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May 22, 2020, by Leah Sharpe

How to prepare for virtual assessment centres

By Christian Jameson-Warren, Employability Education Projects Officer

As part of their response to the COVID-19 situation, many graduate employers have moved their recruitment activities more online, including assessment centres.

Online (otherwise known as ‘virtual’) assessment centres involve completing a series of activities virtually where the employer will assess your performance against their criteria. These activities can include interviews, in-tray exercises, group work and presentations, as well as taking part in other activities such as listening to a presentation by the employer.

How to prepare

Exactly how best to prepare, of course, depends on the activities you will be doing. For example, if there is a presentation by company employees, do your research on the company and the role to think of good questions you can ask at the end of this.

Take a look at our website to learn more about specific activities, or use Sonru to do a practice video interview and get more comfortable speaking on screen.

Dealing with online anxiety

If you are anxious about doing activities completely online – don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Firstly, focus on all the simple things you can control, such as ensuring you have a quiet, uninterrupted place to do the activities, and having professional interview clothes ready. Simple activities, like tidying the space you’ll be using, can be good for channelling nervous energy while helping you get some initial momentum in your preparation.

Secondly, focus on the ‘foundation’ steps that you would do normally instead of adding extra pressure with thoughts such as ‘how am I going to stand out from other people?’. My personal observations are that success in the recruitment process is largely down to getting these foundations properly in place during your preparation – it’s nothing revolutionary or secret, and anyone can do it.

For example, if there is an interview, on a basic level, be very clear about why you want to do the role and work for that company, your strengths relevant to the job, have well-structured examples of how you meet the criteria they are asking for, areas you want to improve on, and have some good questions to ask at the end. In addition, always have an answer prepared for ‘tell us about yourself and why you’re applying for the job?’ as many interviews start with a variation of this question.

Thirdly, try to be specific about your worries. This will help you find actions you can do to address these individually, rather than being stuck with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety or dread.

For example, there is a group activity and you are worried about not being able to get properly involved, so have a look at our page on assessment centre group exercises and follow the link to Belbin. From here you’ll be able to see where your strengths are in group work, and then can identify how you can use these strengths in the activity. Then, for example, you might get involved in some social group video chats (e.g. Zoom) to get more practised and comfortable at talking in groups online.

Adjustments in the process

If you have a disability(s) and feel that participating in activities online puts you at a disadvantage for any reason, you may want to consider asking the employer to make adjustments that will allow you to perform at your best. While you don’t need to go into detail about the nature of your disability(s), it can be advantageous to tell the employer what adjustments you would need rather than assuming they’ll know. You can speak to us if you need help with this.

Talk to a member of our team if you need help with this before you speak to the employer.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareers AdviceDisabilityInterviews