If you had asked me at the end of last year, if I expected the 2020/21 Student Recruitment cycle to be characterised by Virtual Assessment Centres, I would have been adamant that such a shift was still some distance out. Today, however, as referenced in my last blog, virtual recruiting is being adopted at pace. Feedback gathered from the ISE on Virtual Assessment Centres is reporting little detrimental impact on candidates and some unexpected standout benefits. A significant number of organisations, our clients included, have already tried and tested this approach and we are certainly seeing an increased interest and implementation of our Virtual Assessment centre platform, Impact.
So, if you are contemplating a similar move, here are some key things to keep in mind based on our experience to date:
- The best way to tell if someone can do the job is to get them to do the job. Therefore Virtual Assessment Centres are most appropriate for roles that can be properly replicated in a virtual environment (e.g. whilst we’re about to design a Virtual AC for Bar Tenders, once this crisis is over we will recommend that the mixology assessment reverts to a physical event as unfortunately humans aren’t yet augmented enough to be able to taste cocktails over the internet). That does include the vast majority of roles these days though.
- You will need to think about Reasonable Adjustments to ensure that, by virtualising your Assessment Centres, you don’t unintentionally discriminate against people with disabilities. If you are following the advice in the point above, this should be relatively straight forward as you will just need to make the adjustment that you would make in a real work environment. Often, it actually make things easier for disabled applicants if they are using their own soft and hardware as opposed to using equipment provided and not having to travel.
- Virtual Assessment Centres via Amberjack’s product (Impact) can cover multiple streams and multiple locations all at one time, so if you are making the shift, it’s worth being bold to maximise the benefit.
- If you are going to virtualise your assessment centre/final stage assessment, you need to invest even more heavily in the assessment materials and their accompanying assets. If you are losing the face-to-face interaction, the materials need to sell your proposition and give a similar level of insight to the candidates. Invest a significant portion of your anticipated year 1 cost savings to ensure that you deliver the best possible experience.
- You also need to ensure that this doesn’t appear to be a cost-cutting exercise to candidates or it could impact your brand. It also helps to clearly communicate why you are taking such an approach and sell the benefits to the candidate (increased flexibility, great pace and efficiency, enhanced insight, realistic representation of typical working practices etc).
- Whilst we have already spent a lot of time exploring the increased virtualisation of life, applicants are still likely to want to meet people face-to-face and experience the physical working environment before they accept offers. Clearly this is challenging with the current restrictions, but as these are lifted, it is worthwhile considering “Offer Acceptance Days”. These events designed purely for people who have entirely met your benchmark (so are worth the investment!), where you can really bring your proposition to life, introduce offered candidates to each other and help people make a fully informed decision about your offer.
- Technology-enablement does not remove all requirement for recruiter support. Whilst the vast majority of candidates (typically 90-95%) will be able to move through a fully virtual process with no recruiter support, 5-10% of applicants will require support. If you have high volumes of applicants, this is still going to place a significant load on your team. Do not underestimate this or assume that your team will be entirely free of admin/support burden.
- Provide candidate support materials: on your website, via your Applicant Tracking System/email ahead of Assessment Centre and through Careers Services/School Careers Advisors. Whilst your virtual events are likely to be positively received, helping people know how to prepare and what to expect will ensure that you see the best in your applicants and don’t end up with false negatives (rejecting great candidates who were nervous/ill-prepared).
- Accept that you are going to need to refresh your assessment materials on a more regular basis. Historically materials have been valid for up to 5 years so long as there haven’t been material changes in the success profile. More recently, with mobiles and increased sharing, that has probably reduced to 3 years. With virtual assessments, it is wise to set aside budget for significant tweaks each year. It is also sensible to consider having multiple variations of your assessment materials so that candidates won’t know for sure in advance which assessments they will be facing; for example, by creating parallel versions of assessments for Unilever we were able to create 125 different combinations that all delivered predictively equivalent experiences. Whilst Impact is going to have some very cutting-edge anti-cheating functionality next year to compliment the new way in which it is being used, the reality is that virtual assessment materials are more vulnerable to sharing than physical materials and it is best to recognise and plan for that eventuality.
Hopefully this gives those of you implementing for the first time some insight and practical suggestions on what to consider.
Good luck with season planning!