What remote assessment centres look like and how to prepare

Written by Zoë Mitton, the Regional University Partnerships Manager for FDM. She and her team work with around 33 universities in the North of the UK finding talented, tech-curious students. Over 1,000 students and recent graduates are recruited onto the FDM Graduate Programme each year into multiple streams including: robotics; development; test; and cyber security. More information and apply here.

Assessment Centres – horrible things, right?  Why would anyone put you through a full day of mixed activities, is it some form of torture?  Actually, as intimidating as they are, assessment centres do fulfil a really valuable function for graduate recruiters.  They are usually the point at which staff within the organisation you are applying to actually get to meet you in person, find out what you are like and have the opportunity to see how you perform.  So, what happens now that these are being delivered remotely?  What are the differences and how should you prepare?

Very likely there will have been several stages in the recruitment process before you actually get to an assessment centre.  If you have done this properly, then the pipeline should have gone something like this:

  • You hear about an exciting graduate scheme
  • You research the employer, maybe meet up with them on campus to find out more about their opportunities, the skills and experiences that they are looking for
  • You reflect – does this look to be an opportunity that you are suitable for, what could you bring?
  • Apply online, uploading your CV and other details
  • Depending on the recruiter, there may also be a telephone or video interview

If you are offered a place at an assessment centre then the recruiter already knows most of what they need to know about you. The AC is a chance for them to assess cultural and personality fit as much as anything else and this is no different with a remote assessment centre.

What may change is the type of activities that you will face on the day, where previously group exercises, role play and presentations were a focus, now it will likely be more about different types of tests, e.g. numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, set notation theory, personality – designed to test company fit, skills and aptitude; and virtual interviews with people working across the company.

Top Tips to impress at remote assessment centres:

  • Prepare thoroughly:
    • The company – what are their values, what is their mission statement, their CSR?  What really drives and motivates them (you can find pretty much all of this from their website but you can also try to meet any representatives on campus and take any opportunities to visit their offices).
    • The role – what does a typical day look like?  Read through the job description and imagine yourself doing what is described.  What skills and experiences are they looking for, is this you?
    • Yourself – how do you fit into the role and the company, what key attributes can you bring? (All companies know the benefits of their offer to you so focus instead on the positives that you can bring to them).
  • Understand what the day will look like – you will be sent some information, make sure you read it!  Also, take the opportunity to speak to your recruiter, their job is to prepare you for the assessment centre so make sure you ask them as many questions as you need to for you to feel confident in approaching the day.
  • Plan your environment – you will still be expected to wear business dress so think about your outfit as you would for a physical assessment centre, but also consider what the room behind you looks like.  Ideally, you will be seated in front of a plain background (not distracting for the interviewer) and will be in a calm, quiet space where you will not be interrupted.
  • Be actively engaged – use the software to show that you are engaged, e.g. by asking questions via a chat function; using ‘reaction’ tools to show that you ‘like’ something, or by clapping; and if you are on screen, using your body language show that you are engaged, e.g. by nodding or smiling at appropriate times.  It is hard for the people running the assessment centre because they, like you, will not be getting the same levels of interaction so you must work hard to show that you are involved and stand out.
  • Finally, relax – it may sound strange but, once you have prepared all you can, the best way to approach an assessment centre is to relax and enjoy it!  This will help your personality come through and give any potential employer the opportunity to see you at your best.

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