Cllr John Moss is a Councillor in Waltham Forest and a Campaign Manager at College Green Group.
The second stage of the new, two-part Parliamentary Candidate Assessment includes our old friend the group exercise, and introduces a new ‘hustings exercise’ to test speaking and answering questions, but also asking them.
The first stage of the assessment is entirely online, features a core competency interview and ‘inbox’ exercise, and lasts three hours. The first tranche of candidates are now progressing to the longer, second stage. This lasts six hours and involves two in-person exercises and two tests, taken on laptops at assessment centres in Leeds and London.
Candidates are being invited in groups of sixteen, with the group exercise being completed in groups of four and the hustings exercise in groups of eight.
We know the group exercise well. It is designed to test your ability to work with colleagues, recognise political reality and come to a common position which provides something for everyone. It is not about ‘winning’.
Candidates will be assigned one of four roles as an MP or a candidate for a seat with some particular characteristics, briefed to them beforehand. The different roles may include an MP sitting on a large majority, where the issue on which the team has to come to an agreed position may not affect many constituents, or a Conservative MP with a tiny majority in a seat won for the first time in the ‘Red Wall’ election of 2019, where the issue is incredibly important to voters, including first time Tory voters.
The scenario could be a flood, an announcement of a new road, or major regeneration project. It will be something with controversial aspects and it may be that you want to oppose it, or if it is a Government project, something you have to support. Recognising the circumstances of each constituency is important and giving way, if you have that luxury, to broader, more important political considerations will help you.
Making sensible suggestions and drafting a clear, concise and effective statement should be your goal. You have 45 minutes to complete this exercise.
The hustings exercise brings a little of Fifteen to One to the assessment. Taken in a group of eight in an informal, ‘coffee break’ setting, all candidates will be given a topic at the beginning of the day on which they are expected to prepare and deliver a five minute speech. Three of the other seven candidates will then ask questions. With eight candidates doing this, that means each person will get to speak, then answer three questions, then ask three questions as well.
We estimate this whole process will take about 90 minutes. Candidates will be assessed on their speeches and Q&A responses, and on the quality of the questions they ask as well. We advise clients not to be too aggressive with their questions, especially if an early speaker. It could come back and bite you.
Those being assessed will also take two further tests online. A psychometric test based on the Hogan Assessment process and a situational judgement test.
Hogan Assessments are used widely in recruitment but we understand this is being included simply to give pointers as to where candidates, if approved, may need to develop further skills. The Personality Inventory and Development Series tests include over 200 statements with which you are invited to agree strongly, agree, disagree or disagree strongly. They are something of yin and yang, including ‘inverse’ statements which test to see if you are trying to manage the impression you are giving.
There are lots of preparation sites out there which offer you dry runs. We can help you interpret the results.
The Motives, Values and Preferences Inventory offers you a central, neutral option as well. This test seeks to identify the core goals and values you have, together with the motives for your choices. We don’t advise over-practising for this test. This could just throw up a high score for ‘impression management’, which is something to avoid because it makes it look like you are trying to give the answer you think they want, rather than a genuine response.
The Situational Judgement Test lasts 30 minutes and you have to choose your most likely and least likely response from four options, from over 30 scenarios presented in a few sentences. That may not sound like a lot of time, but 45 seconds is plenty of time to read, consider and choose. Developing a ‘logic step’ approach to this test allows you to quickly identify the appropriate answer. It appears that whilst one choice may be obvious, we hear the second one may be less so.
We understand the first tranche of candidates completing both parts of the assessment will hear their results in April. We wonder if CCHQ might actually delay this until after the May elections to avoid any disappointed candidates losing their enthusiasm for campaigning. As to when selections for specific seats might start, that probably depends on the Parliamentary Boundary Review.