Virtual assessment centres can add real value over a classical interview process in terms of cost-effectiveness, speed and the quality of candidate selection – but they’re not the go-to solution in every circumstance. They’re also not a quick fix. Processes have to be put in place. From the sourcing of the appropriate technology to the training of your hiring managers. These considerations are needed to ensure a centre can be set up quickly and at short notice during key moments of resourcing demand. This means that Talent Acquisition managers need to liaise closely with the business to decide whether they represent a strategic investment worth making – and to advocate for the role of assessment centres where they may be most beneficial. 

So, when do assessment centres work best? They really come into their own when you are expecting a high volume of applicants, need to recruit for a large number of similar roles, have to deliver new teams rapidly, or are opening a new site, be it a factory, store or office. Assessment centres can also add real value by enabling you to accurately assess candidates’ soft skills, rather than just concentrating on past experience and work achievements, which tend to be the focus during interviews. By giving a group of people identical tasks and allowing them to tackle those tasks in real time, it is easy to compare candidates more accurately, and to assess how they will actually perform the role you are hiring for. This makes for fairer, more objective decision making and higher performing new hires. 

Virtual assessment centres vs. In-person assessment centres 

Virtual assessment centres offer some key benefits over those held in person. They reduce the time spent by your hiring managers, as no travel is necessary. They can also increase the pool of people you can choose to act as assessors, as they can be located anywhere across your organisation. It’s an approach that can also increase the number of candidates who attend, as scheduling a virtual event is cheaper and less time consuming than attending in real life. In addition, if roles have a large element of video conferencing or customer service on phones, then a virtual hiring environment allows you to test key skills that will be used in the job more accurately.  

Choose and embed the systems, content and scoring that best suit your needs 

Technology that can facilitate the meeting of many people is vital - including functionality that allows for multiple breakout rooms and one-to-one interactions. Your technological solution should also be able to host the assessment documentation and include a user-friendly scoring system that can be accessed by multiple assessors.  

Begin by defining the types of tasks you will want candidates to perform, based on the key skills and behaviours you are looking for in your organisation. This will inform the exact functionality you need and allow you to pick the system and software that best suit your needs. 

Once the technology has been decided upon, and the tasks designed, training of your assessors is vital. They need to be comfortable with the functionality of the technology suite being used, from how to operate a breakout room they are running to exactly how the scoring system operates. In addition, they also need to understand exactly what each task is looking to assess, and how competence in each skill or behaviour is to be measured. 

Communicate with your candidates to sell the Assessment Centre 

Candidates can have misconceptions about being part of an assessment centre. Clearly laying out the benefits of the process and busting myths is key in order to boost attendance, deliver a good candidate experience and drive engagement with your employer brand. 

  • Make it clear how many people you are recruiting for. If people feel only one person from a centre will gain a role, it can be off putting. If several or all of the candidates could potentially be successful, say so.  
  • Communicate clearly that assessment centres are a common selection method for your organisation at all levels. (This is particularly important for more senior level roles, where candidates may be more familiar with an interview format.) 
  • Stress the many benefits of attending an assessment centre, including a shorter selection process, the chance to meet more contacts from the organisation and the opportunity to showcase a broad range of your skills.
  • Outline the steps of the assessment centre process, focusing on its speed and how quickly they will receive a result. 
  • Give an insight into the types of tasks the candidate can expect, so they can prepare themselves. 
  • Share the exact duration and time of the event. 

 A best practice checklist for virtual assessment centre events 

Make sure all participants have received logins and are able to test the platform at least 24 hours before the event. 

  • Ensure that all assessors and facilitators have company branded backgrounds. 
  • Make sure all descriptions of tasks are available to candidates and assessors in a written format. That way, you can minimise the risk of anyone misunderstanding what each task is aiming to test. 
  • If you are using breakout rooms to accommodate one-to-one or group exercises, make sure all the assessors are familiar with using this functionality.
  • Have a support person on standby, to deal with any technical issues that may occur and to answer any questions from candidates or assessors in the chat functionality.
  • To deliver the swiftest, most objective assessments, review sessions should be held straight after the assessment centre ends, and be based on the scoring logged at the event.  

At Cielo, we have extensive experience of providing illuminating advice to our clients on how to set up the processes and technology that deliver successful virtual assessment centres. What’s more, our end-to-end talent attraction services, including the building of engaging employer brands and the delivery of successful employee marketing campaigns mean we can help you develop a pipeline of high-quality talent to feed into those assessment centres.