated in developmental ACs in five
Russian and multinational organizations in the period
from 2007 to 2010. The industries of the organizations
in which the ACs took place included steel and mining
(N= 76), retail sales (N= 24), wireless network (N= 6),
candy making (N=21), and personal care products
(N= 48). All of the ACs in this study included the
15FQ+ personality assessment (Psytech International,
2010), so personality and competency information was
available for all participants.
In all of the ACs in the study, the client organizations
required all employees in second-level management positions to participate in the AC. All participants were
given developmental feedback, and the AC ratings were
used as input to succession planning processes in some
organizations. Thus, the participants represented the full
population of employees of interest to their organizations, and not a restricted group such as identified highpotentials or self-nominated volunteers.
2.2. Assessment centers
All ACs were operated by the same consulting firm and
shared a common pool of assessors. Table 2 lists the exercises and other assessment tools included in different
ACs. They consisted of at least three simulation exercises, a competency based interview, and psychometric
assessments including numerical and verbal ability tests
and a personality questionnaire. The following types of
simulation exercises were used: group discussion with
assigned roles, fact finding, role play, analytical presentation, and in tray. There was always a group discussion
and role play. Each competency was assessed with at
least two exercises.
All ACs were conducted by members of the same
pool of10 assessors consisting of six females and four
males. Specific subsets of assessors changed for different
ACs. All assessors were professionally trained consultants with at least 2 years of experience with the AC
Table1. Competencies, dimensions, and behavioral descriptions
Competency Subcompetencies/Dimensions Description
Leadership Objective setting, motivation,
Sets up and explains targets; delegates tasks and checks understanding;
motivates others
Thoroughness of
Responsibility, result
achievement, organization
Makes detailed plans to reach goals; makes hard decisions; shows
persistence; takes responsibility for his/her and staff performance.
Strategic vision Analysis, decision making,
commercial thinking
Looks at situation in wide context of company strategy; considers
long-term perspective; tries to increase profits
People development
and team building
Communication, partnership,
personnel development
Communicates with respect to individuals; actively listens; asks for
input and solves problems with others; gives feedback; holds
discussions and sessions devoted to development.
Openness to
Initiative, adaptation,
Quickly reacts to and adjusts to changing conditions; looks for ways to
improve; seeks to develop himself/herself.
Corporate spirit Loyalty, following rules,
understanding the company
Participates in and supports projects from the central office
410 Svetlana Simonenko, George C. Thornton III, Alyssa M. Gibbons and Anna Kravtcova
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 27 Number 4 December 2013
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The final ratings were given during group discussions
of all assessors in the integration session. A description
of the AC method as practiced in many countries can
be found in Thornton and Rupp (2006) and as practiced
in Russia in Simonenko and Khrenov (2010) and
Simonenko (2011).
Although the specific dimensions assessed in the individual ACs varied somewhat, they were combined
into a common framework using six broad competency
categories shown in Table1: leadership, thoroughness
of execution, strategic vision, people development and
team building, openness to changes, and corporate
spirit. The synthesis of the competency frameworks
was conducted by the first author, who oversaw all
five ACs and had extensive knowledge of Russian culture and leadership, the dimension definitions, and
underlying competency models. All competency
categories were present in all five ACs with the exception of people development, which was used in only
four ACs. However, some competency scores were
missing for some candidates because the competencies
from specific frameworks in some organizations did
not match the common categories listed above; these
results were excluded from the data analysis. For this
reason, the effective sample size for the analyses varies
across competencies (see Tables 5 and 6 for exact
sample sizes). Each candidate received an overall rating
between 1.0 and 3.5 for each competency category
aggregated across exercises, based on consensus
2.3. Personality measures
In addition to the simulation exercises, all 175 participants completed the 15FQ+ (Psytech International,
2010), a set of personality scales that are designed to
measure the16-factor model of personality proposed
by Cattell (1946). The measure consists of192 items,
with12 items for each of the16 bipolar factor scales.
