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Mastering High-Volume Hiring: Insights from Our Annual Assessment Center

Discover the benefits, best practices, and tips for hosting successful assessment days for high-volume roles. 

Earlier this year, we hosted our second annual Assessment Center - a day dedicated to meeting and assessing candidates for our graduate position.

Organizing an Assessment Center allows organizations to efficiently handle high-volume hiring, especially for roles with similar requirements.

The process can be intensive, but the rewards are worth it—both in terms of finding the right talent and offering a unique candidate experience. So whether you're thinking about having your first Assessment Center or you've never heard of it, we hope this article can give you an overview of what it is, when it's most effective, and common pitfalls to avoid.

What is an Assessment Center?

Let's start at the beginning - what do we mean by Assessment Center?

Put simply, an Assessment Center is a day entirely dedicated to evaluating potential candidates simultaneously. In our Assessment Center, we invite candidates to join us at our offices for a day where they go through group assignments and structured interviews on work-related personality and motivation. It enables hiring teams to evaluate multiple candidates in a single day, saving time and resources compared to traditional one-on-one interviews.

They have become an increasingly popular method for high-volume hiring. They allow employers and hiring managers to evaluate multiple candidates simultaneously in a standardized environment, making them an efficient and effective tool for assessing cultural fit and competency.

From a candidate perspective, they can enhance the candidate experience, give a behind-the-scenes look at your employer brand, and "even the playing field" for some roles—which we'll get into later.

Benefits of an Assessment Center

Assessment centers are particularly effective for high-volume hiring scenarios where multiple candidates are considered for similar roles.

Here's why they're particularly useful in a high-volume setting:

  • Efficient Hiring: Evaluating several candidates in tandem allows quicker and more cost-effective hiring decisions. It also means that hiring managers can dedicate a single day to hiring decisions rather than jumping in and out of interviews (i.e., intense context switching) over an extended period.
  • Cultural Fit: By simulating real-life work environments, you can better assess candidates' cultural fit. This applies for how the candidates interact with your current employees and each other since many of them might end up as colleagues.
  • Standardized Evaluation ensures all candidates are evaluated against the same criteria in a controlled setting, reducing bias. Organizing a larger event like this also requires that your hiring managers (aka "the assessors") are trained on evaluation criteria and bias—but more on that later.
  • Enhanced Competency Assessment: Assessment centers are beneficial for graduate hiring, where candidates have limited experience but can demonstrate skills and behaviors in simulated tasks. In other words, Assessment Centers help even the playing field for those with little on their CVs.

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When does an Assessment Center make sense?

While hosting an assessment center has several benefits, it doesn't always make sense. Sometimes, it can even be counterproductive or create a poor candidate and hiring manager experience.

The following scenarios are where an Assessment Center is especially effective and why - but remember that this list isn't exhaustive and we'd love to hear where you have found it helpful outside of these hiring scenarios!

  • Graduate Programs: If your company runs a graduate program, you're likely hiring for several or even roles that require similar skillsets and qualifications. Outside of volume and skill commonalities, graduates usually have limited work experience, and an assessment center allows them to demonstrate their potential in a practical setting.
  • Entry-Level Positions: Positions requiring similar skill sets and qualifications. This doesn't necessarily have to be a graduate program or "cohort." It can be any role where their potential is more important than their previous experience (or lack thereof).
  • Roles Emphasizing Softer Skills: Softer skills, such as leadership, communication, and problem-solving, are better assessed in interactive settings. However, organizing a full-blown assessment center can be a lot of work if you are only planning on hiring 1-2 roles. We recommend opting for this if you are planning to hire a minimum of 5 roles.

Planning your Assessment Center 

Goals and Timeline

Like with most things in recruitment, it's helpful to work backward when it comes to your timeline. Start by defining your hiring goals. How many candidates do you need to evaluate? What skills and attributes are you looking for? Use data from previous hiring cycles to set realistic targets and develop a sourcing plan to meet these goals.

Work backward from your desired onboarding date, considering factors like exam periods, notice periods, and your team's and candidates' availability.

