Interviews vs Assessment Days

Author Megan Speet

Grad Hats

​So, you’re in a position to bring some fresh faces aboard – an exciting time for both employer and potential employee. Graduates can truly turn out to be a business’ best asset; after all, being the starting point for someone’s career really can garner long-term loyalty. And how better to learn a business than from the ground up, day one?

A challenge a lot of our clients face when hiring grads, however, is that you simply don’t have the practical, in-industry, relevant work experience to turn to in order to determine whether they’ll be able to do the job or not. When we hire graduates, we base the offer on either the skills and personality they portray, or the knowledge they have. Of course, it’s not always easy to – accurately – identify these things at interview.

A great way to source top-level graduates is to hold an ‘assessment day’ or group interview; it’s becoming evermore popular in a day and age where the talent pool is so vast. Depending on the role you’re trying to fill, the person/people you’re looking for and the position your business is in, assessment days can be a fantastic way to assess many soft skills. On the other hand, if you need to test more practical knowledge and hard skills, spending time with the candidate in a one on one setting could be endlessly more valuable to your hiring decision in the long term.

Let’s talk about one on one interviews versus assessment days, and what we can assess most fittingly from each.

Assessment centers: a hub for soft skill-searching

Communication

Is yours a sales position, or customer service perhaps? If there’s one thing group interviews are good for, it’s seeing candidates’ communication skills (or lack thereof) in action. These situations encourage open communication between relative strangers, which allows candidates to showcase their social and communicative skills there and then.

Teamwork

An assessment day will usually involve splitting the candidates into groups to complete a task, giving you the opportunity to observe how they operate within a team. Granted, a team of people they don’t or barely know – but a great starting point.

Leadership

To follow on from the teamwork aspect, a group setting really does bring out those all-important leadership skills… Or not. Observing how a candidate takes control of certain situations can give you some great insight into how they’ll act within the workplace – remember, at a grad level we’re looking for raw skills and potential. If you see that glimmer of leadership in this setting, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to nurture that with the proper training and tools.

One on one interviews: the what, not the how

Knowledge

Ultimately, a one to one setting is where you’re going to be able to drill down into a candidate’s knowledge of a specific subject, sector or technical understanding – something which you’re less able to do in a group setting. If you need them to have a basic understanding or technical skill already, here’s where you’ll find out what they know already, and where they’ll need training or further education.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is an important skill to have in the workplace, period. Without previous employment or experience to draw upon, it’s difficult to gauge a candidate’s capabilities; in a one to one interview you’re far more able to pose hypothetical situations or questions which gives them the opportunity to give more in-depth, well thought out answers in order to demonstrate their problem solving abilities.

Personality

Fundamentally, assessment days aren’t for everyone – but that doesn’t mean this person isn’t right for your job. Someone who doesn’t shine in a group setting might do just that given the opportunity to sit down with you one on one. Simply put, a lot of people just don’t feel comfortable or perform well in a group; that doesn’t mean they’re any less able, won’t be able to work as part of a team or otherwise. Let’s be honest – assessment days can be nerve wracking!

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The truth is, hiring graduates is as challenging as it is rewarding – there are so many factors which could determine the best way to go about it, from the number of heads you’re looking for to the job function. In our opinion a mixture of both settings truly gives both sides – those hiring and those being hired – the best opportunity to shine.

If anything, hiring at this level should be the most fun you’ll have doing it – get in touch to hear about the in-house assessment days at Certus Recruitment Group, run by our fantastic grad team, or for more advice on how to really get the best out of your entry-level hires!