See Table 3 for a list of factor names. The 15FQ+ is
widely used in international applications and has been
translated into numerous languages, including Russian
(Psytech International, 2010). All participants completed
an online Russian-language version of the measure,
which was scored using the publisher’s online scoring
system. As a result, the data available for analysis were
the participants’ sten scores, which are standardized
scores transformed to range from1to 10 with a mean
of 5.5 and a standard deviation of 2. Because raw item
responses were not available, we could not calculate the
reliability of the scales in this sample, but the reliability
of the factor scales has previously been reported as acceptable (Cronbach’sα= .72–.85; Psytech International,
Participants completed the 15FQ+ online within 1
week of their competency assessment in the AC. Most
completed the personality measures before the AC exercises, but due to scheduling constraints, a small number (fewer than10) completed them shortly afterwards.
Although some of the assessors had access to participants’ 15FQ+ scores for administrative purposes (e.g.,
ensuring that all data had been received), all assessors
were instructed to make their competency ratings solely
on the basis of performance in the simulation exercises.
Thus, the competency ratings were kept separate from
Table 2. Assessment methods in five Russian assessment centers
Simulation exercises Competency
based interview
n Group
76 Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
24 Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y
6Y Y Y Y N N Y Y 21 YNYY YY YY 48 Y N Y N Y N Y Y
n– number of delegates in the assessment centers.
Y – yes, the exercise was included in the assessment centers.
N – no, the exercise was not included in the assessment centers.
Table 3. Sixteen scales in the15FQ+
Distant Aloof – Empathic
Low Intellectance – High Intellectance
Affected by Feelings – Emotionally Stable
Accommodating – Dominant
Sober Serious – Enthusiastic
Expedient – Conscientious
Retiring – Socially-bold
Heard-headed – Tender-minded
Trusting –Suspicious
Concrete – Abstract
Direct – Restrained
Confident – Self-doubting
Conventional – Radical
Group-oriented – Self-sufficient
Informal – Self-disciplined
Composed – Tense-driven
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the personality measures, although it is possible that a
small amount of contamination may have occurred.
2.4. Predictions about competency–personality
To identify personality factors that were theoretically
related to each of the AC competencies, we solicited
input from a panel of four experienced assessors (one of
whom is the first author of this study). Each of these
judges had a minimum of 5 years experience in AC
consulting and a minimum of 2 years experience in
interpreting the 15FQ+. All had graduate training in psychology or related fields (two in social psychology; one
in industrial/organizational psychology; one in education)
and formal training in both AC methods and the15FQ+.
Further, all judges were involved in the administration of
the ACs that provided the data for this study. Thus,
they had considerable knowledge of both the 15FQ+
factors and the ways the competencies were
operationalized in these ACs.
Each judge began by independently recording his or
her individual predictions regarding (a) whether each of
the 15FQ+ factors was relevant to each competency
and, if so, (b) in which direction (i.e., which pole of the
15FQ+ scale should be positively related to the competency). The judges then met as a group to resolve disagreements about the remaining factor-competency
pairs by discussion. Disagreements among the judges’
initial predictions were present on fewer than 10ofthe
96 possible pairings; these were resolved by discussion.
The resulting consensus predictions are shown in
Table 4. These predictions formed the basis for all analyses in Study 1; competency-trait pairs for which a relationship was predicted were considered convergent
relationships and pairs for which no relationship was
predicted were considereddiscriminantrelationships.
3. Results
The relationships of competencies with individual personality scales will be presented and then the relationships of competencies with composites of personality
scales. A comparison of the two sets of analyses is then
Following the process of Shore et al. (1990), we
began by examining the correlations between the AC
competency ratings and individual factors of the15FQ+.
We calculated Pearson correlations between each competency and each personality factor, and then computed
the average correlations among theoretically related
(convergent) and theoretically unrelated (discriminant)
factors for each competency, based on the expert
judges’ predictions as described in Table 4. We present
these averaged convergent and discriminant correlations
in Table 5. (The far right column will be described in the
next section.) In general, the correlations between the
AC ratings and individual personality scales were small,
with an average ofr=.11. For four of the six dimensions, the average convergent relationships were larger
than the average discriminant relationships. However,
these differences were small, there was considerable
variability within the convergent and discriminant correlations, and there were several individual trait correlations in the opposite direction from what had been
The analyses above matched individual traits with
competencies that were arguably much broader and
more complex, and thus we correlated AC competencies with composites of personality measures. For example, the competency of leadership includes behaviors
such as setting goals and persuading others. Although
both of these sets of behaviors can be considered indicators of a broader leadership construct, they are quite
dissimilar, and might be related to different aspects of
personality. In fact, the judges identified eight of the16
15FQ+ traits as having potentially meaningful relationships with leadership, implying that leadership entails a
combination of multiple personality characteristics.
