COVID-19 and Virtual Assessments - Are They Equivalent to Interviewing in Person?

April 16, 2020 Charlotte Schaller

This article was first published in People Management


Locally and globally, COVID-19 has disrupted hiring, with many organizations freezing recruitment and many others reducing employee numbers. For other companies, large and small, recruitment processes need to carry on while also becoming more fluid and digitally-ready to create advantages. With this, HR teams are working to understand how to best assess candidates without the ability to interview face-to-face.

Switching from in-person to virtual assessments, however, raises justifiable questions. Is it comparable to assess in-person and those assessed remotely? It is possible to hire with fairness and without bias? How can it show the human side of the business?

Creating a strategy will clearly depend on every organization’s unique situation, but HR teams can take steps to minimize impact on talent needs, mitigate risks and demonstrate business continuity. The strategy should include defining ‘what good looks like’ for the business’ needs, investing in solid technology, preparing candidates well and not assuming the most experienced assessors are going to slot well into this new way. Identify those best-suited and remind them to prepare like a normal interview.

Three main remote tools can be used to virtually assess candidates. Online talent assessments help businesses understand candidates’ abilities, behaviors and competencies. Virtual assessment centers can use case studies, role plays as well as behavioral and capability assessments. And remote interviewing can be done by telephone or video assessments (the latter can also first score by artificial intelligence (AI)).

There are five essential elements to consider when managing assessments remotely:

Design Clear Candidate Communications

A solid candidate communication plan helps everyone to gain a better experience of the employer brand, encouraging more to accept roles plus building positive PR. No employer wants candidates to share negative experiences with friends and family or to leave poor comments on review sites. Designing and shaping assessment messages offers reassurance and clarity and mitigates business risks.

Ensure Virtual Assessments Compare Well with Face-to-Face Assessments

Switching from in-person to online assessments can raise questions about comparability. The first few stages of assessment have been online for some years now and although meeting someone is an important part of the process, doing this in person or virtually can be comparable, if the right objective measurements are in place to differentiate between candidates and ensure they will fit and can be successful. It’s wise to trial and validate, just like a ‘normal’ assessment process.

Fair and Unbiased Virtual Recruitment

In actuality, personality assessments and video can better mitigate biases that occur in many face-to-face interviews, giving objectivity to recruit better and more diverse talent, while reducing social mobility or geographic issues. For instance, video interviews can focus on speech-to-text only, using a natural language processing AI. This also ensures a legally defendable, fair and transparent process. AI has learned from HR experts, interviewers and psychologists, mimicking competency-based interviewers. Another key advantage to one-way video interviewing is flexibility; assessors can score interviews at a time that suits them.

The Human Touch is Important

Because it's virtual doesn't mean candidate engagement shouldn’t happen - touchpoints become more important than ever, so candidates feel it’s a two-way process. It’s important too, to remember that despite the power of AI and assessment tools, the human recruiter can override scores given by the system and make a decision on whether a candidate is taken forward or not. Instant candidate feedback is positive for high volume roles, and for more senior positions, giving candidates individual feedback helps them value decisions made.

Agile Working is Essential

The immediate challenge of Covid-19 meant that organizations and their people had to swiftly adjust to the new situation, and not surprisingly, much focus has been on employee health and wellbeing. However, when we can look back at the impact of reduced recruitment travel, time and costs, it will be possible to understand how remote assessment frees up resources and offers an agile, lean and scaleable operating model.

Do you want to learn more about virtual assessments and the best way to implement them in your organization? Read our case study Using vidAssess to Increase Candidate Engagement at a Travel Firm.

About the Author

Charlotte Schaller

Charlotte joined Aon's Assessment Solutions in January 2015. Since joining she has worked across a breadth of projects including design and delivery of digital assessment and development centres, situational judgment tools, creation of online bespoke ability tests and team building workshops. She now heads the UK team; driving the growth of the UK market, managing talent and driving learning and development within the team, ensuring high quality delivery and service to their wide variety of existing clients.

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