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Shaping the virtual assessment world

Mark Mitchell, Head of University Partnerships with GTI, spoke on Thursday,March 25th at the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) virtual conference on the'new normal' of assessment centres.

01 / 04 / 2021Mark Mitchell


From a GTI perspective, the past 12 months have been particularly interesting in terms of virtual assessment. When it comes to data, our research consultancy Cibyl asked students for their views on all things relating to assessments, hiring and the world of work. Despite the growth in popularity and usage of virtual assessment tools, students' preference remains face to face, as demonstrated in the results of the UK Graduate Survey, which were collated during the last three months of 2020. 40% of respondents favoured real-life assessment centres, with only 8% opting for virtual alternatives when asked for their preference in terms of assessment methods. Despite their challenges, students also value a return to face-to-face interviews, with 60% of students identifying these as their preferred method to showcase their skills and talents.

But, as with much student research, there is real value in the nuances that we discovered when we compared qualitative feedback with quantitative feedback. In terms of the latter, it is clear that real-life settings remain the preference for students. Still, in qualitative terms, students' feedback after they actually took part in a virtual assessment centre was very positive. The employer response, generally speaking, has also been very positive, and there are enough indicators to suggest - with a good degree of confidence, that virtual assessment centres are likely to form a key part of the graduate recruitment landscape into the future.

So, pandemic or no pandemic, virtual assessment is here to stay, it is just the scale of it that is in question. Undoubtedly, technology has allowed companies to remain agile, function remotely and hire and onboard during one of the most challenging times in recent history. At GTI, we have run virtual assessment centres at scale on behalf of and in partnership with employers, helping them create and organise engaging and effective virtual assessment experiences for students.

The platform we developed is called TARGETconnect for Employers, and it's used by some great graduate and apprenticeship recruitment teams. I'm also delighted to say that it has been recognised by industry, by being shortlisted in the Innovation of the Year category for Recruitment Technology at the 2021 Recruiter Awards. We are not in this for the medals, but external validation is always welcome as it reinforces the effectiveness of our approach.

Interestingly, and what really helped us in terms of student engagement with the new platform, was the familiarity that students already had with the TARGETconnect interface, having used it already to source jobs and graduate schemes.

The third area that has provided us with experience over the past year when it comes to virtual assessment centres is the rollout of the Career Discovery Feed to our TARGETconnect platform, which many universities use to help support their students with their development and when honing and showcasing their skills. One of the great strengths of TARGETconnect is its agility, and an example of this is the virtual assessment centre learning pathway that we recently developed with Trinity College Dublin. The purpose of this was to construct a scalable, self-serve model that would help students to prepare for actual virtual assessment centres. This is an excellent benefit to universities, as face-to-face preparation is resource-intensive and can never reach all the students that may require this sort of assistance. I particularly value the Trinity project because it harnesses so many of the platform's resources. Obviously, it delivers our technology but it also includes great advisory content and links to psychometric testing. It also harnesses our recruitment team's expertise. We also integrated Shortlist.Me through our partner programme and in-platform employer content using the recruiter zones.

So, what does this mean for the student? In terms of the practice virtual assessment centre, they start at the recruiter zone, which showcases lots of employer content, insider advice on key employability skills, guidance on tackling assessment centres and psychometric tests – along with plenty more advice, including through video content.

They then progress to a practice area, where they can trial psychometric tests and other types of assessments commonly used by employers. We also worked up a case study exercise with Shortlist.Me to demonstrate to students what assessors are looking for at assessment centres, advice which would apply to both real-life and virtual settings. Students can then participate in a mock assessment in a range of activities, which they can access at any time.

Through our research, the development of virtual assessment tools and the deployment of a virtual learning pathway, we have gained valuable insights into the virtual assessment world, particularly over the past 12 months. I'm also particularly pleased that GTI has been able to play a part in its continued evolution through our products, innovations and partnerships, which can assist universities, employers and, most importantly, students during this challenging time.

Mark was joined on the ISE session by Joan Moore from Accenture and Vanessa Cowland from Thames Water, who discussed what structural changes recruiters are making to their selection processes and how students need to prepare to perform at their best. 

Read our Thames Water virtual assessment centre case study here.

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