5 Tips for running an unforgettable graduate assessment centre

Posted by Sasha

Assessment centres have become a trusted screening tool for graduate recruiters, as they provide a credible opportunity to assess candidate competencies and values-fit with your organisation. But, it’s not just the candidates who are being tested.

In this candidate-driven market in the age of the ‘employer brand’, candidates are using assessment centres to gain a better understanding of your organisation, expectations of the role, workplace culture, and leadership-fit.

So, how can you make sure your assessment centres provide a five-star candidate experience?

What’s so great about assessment centres?

Late to the AC party?

The benefits of an unforgettable graduate assessment centre are three-fold;

  • You can create a positive experience that excites and engages candidates, connecting them with your brand and reducing the risk of reneged offers or rejections
  • You can showcase a powerful employer brand to aid future recruitment campaigns You can introduce candidates to key leaders, graduates, and HR reps and familiarise them with their workplace and role prior to commencement, for a more seamless transition

With so much value packed in waiting to be realised – we thought you’d want to get your hands on our ‘best practice’ tips for running an exceptional event.

How to provide a five-star candidate experience at your next assessment centre

1. Have a plan!

Nothing screams ‘employer of choice’ like a well planned and executed assessment centre. Grads will feel safe and comfortable in your environment if there’s clear communication, scheduling, and purpose. Everything you do on the day must have a reason and must be managed with aplomb.

So, what do you need from your assessment centre to accurately assess competence and values-alignment? Check out these ideas:

  • Group exercises (case studies and presentations)
  • Individual exercises (aptitude tests and written tests)
  • Interview (technical or competency)
  • Role play and simulation exercises

How to create a one-star experience: Run around like headless chickens, start late and run overtime, don’t tell candidates what’s going on throughout the day - AKA ‘winging it’.

2. Know which competencies, values, and traits you’re assessing (before you try assessing them)

Although we’re aiming for a five-star candidate experience, that doesn’t mean your assessment centre is all play no purpose! So, before you set up the coffee bar and arrange the bonbonnieres, make sure you’ve arranged the following:

  1. Predefined competencies (skills) and values against which you will be assessing candidates.
  2. Realistic simulations (role play / case studies) of the skills required for the role.
  3. Fair and unbiased assessment by using different assessors (role and non-role specific).
  4. Standardised recording of behaviour, for example score sheets and video.
  5. Getting all the assessors together at the end to consolidate scoring.

How to create a one-star experience: Ask irrelevant questions / irrelevant role play, share conflicting information at each stage / with each assessor, try assessing too many different role types in one session where the skills, knowledge, and experiences don’t align.

3. Invite the right people to help with assessment so you’re always “on brand”

Recruit former graduates, graduate managers, and your favourite employer brand ambassadors to help you manage your assessment centre. Your culture, values, and working environment are all on show to be assessed by candidates, so it’s important your helpers are an accurate reflection of life within your organisation.

Make sure you coach your helpers and assessors prior to your AC, so they understand their role, the position/s you’re filling, the graduate program, and the core competencies, values, and traits you’re seeking from candidates.

How to create a one-star experience: Tasking mundane Mindy Miseryguts with the welcome desk, using helpers who can’t answer questions about the graduate program, the role, or what to expect from the day.

4. Communication

Make sure you’re clearly and proactively communicating with your candidates in the lead up to the day, at the assessment centre, and immediately after. The more information they have about the venue, the schedule, and what to expect, the more comfortable they’ll be, the more they’ll relax, and the better they’ll perform.

BEFORE: We suggest sending them a short video in the invitation email with details about the day, and a quick message from the recruitment team, senior leader who’ll be attending, or even former grads to personalise the invitation and generate some buzz.

AFTER: To really stand out and make a positive impression – make sure you’re calling them with your offers within 24 hours.

Send everyone a follow up email to thank them for their time and ask for feedback.

How to create a one-star experience: Not providing clear instructions to arrive at the venue, not sending a helpful reminder, taking longer than 3 days to get back with an update or final outcome, not providing personalised feedback.

5. Put on a show!

If you really want to win hearts and earn that five-star review – use your imagination to come up with your ‘delighters’.

What can you do or say that will… …

make your candidates feel like they belong with you?

… put their mind at ease and feel comfortable in your presence so they can be their best without the stress of ‘being tested’?

… delight them by going above and beyond to show them a good time?

Could it be chamomile teas on arrival to relax them?

A snack break and coffee bar to sustain them?

A branded bonbonniere gifted upon departure to thank them for their time and energy?

Gestures as simple as remembering and referring to each by name and calling them within 24 hours with a promised update are enough to make any young graduate’s day.

How to create a one-star experience: Getting names wrong and not apologising for it, not showing compassion or appreciation for their experience, treating them like a number.

Ready for the perfect score?

The experience your candidates have during your assessment centre, before, and after, will enhance or tarnish your employer brand and their view of working with you. Ensure you have the right people with you, and that you’re sharing an unforgettable brand experience to earn that lucrative five-star review.

Are you getting ready to recruit? Get in touch with [email protected] to promote your next graduate opportunity with GradConnection.


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