To allow a degree of complexity in the personality
measures that would be more similar to the complexity
of the competencies, we created a personality composTable 4. Study1predictions of personality characteristics related to competencies
Competency Personality characteristics
Leadership Distant Aloof –Empathetic
Retiring –Socially Bold
Accommodating –Dominant
Trusting– Suspicious
Sober Serious –Enthusiastic
Concrete– Abstract
Self-assured– Apprehensive
Expedient –Conscientious
Thoroughness of
Low –High Intellectance
Informal – Self-Disciplined
Expedient –Conscientious
Composed –Tense-Driven
Concrete– Abstract
Strategic vision Low –High Intellectance
Conventional –Radical
Concrete –Abstract
People development
and team building
Distant Aloof –Empathetic
Trusting– Suspicious
Group Oriented– Self-Sufficient
Openness to changes Low –High Intellectance
Conventional –Radical
Self-assured – Apprehensive
Informal – Self-Disciplined
Group Oriented– Self-Sufficient
Corporate spirit Expedient –Conscientious
Informal – Self-Disciplined
Group Oriented– Self-Sufficient
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International Journal of Selection and Assessment
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ite by summing participants’ scores on each of the traits
that the judges had predicted to be relevant to each
competency (cf. Christiansen & Robie, 2011; Schneider
et al.,1996). For example, the personality composite for
thoroughness of execution was comprised of the high
intellectance, conscientious, concrete, self-disciplined,
and tense-driven scores (cf. Table 4). It is important to
note that these composites are not thought to represent latent constructs; what the elements of each composite have ‘in common’ is that they are expected to
relate to the competency. Rather, the composites represent proposed personality profiles of high scorers on
each competency. That is, we expected that a person
who scores high on thoroughness of execution would
be high in intellectance, and would be conscientious,
concrete, self-disciplined, and tense-driven, regardless of
the correlations or lack thereof among these traits in
the general population. As our goal was not to create
orthogonal factors or composites, we allowed personality scales to be included in more than one composite if
they were relevant to more than one competency. For
example, high intellectance forms part of the composite
for thoroughness of execution, strategic vision, and
openness to changes because the judges identified it as
relevant to all three competencies. We used a simple
sum of the relevant personality scale scores to calculate
scores for each participant on each composite.
Table 6 presents the full matrix of convergent and
discriminant correlations among the competencies and
personality composites. The correlations between each
competency and its corresponding personality composite ranged from r=.13 to .35, and the correlations
between noncorresponding competencies and personality composites ranged fromr=−.05 to .37. On average, the convergent correlations (averager= .23) were
higher than the discriminant correlations (average
r=.15). There were three cases in which a competency correlated more highly with a personality
composite other than its intended correspondent,
namely strategic vision, thoroughness of execution, and
openness to changes. In the latter two cases, the differences were slight (i.e., r= .37 vs. .35 and .25 vs. .23).
In addition, the personality components of thoroughness of execution and openness to changes included
two of the same scales and were correlated highly
Table 5 shows the critical comparison in columns 3
and 5. For each AC competency, the correlation of the
composite is larger than the average correlation for
comparable individual personality traits. The average of
the former is .23, whereas the average of the latter is
.13. When these two sets of findings are considered
together, a contrast is apparent. The analyses of the
convergent and discriminant validity of AC ratings in
relation to individual personality traits suggest a lack of
construct validity. By contrast, the analyses of correlations of competencies with personality composites
show stronger construct validity.
Table 5. Study1. Correlations of assessment center competency ratings with averages of similar and different individual personality
traits and with composites of similar traits
Assessment center competency n Average convergent
Average discriminant
Composite of
comparable Traits
Leadership 162 .12.10 .25
Thoroughness of execution 158 .19.10 .35
Strategic vision 175 .16.13 .23
People development and team building 93 .07 .08 .13
Openness to changes 152 .11 .12 .23
Corporate spirit 167 .13.10.21
Overall average .13.10 .23
Table 6. Study1correlations among assessment center competency ratings and composites of personality characteristics
# Assessment center competency n Personality composite
1 23456
1 Leadership 162 .25* .03 .09 .15* .05 .05
2 Thoroughness of execution 158 .07 .35* .27* −.05 .37* .30*
3 Strategic vision 175 .02 .34* .23* .16* .35* .30*
4 People development and team building 93 .11 .11 .02 .13 .01 .01
5 Openness to changes 152 .13 .25* .19* .13 .23* .20*
6 Corporate spirit 167 .15* .17* .16* .06 .19* .21*
Bold type indicates predicted convergent validity coefficients, *p<.05.
