Candidate Experience

A Complete Guide to Hosting a Virtual Assessment

The future is digital, and it’s arrived much faster than we anticipated. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation and the adoption of virtual hiring tools. One practice that’s recently gained traction in hiring is implementing virtual assessments for employee selection. 

We’ve come a long way from pencil-and-paper assessments, and the field is still evolving. With virtual assessment centers, you can bring your organization to the cutting edge of assessment technology by accessing better and more objective data and providing an enhanced candidate experience.
Here’s how to implement virtual assessments in your hiring process.

What Is Virtual Assessment?

Virtual assessment takes proven, scientifically sound talent assessments and transfers them to a digital space. Candidates and interviewers meet not in person but through web-based video platforms. Talent assessments are carried out online, with candidates dialing in from their own homes.

Virtual assessments allow you to assess candidates in real time through psychometric assessments, situational judgment tests, role-playing situations or real-life case studies, enabling you to gather data relevant to their potential job performance. 

Group exercises can be timetabled and carried out online via paperless digital assessment center systems. Candidates can work together in groups within breakout rooms on video platforms. 

Through virtual assessment centers, entire assessment days can be scheduled and managed online, bringing candidates together virtually from different locations. 

Benefits of Virtual Assessments

Virtual assessments aren’t just convenient. They also bring major strategic benefits to your hiring process.

Make Hiring More Accessible

More candidates have access to virtual assessments, especially candidates with disabilities or who aren’t able to travel for interviews. To increase accessibility, use virtual assessment software that is available across devices and can be implemented easily, even with basic technology.

Provide Instant Data

When you use assessment software, it’s easier to keep track of each person’s performance. Most assessment tools include places to take notes, gathering that data in the aggregate to quickly see who the top performers are. This gives you instant access to high-quality data regarding each person’s assessment performance.

Differentiate Your Brand

Many companies are moving toward using digital tools for assessment, but implementing virtual assessments in a way that’s both engaging and fair can differentiate your virtual assessment experience from those of your competitors.

8 Steps to Hosting a Professional Virtual Assessment

Here are the eight steps you can take to host an effective and professional virtual assessment process.

1. Ensure a Secure Technical Setup

Candidates may be wary of software they have to download, so it’s important to ensure a safe and secure process. Use software that’s broadly available and accessible both in terms of languages and technical requirements. Ensure a safe technical setup on your side, and communicate your safety precautions to candidates. 

Well in advance of the call, provide the candidate with easy-to-understand instructions for the technical setup and requirements on their end, including the link to pre-install the software. Include information about the software in case candidates have reservations regarding its use.

2. Explain the Process to the Candidate

Setting expectations is a big part of providing a better candidate experience. Send candidates a calendar invite that includes all of the information they need (or links to find that information). Be transparent about what assessments measure and how they will be used in the final hiring decision. 

Explain the benefits of virtual assessments in capturing data regarding job performance.

Set candidate expectations for the process. Include information on virtual assessments and interviews, both on your career site and as part of the material sent to the candidate ahead of time. Explain what each task entails, how long it will last and any other information to set candidate expectations. Check for understanding and give candidates an opportunity to ask questions before each activity begins.

Finally, lay out a realistic timeframe for when you expect to get back in touch with the candidate following their assessment.

3. Maintain Professional Standards

The basics of professionalism don’t change in a virtual environment. Maintain the same dress code and attitude you would have when hosting an in-person interview. Log in from an environment that is visually muted and free of distractions. If you’re working from a shared space, consider booking a room for the duration of the call.

Ask colleagues joining the call to log in early so they don’t interrupt the call after it has begun. Run internal tests to check your sound quality, camera quality and lighting.

Be mindful of time management throughout the virtual assessment process. Give candidates breaks between back-to-back tests and interviews. You can also build in breaks to create a smoother transition between calls and activities.

