Virtual Assessment Centres – how to impress

Congratulations.  You’ve made it to the final stage of the recruitment process – the assessment centre. You were expecting a day out at the employer’s offices but instead you have been invited to a virtual assessment centre.  All of the assessment centre activities –  one-to-one interviews, presentations and group exercises will now all be completed over the course of a number of highly intensive hours with you sitting at your computer at home.  Not quite what you had expected.

A Virtual Group Discussion – just like a Zoom call with a few friends, right? Wrong!

The most challenging aspect of any virtual assessment centre will be the virtual group discussion.  By now we are all now familiar with group video calls – lots of tile shaped images of all the participants scattered across your screen.  But have you ever had a video call where the aim of the call is pit yourself against the other participants in an effort to secure your dream job? Probably not.  What can you do  during the virtual group discussion to ensure that the assessors identify you as the most suitable candidate?
 Newsflash: Assessors are more interested in how the group interacts with each other rather than the conclusions of the group The assessors will have been assigned up to three candidates each to monitor and score against a list of key competencies.  It’s definitely easier in an in-office group discussion to figure out who is watching you – not so easy in a virtual version.  You need to impress all of them.
Good teamwork isn’t just about making your ideas heard.  It’s also about listening to and using other peoples ideas to progress the discussion.  The best performances rarely, if ever come from the loudest person in the group.  They come from the candidate who can confidently make their own points but then actively encourages others to join the discussion.   Here are our observations for what works well and what to avoid when participating in a group discussion in a virtual assessment centre.

Virtual Group Discussion – Do

  • Set out the team’s objectives and make sure members are clear on what the team has to do in the discussion
  • Suggest you keep the time to actively move the group along and tell them you will summarise where the group has got to at various points during the allotted time. This will keep things progressing
  • All candidates should have their names displayed under their photos – if they don’t immediately suggest that everyone writes their first name and places it where all can see it. This will really help with the interaction
  • Contribute, and get in early. The longer you leave it before you start to talk the harder it is to get involved the discussion.
  • Internet connections can lead to time lags. If it is getting to the stage where people are talking over each other suggest that when someone has a point to make they raise their hand.  This will avoid all of the stop-start type exchanges.
  • Be consistent in your contribution – don’t start strong and trail off, or even worse, say nothing until there is just 5 minutes left and then try to take over in attempt to male up for 30 minutes of silence. It sounds blindingly obvious but if you don’t say anything they have nothing to assess you with
  • Actively encourage participation from all team members and facilitate the discussion . Build on others peoples points e.g. “Chris – that’s a great point – what does everyone else think of that approach/plan/viewpoint”
  • Be aware of cultural differences. Not everyone is used to offering their opinion without being asked. Read the group and identify who might need some coaxing
  • Be assertive – don’t agree with every different point of view, but if you are going to disagree do it politely and have reasons for your viewpoint.
  • Don’t dismiss someone’s idea without suggesting an alternative. Assessors are wary of the candidate who criticises others ideas without offering any alternatives
  • Deal with any disagreement / stalemate within the group by suggesting a show of hands/ quick vote from everyone and suggest that the team goes with the majority.
  • Practise by asking a group of friends to discuss a specific topic for 30 minutes using a video platform such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. Record the discussion and score your performance against criteria you know the company will be looking for.  If you have been completing group project work over the last few months you will be already familiar with the dynamic.

Virtual Group Discussion – Don’t

  • Hog the discussion – remember you are being assessed for teamwork
  • Get bogged down in the details – keep to the brief required
  • Get flustered or show frustration with other group members even if they are being unhelpful and arrogant, well placed humour can do much to help a group dynamic.
  • Isolate other candidates by limiting the conversation to a few of the more vocal members of the group
  • Run out of time – assessors like organised and focused candidates

Hilt advises candidates on how to shine at all stages of the selection process – whether virtual or otherwise.  Find out more here.