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4. Study 2
To extend the findings, in Study 2, we examined data
from another sample, including 112 top managers from
one Russian company which is the leader of petrochemistry in Russia and Eastern Europe. The managers
participated in a developmental AC similar to those described in Study1, and completed the 15FQ+ personality test. Members of the same pool of assessors
conducted the ACs.
4.1. Predictions
As in Study1, the same team of judges made predictions
about the personality traits that were most relevant to
each competency (see Table 7). These new composites
were slightly different from those used in Study1because the underlying competency model for this client
organization differed in subtle, but important, ways from
the general competency framework of Study 1. The
competencies in Study1were broader, as they represented a synthesis of models across several organizations; the competency model in Study 2 was more
detailed and specific to a single organization. This increased specificity allowed us to link the scales of the
personality questionnaire with each behavioral indicator
of each competency in the framework. As a result, the
personality composites for Study 2 represented a more
precise match to the competencies as they were
operationalized within this particular AC.
5. Results
As in Study1, we again analyzed relationships of competency ratings with individual traits and then composites
of traits. The traits listed in Table 7 were expected to
show convergent relationships for that competency,
whereas traitsnotlisted here for a particular competency were expected to show discriminant relationships.
Table 8 shows the results for individual traits. The average convergent correlation was larger than the average
discriminant correlation (.17 vs. .07). This difference is
larger than the difference in Study 1, and is more
consistent across the AC competencies. Moreover,
compared to Study1, the average convergent correlation was larger (.17 vs. .13) and the average discriminant
correlation was smaller (.07 vs. .10). This pattern suggests better construct validity at the individual trait level
in these AC ratings in this individual organization than
was shown in the AC ratings from several organizations
in Study 1.
Table 9 shows the correlations of the personality
composites with the AC competency ratings. For every
competency, the correlation of the AC rating with the
comparable personality composite was larger than the
correlation with the other noncomparable components.
The pattern supporting construct validity is strongest
for people development and team building and corporate spirit. Moreover, when the convergent correlations
of the composites are compared to the average convergent correlations with individual traits (in the first and
last columns of Table 8), it is clear that the correlations
based on the composites are larger.
As in Study1, the two sets of analyses suggest different conclusions. While there is only a slight difference in
the convergent and discriminant correlations for individual traits (.17 vs. .07), and thus one might conclude
little construct validity, there is more evidence of construct validity in the correlations of AC competency ratings with composites of personality traits: convergent
correlations are considerably larger than discriminant
correlations. Finally, correlations with composites are
consistently larger than the average correlation with individual traits.
6. Discussion
These studies provide further evidence of the construct
validity of AC ratings. In two studies, ratings of complex
managerial competencies correlated with theoretically
Table 7. Study 2 predictions of personality characteristics related to competencies
Competency Personality characteristics
Leadership Accommodating –Dominant
Conventional –Radical
Sober Serious –Enthusiastic
Group-Oriented –Self-Sufficient
Trusting– Suspicious
Composed –Tense-Driven
Concrete– Abstract
Thoroughness of
Low –High Intellectance
Expedient –Conscientious
Accommodating –Dominant
Retiring –Socially Bold
Sober Serious– Enthusiastic
Strategic vision Low –High Intellectance
Trusting– Suspicious
Expedient– Conscientious
Concrete –Abstract
Hard-Headed– Tender-Minded
Conventional –Radical
People development
and team building
Distant Aloof –Empathetic
Direct –Restrained
Low –High Intellectance
Self-assured –Apprehensive
Trusting– Suspicious
Openness to changes Low –High Intellectance
Direct –Restrained
Expedient– Conscientious
Conventional –Radical
Hard-Headed– Tender-Minded
Corporate spirit Distant Aloof –Empathic
Informal – Self-Disciplined
Group Oriented– Self-Sufficient
414 Svetlana Simonenko, George C. Thornton III, Alyssa M. Gibbons and Anna Kravtcova
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
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©2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
related sets of personality characteristics. Whereas
competency ratings showed little evidence (Study1)or
moderate evidence (Study 2) of convergent versus discriminant correlations with individual personality traits,
by contrast, the competency ratings were correlated
with composites of personality traits, and the convergent correlations were consistently larger than the discriminant correlations.