Here's how we thought through our timeline:

  • The new hires were part of a graduate program, which meant their start date was early August.
  • Since this was a graduate program, most new hires were coming straight from school. This means that notice periods aren't as common. However, we still want to give them a decision a couple of months in advance since they were likely in other processes.
  • Given we wanted an August start date, we scheduled our Assessment Center in early May. This meant candidates would have an answer well before their exam period and summer vacation.
  • If we want to host the candidates in May, we needed to publish the role and start sourcing candidates by mid-March.
  • To publish the role by mid-March, we started writing job descriptions, creating landing pages, and establishing a sourcing strategy earlier that month. This means there were about ten weeks from the initial kickoff meeting to the Assessment Center.

It's important to note that before we started planning or setting dates, our hiring roadmap and budget were decided on at the end of the previous fiscal year. This helped ease the planning and expectations process for everyone involved.


The Planners vs. The Assessors

Your core planning team should include 3-4 people responsible for sourcing candidates, coordinating logistics, and designing assessment activities. These are your "planners" and your go-to team for all candidate management and logistics questions.

Additionally, recruit a team of assessors to evaluate the candidates on the day. Ensure they are well-trained and aligned on evaluation methods and assessment criteria to minimize bias.

Logistics and Execution

Choose a venue that can accommodate your planned activities and a number of candidates. Ensure you have the equipment and facilities, such as breakout rooms for individual tasks, presentation areas, and refreshment zones. Plan the day's schedule carefully to keep candidates engaged without overwhelming them.

Your planners should open with a welcome message, and the assessors should have an opportunity to introduce themselves before starting the day's schedule.

The Day Of

The candidate experience is crucial for the success of your recruitment day. Ensure that all candidates feel welcome, informed, and accommodated (i.e., diet restrictions, disability access, etc.). Provide clear instructions and support throughout the day, and remind your employees that this event is also an opportunity for them to showcase your company's culture and values.

You have several options for assessing candidates during the event. We used this opportunity to measure teamwork, communication skills, as well as the "standard" assessment methods we use for all roles (i.e., 1:1 interviews)

  • Group Exercises: Assess teamwork, leadership, and communication skills.
  • Individual Tasks: Evaluate problem-solving abilities and technical skills.
  • Interviews: Provide a more in-depth assessment of each candidate's fit for the role and company culture.

Finally, keep track of each candidate's progress and performance. Use digital tools to capture assessors' notes and evaluations in real-time. This will streamline the post-event analysis and decision-making process.

Post-Mortem and Hiring Decisions

One of the main advantages of an Assessment Center is that candidates receive feedback much quicker than in a normal recruitment process. However, for that to happen, your planners and assessors will need to have tight feedback and communication loops.

The day after, hold a debrief meeting with your assessors to discuss each candidate's performance. Use standardized evaluation forms to ensure consistency and fairness, and agree on which candidates will move forward in the process and who will be offered positions.

Promptly communicate with all candidates, providing feedback and next steps. For those moving forward, arrange reference checks and offer discussions. Offer constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates to help them improve for future opportunities.

Finally, send a survey to all participants to gather feedback on their experience. This will help you identify areas for improvement and ensure your next recruitment day is even more successful.

What to keep in mind

Spend the time to develop a sourcing and advertising plan to attract suitable candidates. You'll need to have dozens of candidates attend your Assessment Center, so don't underestimate how many candidates you'll need to reach out to (even for entry-level positions). Use a mix of channels, such as job boards, social media, and campus recruitment, to reach your target audience.

In the same breath, don't prioritize quantity at the expense of quality. Take the time to pre-screen candidates to talk about availability, salary, motivation, etc. Having enough candidates on the day itself is important, but don't let your hiring bar drop in order to meet a hiring quota.

Hosting an Assessment Center is an excellent option for those who want to effectively fill high-volume roles while creating a positive experience for hiring managers and candidates. With careful planning and execution, your recruitment day can become a cornerstone of your talent acquisition strategy during periods of high growth.

If you have any questions about hosting an Assessment Center or would like help implementing one in your organization, contact our team!

Author profile Meagan Leber

Growth Marketing Manager at Amby, who loves writing about the tech, venture capital, and people space.