Self Assessment

Self-assessments are widely used, both online and in paper-and-pencil form. As with any diagnostic tool, there are some methodological framework conditions to consider when using it, as well as its usefulness in different diagnostic situations (selection vs. development).

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Self-assessments are an important tool in management diagnostics. They trigger a process of self-reflection in candidates that can be used in various ways:

  • To identify your own interests and inclinations

  • Comparison of self-assessments and external assessments

  • As a basis for a discussion between assessor and candidate, e.g. as part of the interview.

Self-assessments are an important tool in connection with personnel development measures (Development Center, career orientation). In selection situations (job application, selection assessment) their usefulness is limited, as they are strongly influenced by the tendency towards social desirability(impression management).

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Definition: What is self-assessment?

Self assessments are self-assessments. Everyone has an idea of what makes them unique, their abilities, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, their faults and idiosyncrasies. This ability to self-assess can be used diagnostically by asking candidates to assess themselves on the basis of predefined criteria.

Personality questionnaires are also based on self-assessments, but these are converted into test results that make the outcome more objective and comparable.

Basis and weaknesses of self-assessments

When you ask people for a self-assessment – especially in the context of management diagnostics – you trigger different processes in the candidate:

Graphic How do you evaluate your management skills
Self-assessment of management skills
  • Let’s take the example of the self-assessment of management skills: when asked to assess these, the first question is what is actually meant by “management skills”. This is the first weakness of a self-assessment: people have different ideas about what exactly “management skills” are.

  • Self-assessment then requires a comparison with other people. If someone has had the misfortune of only getting to know bad managers, they will rate themselves more highly here than someone who has been surrounded by very good role models.

  • The next step is to ask yourself how objectively and realistically you can assess yourself. Everyone has a certain tendency to self-deception, i.e. to see themselves more or less positively than is the case in reality. For example, 74% of German drivers consider themselves to be “above-average drivers” – which is statistically impossible.

  • Ultimately, the self-assessment is then overlaid by another aspect. A self-assessment not only signals how I see myself, but also to a certain extent how I would like others to see me. In other words, I anticipate the expectations of the evaluators; this is known as “impression management” or “deceiving others”.

Graphic Weaknesses of a Self Assessment
Weaknesses of the self-assessment

Self-assessment versus personality questionnaire

Personality questionnaires are often used in management diagnostics. Here, candidates answer a series of questions (for example: “There’s a lot of clutter around me“), whose answers (often based on a 5-point answer scale) are then compared with the answers of other people using a statistically complex algorithm and then calculated into certain personality dimensions (examples are the GDP or Big Five inventories).

Personality questionnaires are ultimately also based on self-assessments. It is therefore all the more astonishing that the results of personality questionnaires can predict behavioral tendencies and even external assessments surprisingly well – despite the tendency to self-deception in response to impression management described above.

This is also due to the fact that personality questionnaires usually have implemented mechanisms that can be used to determine how honestly someone has answered the questions.

It can be said that a questionnaire is a systematized form of self-assessment that is used to calculate personality traits on the basis of self-assessments.

Difference between self-assessment and assessment center

Self-assessments usually only play a subordinate role in the assessment center process. Tests, tasks and exercises are used to assess candidates at the assessment center. The assessment is predominantly based on objective performance data or observations of the candidates’ behavior and performance.

For the assessment of aptitude, i.e. diagnostics in the context of selection processes, these “objective” procedures are therefore preferred to subjective self-assessments, because in a selection situation the self-assessment is strongly subject to the tendency towards positive self-presentation.

In assessment centers that are not primarily concerned with selection (e.g. as part of an application or potential promotion), however, a self-assessment is justified. The aim of a development center is precisely self-reflection and individual support, where self-assessment is an important tool for promoting self-knowledge.

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Self Assessment

Self-assessment is an important tool for promoting self-knowledge.

When are self-assessments useful?

Self-assessments are particularly useful where they provide an aid to self-reflection and/or give the candidate additional help with self-assessment.

