The world has gone digital, and that includes the assessments you may be asked to take as part of a recruitment process. Here’s what to expect…

Assessment centres have long been a key part of the graduate recruitment process, allowing employers to assess multiple candidates quickly and efficiently. The pandemic has moved the goalposts though, forcing more companies to move their in-person assessment days online.

A face-to-face assessment can be nerve-racking at the best of times, and going digital may simply add another layer of worry. But it doesn’t need to be a cause for concern, especially if you know what to expect. Here’s a quick overview.

How do virtual assessment centres work?

Honestly, they tend to be fairly similar to a traditional assessment day in terms of the tasks and activities they include. They commonly consist of a mixture of information sessions, group and individual exercises such as role-playing or case study sessions, and one-on-one or panel interviews. For example, law firm Baker McKenzie has revealed that it uses a group exercise, two one-on-one interviews and a case study session. Like an in-person assessment centre, it also includes breaks throughout.

In some cases, companies may adapt their exercises to fit the virtual format. This might mean that group exercises will have fewer participants than before, or that they’ll be scrapped altogether in favour of a longer one-on-one interview. In the interview, employers can then ask questions about the skills they’d normally assess during a group exercise, such as teamwork, communication and leadership.

What do they look like in practice?

Companies may use video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Teams or Google Meet to conduct their virtual assessment centre, or a specially designed assessment platform. You’ll be told beforehand what to expect and given login information or asked to download the correct software. Different activities may take place in different virtual “meeting rooms”, so it’s important you pay attention to any instructions you’re given before and on the day. But don’t worry, there will usually be a member of staff on the call to guide you in the right direction.

Depending on how many activities are planned, the entire experience will usually take around two to four hours, which is notably shorter than in-person assessment centres, which can last an entire day.

What should I expect in the run-up to the day?

Aside from login instructions, you’ll usually be sent a timetable, contact details for the recruitment team, a list of what to prepare and, in some cases, a specific dress code. A description of the different tasks you’ll face is also commonly provided, along with an explanation of the skills they’ll be looking for and tips on how to perform well.

It goes without saying that you should read all of these carefully. Employers may also require you to send photo ID so they’ll be able to verify who you are on the day. While virtual assessment centres can be nerve-racking, there’s nothing to fear with the right level of preparation. So, prepare like you would for any assessment day: do your research on the company and the role, be prepared to talk about yourself and answer questions, familiarise yourself with the tasks you will face and make sure you practise.

One top tip: pick a quiet, well-lit and uncluttered place to sit, and fine-tune your technical set-up, including checking your internet speed, camera and microphone to ensure they’re all up to scratch. Last but not least, pre-empt any technical difficulties by having your phone close to hand as an alternative way to connect. Those few extra preparatory steps could make all the difference.

This is an edited extract from IMI’s MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.

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