Assessment Centres as a Theatrical Device

Florian Evers' case study, "Assessment Centres as a Theatrical Device", is one of the two main research areas of the subproject Corporate Theatre.

Even within the context of academic research on applied theatre, a theatre studies approach to the subject of the assessment centre appears to be a largely unexplored field.

For a considerable time now, theatre studies has been focusing on varieties of theatricality in everyday life and other media phenomena, thereby broadening its focus to sociological and psychological dimensions. It is very surprising, then, that a phenomenon like the assessment centre, which has received widespread attention in business studies and in commercial, industrial, and organizational psychology, and can be described not only in terms of theatricality, but actually as theatre – though not in the sense of Kantian "disinterested pleasure" – remains, despite a few exceptions, terra incognita in theatre studies.

At an assessment centre, applicants are evaluated for several hours or even days in improvised role-playing games, in order to determine not just their suitability for an advertised position, but also their compatibility with the culture of the respective company. These theatre situations are used to assess their assertiveness, their communication skills, and their capacities for teamwork.

These assessments raise important aesthetic, political, and ethical questions, which will be answered both theoretically and through participant observation:

What kind of subjectivity is required of an ideal candidate who excels in a role play? Does one hope to uncover an intrinsically authentic personality, a perfectly self-reflective self-presenter, or an actor who is highly adaptive in everyday life? Does this form of corporate theatre have a coherent aesthetic? The increasing displacement of pre-selection processes to virtual "assessment centres" –  known as recruitainment – also raises the question of whether the concept of gamification and the methodological approaches of game studies might be useful for analysing role play in an e-assessment context.

This project will seek to cooperate with multinational corporations over the course of its three-year duration.