Preparing for and succeeding in an online assessment centre

Posted in: Advice, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints

In the wake of the Corona Virus, we have become aware some graduate recruiters are moving away from inviting candidates to a physical assessment centre. Recruiters are using tools such as Skype and Microsoft teams whereas others are using Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate a typical work environment.

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Understandably, being told that you are going to participate in an online assessment centre can be anxiety inducing. However, it is worth remembering the employer’s objective is the same – they want the best candidate for the job. In fact, some argue, that an online assessment centre is a more accurate reflection of the future world of work and the ability to participate in virtual group discussions with colleagues across the globe is part and parcel of 21st century.

At an online assessment centre, you can expect group discussions, individual activities as well as 1:1 interview. Make sure you read through the information the employer sends before the assessment centre, so you know what to expect. Don’t hesitate to contact the HR team with questions or if you require any adjustments.

In Careers, we have written a comprehensive guide to Interviews and Assessment Centres, the advice in the guide is applicable to a physical or virtual selection day. However, you may also find the tips below helpful:

  1. Test the tech: technology is a friend and foe. Make sure you test your internet connection, sound and camera ahead of the big day. Consider recording yourself and play back the video (don’t worry, everyone cringes at the sound of their own voice) to ensure the room is right, there is adequate lighting and that your voice doesn’t echo. We recommend the use of headphones as they’ll minimise noise and help you focus.
  2. Dress the part: treat an online assessment centre in the same way you would if you were attending in person. This will also help you get into the right frame of mind. Remember the interviewer and other candidates will be able to see everything, so avoid wearing anything that will divert from what you are saying.
  3. Eliminate distractions: some online assessment centres can last for the best part of the day, therefore make sure you are in a space where you won’t be disturbed. Pop a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door and make sure your phone is turned off, so you aren’t tempted to look at any notifications.
  4. Keep essentials to hand: make sure you have your charger, a notepad along with a glass of water nearby.
  5. Create a cheat sheet: the beauty of an online assessment centre is you can have key notes and prompts to hand. For example, pin the key skills you want to articulate on a wall behind your PC or laptop or a reminder to make sure you smile, this simple gesture can go a long way to building rapport.

Inevitably, your communication style will need adjusting particularly in how you handle group discussions. Consider the advice below:

  1. Start off strong: practice how you’ll introduce yourself. You can start off with something like, “Hello, this is [your name], thank you for the opportunity to attend this assessment centre. Speak slowly and be mindful of your body language. Remember to look at the camera and not yourself.
  2. Lean into the pauses: technology brings with it all sorts of awkward social moments – delayed or overlapping responses being one of them. So, don’t be afraid of moments of silence. If you can’t hear your interviewer or the other candidates, wait a second or two after they finish talking and politely ask them to repeat what they were saying.
  3. Stay present: Speak clearly and make regular, considered, well-articulated contributions. Demonstrate you can collaborate by listening well, showing an understanding of others’ ideas by responding or referring back to earlier comment. Assessors can only mark you on what you say, so if you don’t contribute much, it will be hard to score well.
  4. Listen to instructions: our instinct is to rush in and get started with the activities. It may be helpful to listen to and jot down instructions such as the amount of time allocated to a particular task and the key things, they want you to work on. Taking time to structure and clarify your thoughts will ensure you have a plan of action.
  5. Anticipate glitches: tech is never 100% glitch proof, so accept that there is a very real possibility that things will go wrong from the video freezing to losing sound. Whilst most of the issues will hopefully resolve themselves if the problems persist show the employer you can deal with the unexpected. Try not to swear – you don’t know how much they can hear and follow the tech support instructions they given you.

Good luck and remember the key to success is proper preparation!

Posted in: Advice, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints


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