Competencies showed different, and logical, patterns
of relationships with externally measured personality
traits. The results provide support for the contention
that the AC method can yield diagnosis of different
managerial competencies. Furthermore, three competencies related consistently with personality characteristics. In both samples, leadership was related to the
personality composites containing the traits of enthusiasm, trusting, and concrete thinking, Thoroughness of
execution was related to personality composites containing high intellectance and conscientiousness, and
corporate spirit was related to the personality composite containing group orientation and self-discipline.
Such information is both theoretically and practically
valuable. Theoretically, the evidence suggests that these
ACs are not measuring merely some generalized personality characteristic related to performance. Rather,
the ratings can provide assessments of distinct attributes
related in different ways to personality traits. These
findings extend evidence cited in the introduction that
AC ratings measure something other than general ability
and personality, and show which particular personality
traits underlie different AC ratings. The consistent relationships across the two studies provide information
about the personality constructs underlying leadership,
thoroughness of execution, and displaying a corporate
Practically, the evidence supports the use of the AC
method to provide diagnostic information about a
candidate’s strengths and weaknesses on specified performance constructs. Such information can then be
used to guide developmental follow-up interventions.
Furthermore, knowing the personality correlates of
competencies may be helpful when giving feedback to
persons who assess low on certain competencies. For
example, when coaching a candidate who assessed low
on leadership, it may help to anticipate that the candidate may be relatively sober-serious and suspicious,
and tend toward abstract, rather than concrete, thinking. The evidence may also help with placement of
individuals into organizational roles which suit personality profiles.
The results suggest that one must examine carefully
the nature and complexity of variables evaluated in AC
research, and thus the claims about what constructs are
actually measured by any AC. Historically, literature
about the AC method has referred to variables being
assessed asdimensions. In that context, dimensions have
typically been relatively specific attributes such as performance abilities (e.g., problem analysis), interpersonal
Table 8. Study 2 correlations of assessment center competency ratings with similar and different individual personality traits and
with composites of similar traits
Assessment center competency Average convergent
Average discriminant
of comparable
Leadership .10.10.31
Thoroughness of execution .16 .05 .30
Strategic vision .18 .08 .40
People development and team building .14 .05 .31
Openness to changes .16 .06 .38
Corporate spirit .27 .06 .42
Overall average .17 .07 .34
Table 9. Study 2 correlations among assessment center competency ratings and composites of personality characteristics
# Assessment center competency Personality composite
1 23 45 6
1 Leadership .31* .15.21* .07 .23* −.18
2 Thoroughness of execution .26* .30* .22* .21* .22* .00
3 Strategic vision .26* .19* .40* .23* .35* −.14
4 People development and team building .06 .01 .11 .31* .12.13
5 Openness to changes .17.10 .33* .17 .38* .02
6 Corporate spirit −.15 .02 −.07 .16 −.05 .42*
Bold type indicates predicted convergent validity coefficients, *p<.05.
AC Consensus Competency Ratings 415
©2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 27 Number 4 December 2013
styles (e.g., assertiveness), or intrapersonal motivations
(e.g., drive). One framework of six categories encompassing most dimensions is provided by Arthur, Day,
McNelly, and Edens (2003). More recently, the term
competency has been adopted in the human resource
management fields, but there is inconsistency in the
use of competency. It is used to refer to a wide
range of variables including human attributes and traits,
broad behavioral categories, and organizational aspirations such as customer service orientation. In the present study, competency was used to refer to sets of
Thus, when trying to integrate the literature on the
construct validity of ACs, one encounters an undifferentiated combination of studies investigating the underlying
variables assessed by assessors’ ratings. The present
study demonstrates that the evaluation of the construct
validity of complex competencies in relation to individual personality traits may not be an appropriate
methodology and may lead to faulty conclusions, namely
that the AC ratings do not have construct validity. By
contrast, comparing competency ratings in the AC with
composites of personality traits can provide evidence of
construct validity.
