Virtual Assessment Centres: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare



​COVID-19 has completely changed the way that employers are assessing candidates for their placement and internship schemes.

Enter... the virtual assessment centre.

A virtual assessment centre might sound daunting. But you'll be pleased to know that it's not that different from your standard assessment centre. This blog will cover:

  • What is a virtual assessment centre? 
  • How does a virtual assessment centre work?
  • How should I prepare for a virtual assessment centre?

What is a virtual assessment centre?

A virtual assessment centre is a way for employers to assess applicants through a series of tasks. And if you hadn't already worked it out, the 'virtual' part means the entire assessment is ran online. 

That means you won't need to visit the company offices, or meet any recruiter in-person.

Whilst the idea of a virtual assessment centre might be unnerving, it also means no student has to miss out on finding work experience with a top employer. And because most companies are already tech-oriented and have internal IT departments, it's never been easier to make the switch to online recruitment. 


You're probably wondering what a virtual assessment centre looks like. Here's the virtual assessment centre timetable from RateMyPlacement.co.uk Top Employer, Baker McKenzie.

Time

09:00 - 9:30

09:30 - 10:30

10:30 - 10:35

10:35 - 11:20

11:20 - 11:30

11:30 - 12:00

12:00 - 13:00

Session

Welcome by the Graduate Recruitment team

Group Exercise

Break

Associate Interview

Break

Case Study Preparation

Partner Interview


virtual assessment centre

How does a virtual assessment centre work?

There are lots of intricate components to running a virtual assessment centre that you should be aware of. That way there won't be any unwanted surprises before, on or after the day.

Just like the traditional in-person assessment centre, virtual assessment centres are designed to support you to be the best candidate you can be. If you consider yourself to have a disability or health condition, you can share this with your employer beforehand. Then they can make the necessary adjustments to ensure you can fully participate.

Before the day

When you receive an invitation to attend a virtual assessment centre, the employer will also send you a briefing email to ensure you are able to join smoothly on the day. So you may need to complete some admin tasks prior to your virtual assessment centre, such as:

  • Emailing a passport photo to the employer (or a document confirming your right to work).
  • Sending a headshot to the employer, so the recruitment team can identify you on the day.
  • Sharing your contact number with the employer in case of any connectivity issues on the day.
  • Downloading the software the employer will use during the assessment, and setting up your account. Popular programmes include Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.

You'll also be sent a full timetable of the day's tasks in advance, as well as instructions on how to prepare and any supporting material (e.g. case studies). Make sure you read this information thoroughly so you know what to expect.



On the day

There are lots of little logistical things you'll want to get right from the get-go. Here's a checklist:

  • Ensure your laptop or computer has a strong WiFi connection.
  • Run a quick test to check your microphone and webcam are working.
  • Plug your device into a charging socket. Running out of battery doesn't look professional.
  • Join via the invitation link 15 minutes early, so if you have any issues, you can resolve them. 

When you're ready to join the virtual assessment centre, click the URL in the invitation. You might then have to enter a meeting ID and password. You'll find these in your initial invite email. 

Once you've joined, you will automatically be placed in a virtual meeting room. From here, you'll be moved into the relevant rooms by a member of the recruitment team, according to the schedule already sent to you. Be patient and remain alert and responsive during this time.



How should I prepare for a virtual assessment centre?

We've teamed up with Baker McKenzie to answer some common students questions about virtual assessment centres. So sit down, buckle up and absorb all this advice to help you prepare. (Once you've done that, find out how to ace your video interview in just 10 minutes.)

Q1. What should I wear?

You should wear exactly what you would during an in-person assessment centre, i.e. smart and professional attire (unless you are told otherwise).

So put away your fave One-Direction tee. Save that for another day.

The recruiters running the assessment centre will be wearing headsets. You can too if it improves your audio.

Q2. Where should I sit?

The main thing is to sit somewhere you, or the recruiter e-working with you, won't be distracted. A quiet, clean and well-lit space will do. Hot-seat around your house to find the best spot - neutral backgrounds work best. Also, position your laptop where it is steady and fix your camera at eye level.

Decide on an appropriate location beforehand so you won't be constantly fretting about interruptions or dodgy camera angles. And this will mean all your focus will be on your performance. 

Q3. What if I lose internet connection during an assessment task?

You've done everything you can beforehand to ensure a good WiFi connection. But on the day you are disconnected from the internet. Don't freak out. These things happen.

It might seem like a living nightmare at first. But as long as you have a contingency plan in place, you can get past this. 

That might mean switching to a mobile device and using your mobile data, or even hot-spotting your laptop. If not, your employer may conduct tasks, where possible, via phone call. So make sure your mobile is fully charged and you have a number to call in case this happens.



Q. How can I show good body language via camera?

Body language is just as important in a virtual assessment centre as it is in-person. Make sure you are sat up straight in front of the camera. Avoid fidgeting or expressing your answers too much through hand movements. You're not playing Charades.

Good eye contact is also a must. But remember not to look at the recruiter via your screen. Instead, look directly at your webcam or camera. And a gentle reminder... it doesn't hurt to smile now and again. Try to look as though you are enjoying yourself!

Q. How can I prepare for the group task?

Group tasks are notoriously the most disliked part of the assessment centre. Simply because they require working with, rather than against, the competition. Your group will be given a scenario, and you'll have to work together, discussing the different routes that could be taken to come up with a solution.

Here are THREE top tips to help you shine in the group task:

  • Be the time keeper. You'll be set a specific amount of time to complete a task. Remind your peers at intervals of the time remaining. This shows good time management skills. 
  • Make sure you actively contribute to the discussion. Speak clearly and confidently. But this isn't a game of dominance - show you're a team player by asking others for their thoughts too.
  • Be an active listener. Whilst others are talking, don't use the time to think about your next point. Look directly at the camera, maintaining eye contact and nodding and smiling where appropriate. 

Q. Is a virtual assessment centre harder than it is in-person?

Whilst virtual assessment centres are run very differently (being online and all), the difficulty of the tasks does not vary between the two. As well as ensuring every task can be carried out online, the employer is there to offer you support throughout the process. 

Many companies that have already ran virtual assessment centres have reported their candidates averaging a higher score ratio than normal. And successful candidates have already received their placement or internship induction and started full-time remote working.


You're probably raring to go after reading all that.

Remember to prepare well, read everything and digest all the information the employer sends you in advance. And take a deep breath before getting stuck in!

Rumour has it, students are often surprised by how much they enjoy virtual assessment centres...




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