4. Extend a Personal Touch

Virtual interviews and assessments can seem clinical and cold, and candidates may miss the warmth of an in-person conversation to put them at ease. Make it a point to, as much as possible, re-create the sense of being together in an office.

Instead of using a digital background, try to find a setting that is genuinely warm and inviting. If possible, set yourself up in front of shelving or wall art to create a greater sense of depth. Make sure that all participants can be seen clearly and can make eye contact with the candidate.

Before starting, ask the candidate if they’re comfortable and give them a minute to adjust and settle in. Consider sending some basic suggestions in the initial calendar invitation (like to have a drink accessible, for example). Confirm with the candidate that they can see and hear you clearly before beginning, and verify that they’re in a place with minimal distractions.

Incorporate casual conversation to help put the candidate at ease. But, as with a regular interview, avoid topics that could elicit information about ability, parental status or other protected factors from the candidate. 

5. Conduct Virtual Exercises

The bulk of the virtual assessment will be activities such as roleplaying work situations, reviewing and responding to case studies and solving test assignments. Make sure that candidates have access to the materials they need, but only during the assessment itself.

Embed assessment activities in your software as much as possible (rather than sharing them as an external file) to prevent the candidate from downloading and sharing these items. Use software solutions that can be run across multiple web browsers without slowing them down.

In a roleplay situation, focus the camera on the role player. Exclude additional assessors from the shot or turn their cameras off. The candidate should feel immersed in the scenario.

6. Implement Group Exercises

When moderating group activities, it’s important to give each candidate opportunities to participate. Include formats that enable participants to be actively involved at the beginning. Engage candidates in conversation on the front end to help them feel comfortable with using the platform before beginning group exercises.

Explain the technology’s functionalities (such as how to mute themselves or raise their hands, for example) before beginning the group assessment. Give candidates an opportunity to ask questions after everything has been explained but before the test itself begins.

7. Take Notes and Rank candidates

When evaluating virtual interviews and assessments, maintain the same objective rating principles you would use in person. The ORCE principle (observe, record, classify and evaluate) offers a common framework for evaluating candidate performance during employee selection procedures:
  •  Observe candidate responses and behaviors during virtual assessment processes.
  •  Record candidate behaviors as they happen for later classification and evaluation.
  •  Classify your observations into competency-related buckets so that you rank candidates fairly.
  •  Evaluate candidates based on the job-related competencies you’re assessing for and compare them to find the top performers.
Practice transparency when taking notes so that your peers in the decision-making process can see your train of thought. Implement scorecards to make sure each rater is observing and rating the candidate on the same criteria. Taking these measures can prevent rater bias from creeping in by keeping raters laser-focused on job-relevant competencies.

Your assessment software should feed you data to help objectively determine the highest performers.

Remember that a candidate’s sound or video quality isn’t relevant to their performance. Some candidates will have good technology setups and some won’t, but it’s how they perform on the assessment that matters.

8. Collect Feedback in Virtual Sessions

Gathering feedback from candidates can help improve virtual assessment experiences, but you need to let candidates know that feedback will be part of the process. Feedback sessions should be scheduled in advance, and you should send questions over at the time of scheduling.

Give candidates sufficient time to prepare for these conversations. Be aware that the candidate’s status can skew results. If they’re still in the running for a job, they may only give positive feedback. If they’ve been rejected, they may have more negative feedback. 

Embrace the Future of Hiring

The future of hiring is digital. It’s a candidate market, and candidates have come to expect digital delivery across the hiring process. Embracing virtual assessments can keep candidates engaged and interested in what you have to offer.

Set up your virtual assessment center to tap into larger, more diverse candidate pools from across the globe. By incorporating remote assessments, you can evaluate candidates fairly and objectively, no matter where they are.

Aon | Assessment Solutions

Aon's assessment solutions provides clients with powerful tools and insights to help them make better talent decisions at every stage of the employee lifecycle. This includes pre-hire assessments, identifying future leaders, screening for digital skills and agility, and AI-enabled solutions.

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