Realistic self-assessment

Self-knowledge is not only a declared goal of many religions and philosophers, but also an important success factor in the workplace. All people are subject to a certain degree of falsification in their assessment of their own abilities, knowledge and skills: some tend to overestimate themselves and their abilities (“Self Deception“), others tend to measure themselves against unreasonably high standards (“Self Criticism“). In the extreme, both tendencies are dysfunctional.

A realistic view of your own strengths, but also a critical view of areas of development and weaknesses, helps you to courageously tackle new topics (self-confidence), but also to work on yourself and want to improve(self-criticism).

Research shows that a balance of the two perspectives(self-confidence versus self-criticism) is a strong indicator of success for successful people.

Self-assessment examples

Self-assessment for professional orientation

Let’s take the example of a (fictitious) self-assessment for prospective trainees in a nursery. Similar to the example above, you could ask the interested parties for a self-assessment of their suitability for this job:

Self-assessment gardener

Such a self-assessment helps neither the budding gardeners nor the nursery looking for trainees.

This example is different:

Graphic How well qualified are you for the gardening profession Rating
Optimized self-assessment for gardeners

This form of self-assessment offers interested parties the opportunity to assess themselves on the basis of their previous experience and thus find out for themselves whether their interests and skills match the requirements of the gardening profession.

Self-assessment as part of management diagnostics

Self-assessments have a firm place in management diagnostics. On the one hand, the aim is to find out how realistically a candidate can assess themselves, as a strong correlation between self-assessment and external assessment is an important indicator of a realistic self-assessment. Here is an example of an excerpt from a self-assessment form:

Self-assessment form Management example (excerpt)

On the other hand, you can also use a different type of self-assessment, known as an “operant open-response procedure“. This means that, unlike in the previous example, neither the dimension (“convincing” etc.) nor the answer options (1 to 5) are specified, but the candidates are asked to describe themselves spontaneously in 20 sentences or terms, for example, without any further instructions:

Twenty Statements - Example of an operant, open-response self-description procedure

This type of self-assessment serves on the one hand for self-reflection and on the other hand as a basis for a joint discussion between candidate and assessor during the assessment, for example during the interview.

Types of self-assessments

  • Self-assessment as part of assessments to compare self-image and external image

  • Self-assessment to prepare for an assessment in order to make your own strengths and weaknesses clear, e.g. the online self-assessment

  • Self-assessment as an aid to self-reflection, e.g. for self-assessment when looking for a job that matches your interests and aptitudes

  • Self-assessment as the basis for an explorative self-description, e.g. as part of an explorative interview

Added value: What is the self-assessment for?

Self-reflection and self-awareness, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, are the most important prerequisites for improving your performance in any job. Because: your own person is the most important “tool of the trade” for many tasks. This is particularly true in management and leadership, because all the management and leadership techniques you learn only work if they authentically fit your own personality.

Self-assessment for employees

A self-assessment of the employee is a good basis for managers to enter into a development dialog with employees. This can be done in a structured form by asking the employee to assess themselves on the basis of the company-specific competency model, but also in an unstructured form (“Please write down your five greatest strengths and your five greatest weaknesses and areas for development!”).

The line manager then presents his or her point of view in a dialog and together they derive development areas and measures.

Online Self Assessments

Structured self-assessments (e.g. using a competency model) are often carried out online. This offers the opportunity to compare the self-assessment with the assessments of other people (employees, superiors, customers) (360° feedback).

If you feel like it and have some time, you can try out this online self-assessment yourself.

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Do you have any questions about self-assessment?

Self-assessment test in practice

How well self-assessments work in practice depends on various factors:

  1. How well are the dimensions of the self-assessment described? People find it easier to assess specific behaviors (“I am good at planning and organizing”) than global competencies (“I am a good manager”).

  2. The ability to describe oneself in a realistic and differentiated way, i.e. the degree of self-awareness.

  3. The willingness to communicate this differentiated self-assessment. In other words: how honest you are in a self-assessment. Particularly in selection situations (assessment centers), most people understandably tend to answer self-assessments “tactically” (i.e. positively, but not overly positively), i.e. to engage in active impression management.


Self-assessments are an important tool in management diagnostics, especially in the context of development-oriented diagnostic procedures. The underlying psychological process of self-reflection is an important skill for managers.