A group of students in a workshop

5 tips to successfully conduct assessment centres

At Uptree, we recognise the importance of nurturing young people and supporting them when searching for different career pathways. Oftentimes, young people are faced with assessment centres that as a process helps identify the most promising candidates attending.

According to insights from Harvard Business Review, many traditional interview processes are flawed. These processes often rely on brief interactions and subjective judgements, leading to potential biases and inaccuracies in candidate assessment. These flaws in the traditional interview approach can sometimes be pronounced when evaluating young candidates during assessment centres.

In this blog, we will provide you with tips on conducting effective assessment centres in order to unlock student potential and establish a pipeline of future leaders for your organisation.

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Objectives and accessibility

In order for employers to conduct a successful assessment centre, they need to commence by establishing clear and well-defined objectives. What are the outcomes you aim to achieve through this process? Are you seeking potential interns, apprentices or future employees? Are you evaluating soft skills, technical competencies or a combination of both? It’s imperative to have a precise understanding of your goals as this will shape every aspect of your assessment centre, from exercise selection to evaluation criteria.

Another crucial aspect of running an assessment centre is making accessibility a priority in order to provide every candidate with an equal chance to excel. On the day of the event, you can designate an accessibility liaison, offer materials in accessible formats and ensure a sensory-friendly setting.

Design student-friendly exercises

The subsequent step is crafting exercises and activities that resonate with young people aged 16-21. These exercises should be engaging, relevant and closely aligned with your objectives.

Consider incorporating group activities, problem-solving tasks and role-play scenarios that represent real workplace situations. Importantly, these exercises should be age-appropriate and designed not to overwhelm the participants. Please bear in mind that the primary objective is to assess their potential and readiness.

Here are some suggestions for various activities you can introduce:

Gamification elements: employers can introduce gamification elements into the process by creating a competitive, yet fun, atmosphere by incorporating games or quizzes related to your industry or company culture. This will help candidates relax and showcase their abilities in a more calm setting.

Simulation of real-world challenges: create an assessment exercise that mirrors challenges that your organisation faces. For example, if you are in the healthcare industry, you can simulate a healthcare crisis and observe how candidates respond under pressure and uncertainty. This will demonstrate their ability to handle high-stress situations.

Future focused scenarios: present scenarios that challenge candidates to envision the future of your industry or company. Ask them to articulate their ideas and strategies for navigating potential challenges and opportunities. This not only evaluates their foresights and critical thinking but also their ability to align with your organisation’s long-term goals.

Foster a supportive environment

Recognise that students in that age group might be undergoing their first professional evaluation. Creating a supportive and inclusive environment is of a great importance to put them at ease.

You can begin the day with a warm welcome and an introduction to the assessors. Encourage young people to ask questions and seek clarification as needed. Assessors should be friendly, ready to provide assistance and offer guidance when needed. Providing a nurturing atmosphere can significantly contribute to them performing at their best and showcasing their true potential.

Here are some suggestions for fostering a supportive environment:

Well-being focus: highlight your organisation’s commitment to employee well-being. You can share some information about employee support programmes and initiatives that demonstrate your concern for the holistic development of young talent.

Self-reflection: encourage self-reflection after each assessment activity. Provide young people with the opportunity to share what they learned from each experience and how they plan to apply it in future.

Reverse assessment approach

This is an innovative approach that encourages candidates to assess the company or the role they are applying for. It involves giving young people the opportunity to evaluate the organisation from their perspective and share feedback on various aspects.

Here is an elaboration on how this approach can be implemented effectively:

Candidate-centred approach: reverse assessment places candidate’s experience and perspective at the forefront of the evaluation process. It can be seen as a departure from the traditional one-sided interview where candidates are solely being evaluated. Instead, it fosters a more balanced and candidate-centric interaction.

Feedback on the recruitment process: invite candidates to provide feedback on their entire recruitment journey, from the initial application process to the assessment centre experience. Their insights can reveal potential pain points or areas for improvement in your recruitment procedures.

Company culture assessment: this is very self-explanatory. Encourage candidates to assess the company’s culture and values. This open dialogue will help young people gauge whether they see themselves thriving in the company’s environment.

One of the benefits of this process is that it fosters a two-way relationship where candidates and the organisation engage in a meaningful dialogue. This is especially important when targeting younger talent who seek employers that value their input and actively engage with them.

Evaluate soft skills

Technical skills undoubtedly play a vital role in assessing young people, however it is equally critical to recognise the importance of soft skills as they encompass a wide array of interpersonal and personal attributes. Assessing qualities such as communication, teamwork, adaptability and problem solving is essential.

Incorporate exercises that enable students to demonstrate these skills in action. You can consider scenarios that necessitate collaboration, decision making and effective communication. These soft skills often form the foundation of successful careers and merit careful evaluation.

Suggested activity:

Leadership assessment: if leadership potential is a focus, have candidates take turns leading a group discussion or task. Observe their ability to guide the group, delegate responsibilities and foster collaboration.

Conducting assessment centres is an investment in your organisation’s future. By diligently applying these five strategies and tailoring your approach for this age group, you can effectively identify and nurture young talent with the potential to evolve into the next generation of leaders. However, it is crucial to bear in mind that assessment centres are not just about evaluating candidates, they also present an opportunity to inspire, guide and empower young individuals as they embark on their professional journey.

For further insights, contact the team to discuss how we could support your company’s career education initiatives.

By Uptree
Published on: Tue 19 Sep 2023

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