Some of the observed correlations were inconsistent
with predictions. Both low convergent and high discriminant correlations were found. For example, in
Study1people development and team building showed
low convergence, and in Study 2, openness to changes
showed low discriminant correlations. More development of theory about the breadth of dimensions and
competencies, and the relationship between these AC
constructs and personality traits is needed.
The results of these studies reinforce the value of
studying the construct validity of final assessment ratings
in relationship with evidence external to the AC in contrast with relationships among PEDRs. Final dimension
ratings are aggregations of observations of behavior
across assessors and across exercises; they may be derived by consensus discussion (as in the present ACs) or
by statistically combinations of PEDRs. In this approach,
using the terminology of the multitrait–multimethod matrix, ‘traits’ are represented by final dimensions, and
‘methods’ are represented by the AC and some other
distinct assessment technique (in the present study by
the personality questionnaire). This approach is quite
different from studies of only ratings internal to the AC
where the ‘methods’ are the simulation exercises and
the ‘traits’ are the ratings of a dimension in these exercises. The current study provides evidence of construct
correspondence of AC ratings external to the AC.
6.1. Limitations
Certain features of the current studies must be recognized when drawing conclusions. The components of
the competencies varied somewhat from company to
company in Study1. For example, the subcompetencies
and behavioral indicators of a competency such as leadership differed slightly from one to another. While this
reflects a lack of standardization, the variation suggests
the results may have been even stronger if there was
more consistency in definitions of the competencies,
and then in the specification of personality correlates, as
was done in Study 2.
This study investigated the average correlation of
competency ratings with narrow personality scores in
comparison with the correlation of the competency ratings with personality composites. A parallel analysis that
might be probative in future research would be to study
the average correlation between traditional dimensions
and narrow personality scores in comparison with the
average correlation between narrow dimensions and
personality composites. Such an analysis was not possible here because assessors made ratings only on the
six competencies. Guidance in rating the competencies
was provided by consideration of the components and
indicators of the competencies, that is, the dimensions,
subcompetencies, and behavioral descriptions shown in
There may be some undecipherable amount of confounding of knowledge of personality test scores with
the final consensus AC ratings on the competencies.
Some of the candidates took the online personality
questionnaire prior to participation in the simulation exercises, but others did not do so until later. Some of the
personality questionnaire results were available to some
assessors, but not all assessors knew the meaning of the
trait labels or test scores; furthermore, many assessors
were not trained to interpret the personality profiles. In
actual application, the personality scores were used consistently only in the process of giving feedback to
candidates. The extent of confounding of personality
scores and assessment ratings is probably considerably
less that in ACs where reporting of scores is an integral
part of the consensus discussion as was done in most
early ACs, and is common in recent developmental ACs
(Povah, 2011).
Another distinguishing feature of these ACs is that
the assessors were experienced consultants. The results may not generalize to other ACs where assessors
are higher level managers in the organizations and may
have considerably less AC experience. On the other
hand, the results of the present study are consistent
with other studies showing construct validity of ratings
provided by experienced consultants familiar with the
competency model employed in the ACs (Guenole
et al., 2011). Certainly, it is quite common for assessors to be experienced consultants (Hughes, Riley,
Shalfrooshan, Gibbons, & Thornton, 2012; Povah,
2011), and thus the current findings are informative for
416 Svetlana Simonenko, George C. Thornton III, Alyssa M. Gibbons and Anna Kravtcova
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
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©2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
The ACs studied here employed the dimension-based
AC model. Two other models have been articulated in
recent years, namely task-based ACs, and mixed model
ACs (Jackson, Lance, & Hoffman, 2012). The method
employed in the present research might be used to provide construct validity evidence of ratings emanating
from ACs following other models. To be sure, there is
evidence supporting the contention that variance in AC
ratings is a function of factors other than dimensions.
The purpose of the present research is not to investigate the relative size of dimension effects or task effects, nor to advocate the implementation of one
approach. Rather, the research explores the construct
validity of AC ratings derived from dimension based
ACs using the process of consensus discussion.
7. Conclusions
These studies reflect the strengths and weaknesses of
field research into the AC method. They involved a
unique set of data from multiple real ACs in real organizations in a country, namely Russia, heretofore not
studied and quite different from Western Europe or the
US. While some methodological features are not as
standardized and ‘clean’ as one might desire, the findings
are still consistent enough to allow meaningful tentative
conclusions. Final AC ratings of complex managerial
competencies showed construct validity in relationship
with personality characteristics.
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