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A well-organised and objective-focused assessment day can offer a whole host of benefits for graduate recruitment. Unlike standardised interview processes, assessment days have the scope to evaluate all aspects of a candidate’s personality, skills, culture fit and potential, so they present graduate employers with a golden opportunity – being able to differentiate between candidates who on paper can seem very similar.
Just as importantly, spending a full day with you will allow candidates to gain much more of an understanding of your company, the opportunity, and what they can expect from the role than they ever would have done in a standard one-on-one graduate interview.
What’s more, if the day has been planned in advance, is well-executed, and includes a variety of activities and exercises, candidates will be likely to take home a positive view of your employer brand - regardless of whether or not they are successful.
Last year, Give A Grad A Go ran our own assessment day (which we decided to call an ‘Interview Workshop’), to promote teamwork and see how candidates worked together. We wanted to ascertain how candidates would take to phone work, pitching and shortlisting, so the exercises we put together looked to assess both practical skills and behavioural traits.
Before the day itself, we sat down to pinpoint exactly what we were looking for in the ideal candidate, and then planned out, trialled and tested our exercises ready for the workshop. Many members of our team were involved in different aspects of putting together and running the day, with a few taking seats on our interview panel.
Give A Grad A Go are big believers in the value of assessment days for graduate recruitment, and especially the scope they provide for employers to evaluate different aspects of candidates’ skills and personality traits. If you are planning to run your own assessment day, creating and sticking to a structured timeline is the best place to start.
Before the assessment day, we made sure to define our objectives, by asking ourselves questions like ‘why are we hiring?’, ‘what is our end goal?’, and ‘what skills will the ideal candidate have?’ Without deciding upon what key competencies we wanted to assess we knew that the day itself would be unfocused, so pinning down our objectives was absolutely essential.
Prior to the day, we put together a trusted interview panel to run the assessments, and made sure that everyone on this panel was on exactly the same page about what we were looking for.
We trialled a few different exercises, tasks and activities to be used on the day, including timed group exercises to see how well candidates would perform under pressure and as part of a team, and end-of-day presentations designed to test how well they could communicate their ideas to a large group.
Finally, we regrouped to create a structured timeline, which included the day’s start and end times, and factored in the exercises themselves, team talks and break times.
On the morning of the assessment day, we sent all candidates the schedule we had already prepared, so that they knew what to expect from the upcoming day.
Once the candidates had arrived and the day was in progress, we made sure to stick to our timeline throughout, giving the candidates 2-minute warnings when their time to complete a task was almost up.
We felt it was important to speak to the candidates about the opportunity, as well as giving them valuable insight into what working at Give A Grad A Go is really like, so we encouraged candidates to ask questions, and had them speak to members of different teams throughout the day.
Finally, we introduced the candidates to a situation outside of working hours, to assess how well they would fit in with our company culture, and to see how they interacted with the team and with each other.
The day after our Interview Workshop, our panel sat down to discuss each candidate, and as a group decided who was a good fit for both the role and the business. We had already decided that if we wanted to hire a candidate, the vote would have to be unanimous - so this was an important part of the process. Of the ten candidates we invited to our assessment day, three were successful, and were offered a job with us soon after.
In the days following, we made sure to provide thorough and constructive feedback to all candidates regardless of whether they were successful or not, as we wanted to leave all the attendees with a great lasting impression of our business.
We kept in contact with our successful candidates, and made sure that if they had a later start date they were kept in the loop and sent frequent updates. Excited for the arrival of our new hires, we also made all the necessary preparations for their first days.
In the week following, we sat down to evaluate the successes and failures of the day, making note of what went particularly well and what we felt could be improved when we run another workshop in the future. Although we know that our timeline will remain much the same, we wanted to evaluate how each of our exercises worked on the day to make sure that we are always getting the most out of each assessment.
On the day we had run a Business Development task, which we had purposely set up to be fairly informal in order to put candidates more at ease. In turn, though, this informality made it difficult to accumulate tangible feedback that we could compare and contrast - and moving forward we know that if we run a task like this again it will need to have more structure in order to be of optimum value.
A great assessment day is one that is well-planned and well-thought-out. It will only be successful if you have a selection of enthusiastic and relevant candidates taking part. If you would like to know more about how we could help streamline your graduate hiring then please get in touch
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