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Career Talk, Part 3: Assessment center performance

In my previous two columns, we discussed how to identify warning signs on your career path and how to start your search for a new position. If you re heading into the phase of initial assessment, being prepared is the key to optimal performance, which affects your potential for being interviewed and, eventually, being hired.

In most cases, two components you should anticipate when going through a hiring process are an assessment center and a job interview. Many organizations are now using an assessment center that incorporates several exercises to assist them in the evaluation of each candidate s performance. In this article, we focus on the assessment center aspect of the hiring process and offer tips on how to effectively prepare for this step.

An assessment center involves a number of exercises (or stations) designed to test a candidate s skills and knowledge as they relate to the position within an organization. Each exercise is designed to evaluate a specific area of the job duties for the open position and measure the candidate s skills, knowledge and abilities related to those job duties.

With multiple exercises, the evaluation of a candidate s performance is not based on just one score. A candidate s performance on each exercise is measured by a predetermined rating system, and candidates are then ranked on the basis of their overall scores. Candidates should keep this in mind: If they don t perform well on one exercise, their evaluation is based not on just one exercise but on their overall performance during the entire assessment.

The exercises are not designed to trick anyone into having a poor performance. But, in some cases, they are stressful by design. Try to approach each exercise as an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and use your experience of working in EMS to clearly show how you would perform in a similarly stressful situation on the job.

For the most part, assessment center exercises are like the practical examinations taken to receive your EMS certification. You should be prepared to demonstrate any patient care skill and show proficiency in your level of training and certification, including the performance of such basic skills as CPR, the use of an AED and oxygen delivery. In addition, you should be able to give oral reports and effectively write a patient care report.

Advanced providers should be prepared to interpret ECGs (including 12-lead ECGs), perform a mega code scenario, provide treatment for medical and trauma patients, list the most common EMS medications and their proper doses, demonstrate airway techniques and also be prepared to demonstrate any of the basic skills listed above.

An area covered by some assessment centers that may not be emphasized during training is customer service. The role of the EMS provider is increasingly more about providing support than treatment, and organizations are beginning to look at how a candidate deals with the people they come in contact with on the job. Assessments related to how to approach patients in stressful situations are usually done as role-play exercises.

During role play, a candidate acts as an EMS provider with a person from the organization assuming the role of a customer, usually a patient. The candidate must competently evaluate patient issues as presented and demonstrate their ability to interact and deal with a possibly upset or disagreeable customer. Clear communication in a calm and focused manner is the key to successfully completing such exercises.

Finally, you should be aware that your conduct during the entireassessment center is being evaluated, from the time you show up to the time you leave the parking lot. You should be respectful and polite to everyone you meet; candidates who are rude or abrupt with the staff or other candidates are not likely to be given much consideration.

In addition to being on your best behavior, make sure to dress appropriately; don t wear your current uniform or dress too casually. Your performance at the assessment center is an opportunity to demonstrate how you would fit into the organization and contribute to its success. During the process, if you feel you ve made a mistake or two, don t get upset. No one ever scores 100 percent. The key is to demonstrate a positive attitude.

In my next column, we ll talk about the interview process.

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