Earlier this year I gathered over 40 early careers professionals together to share plans and learn from each other on taking assessment centres online.

When I repeated the session, I found that they're going very well with no detrimental impact on candidates or assessment opportunities, and there are clearly some standout benefits.

Here are key learnings from Deloitte, Capgemini, Civil Service Fast Stream and RSM UK:

  • Warm-up: Graduates and school leavers are not as familiar with digital conversations and the technology, and that may put them on edge and affect their confidence. A top tip is to organise icebreakers that make sure candidates are talking to each other and are warmed up before group sessions.
  • Levelling effect: On the flip side, it was also observed that the technology may have a levelling affect. Some target groups who are not as confident in a face-to-face environment (for example, the lobby waiting area pre-assessment centre) may be less intimidated in a virtual pre-session space.
  • Good behaviour: All in all candidates are adapting and behaving well online. Everyone has been courteous in letting each other speak and raising their hands physically or with icons to interject.
  • Limited impact of technology on attendance: One company has had 100% attendance in virtual assessment centres versus 90% at face-to-face sessions normally. There was only one example of a candidate who lost connection and the group had to wait until they re-joined, which did not affect the flow of the exercises sufficiently to cause concern. However, some candidates had declined attendance with another organisation citing challenges in getting a suitable environment for an assessment conversation.
  • Integration with applicant tracking systems: In all cases free software has been used to manage this overnight need to convert in person assessment into virtual assessment. One painful downside is that these systems, whilst quick to set up, do not feed into applicant tracking systems meaning there is extra administration scheduling interviews and group sessions, organising data collection from assessors, and GDPR concerns about data management. There are tools out there, Affinix for example, that eliminate this issue and match the free tools in terms of ease and accessibility. 
  • Accessibility: An example was shared where the technology did not adversely affect an individual with a significant sight related disability. This candidate had a support person with them reading the materials and enabling the candidate to take part in the virtual assessment centre to the same degree as the other participants.
  • Timing can be challenging: There were a couple of instances where candidates popped up in rooms too early. This was put down to teething issues around the schedule. This was felt to be something that could be ironed out next time.
  • Longevity: We discussed whether virtual assessment centres are here to stay:- The virtual setting for work experience/insight days didn't make a difference in getting to know the individuals. Therefore this may remain in the future.- High attendance means that this is absolutely worth considering for the future to avoid missing out on vital talent.- Virtual assessment centres mean that budget saved on travel and expenses can be diverted into keeping candidates warm and providing a personalised introduction to the company.- Digital means there is less time drained on assessors and managing resources. This provides the basis for a good business case. - We should recognise that experiencing the office environment is a significant factor in candidates deciding which offers to take. However, it was felt that feeling personally valued, known, and the potential to have a future at the company are more important, and these are possible to achieve virtually. 

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