How have assessment centres fared during the pandemic? Gradconsult reveals all.

Mar 16, 2021 | Selection & assessment | 0 comments

As we start planning for the 2021/22 season we still face huge uncertainty. As such, we felt the time was right to explore and debate one of the most common features of the student recruitment assessment landscape – assessment centres – and whether they remain effective in a dramatically altered environment.

I was joined in the ISE Webinar by Rowena Bach (Peoplescout), Ben Williams (STEN10), Hannah Whelan (Fujitsu) and Kerry Blondell (Capgemini), with our intent to prompt thought, questions assumptions and share insight.

We started by asking attendees where they stand on assessment centres, with a generally positive view held by many student recruiters, but over a third reflecting indifference or a desire to change the status quo.

Here are some of the most thought-provoking ideas from the debate:

  • Many of us have ambitious D&I drivers – put simply if we want to get a dramatically different result we need to start doing things dramatically differently! If we don’t take this opportunity to make radical or brave changes, when will we?
  • Whilst we are achieving comparable hiring outcomes from digital assessment centres the true predictive validity (predicting how good our hires will actually be at the job) won’t be known for some time. Ben Williams highlighted some PhD research currently underway to explore this issue.
  • Candidate experience and attendance rates are being reported as comparable, or favourable, currently for digital assessment centres v face-to-face. But will that hold up as the student job market improves? Those of us who have recruited students through previous recessions know applicants are always much more polite and well behaved during a downturn!
  • Is it going to be appropriate or valid to use digital assessments in environments like healthcare, manufacturing, retail or logistics where the reality of the work remains face-to-face? Conversely for sectors like professional services, where digital working is likely to become the norm, would face-to-face assessment centres be less valid?
  • There could be adverse impact going on with digital assessments that we are, as yet, unaware of. For example some candidates who wear a full or partial face veil have reported concerns about being able to perform at their optimum in a digital environment – are there people self-selecting out of applying for digital processes that we don’t know about?
  • Why do we subject our early career applicants to such lengthy, complex and robust assessment when more senior hires are rarely made as rigorously? Is that right (ethically or in terms of the business case)?
  • Do those students with greater social and digital currency/capital gain significant advantages in this type of format? The consensus was probably yes – look out for some forthcoming Handshake research on ‘NETpotism’!
  • Hannah (Fujitsu) and Kerry (Capgemini) both felt some form of hybrid approach to assessment is likely to be their approach for next year. But this raises questions, if we move back to a final face-to-face interview for example, about building significant bias back into the process at a key stage.
  • We cannot make assumptions that because we are delivering assessment centres digitally candidates will feel more comfortable at home, or this will be an engine for improved D&I. For a wide range of reasons this may not in fact be the case.
  • As, when and if some employers start to shift back to face-to-face assessments, will this give them an advantage over their competitors (through a more personalised, human experience)? If so, will that accelerate a return to face-to-face across the market?

To conclude, what are employers plans for next year? It’s a mixed picture with nearly a quarter telling us they are yet to decide.

But one thing was clear – whilst assessment centres are evolving, they are certainly not dead yet!

Watch the webinar Are assessment centres dead?

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