Assessment centres can be an excellent way to test against key competencies and recruit candidates in an efficient manner, whether they be graduates or school leavers. But assessment centres for school leavers should not simply be replicas of graduate assessment centres: they should be thoughtfully tailored to their skills and requirements.

Assessment centres are one of the most useful recruitment tools available to employers—particularly those receiving large numbers of applications. When it comes to school leavers, however, setting up a successful assessment centre can be a challenge—and it is crucial to get it right.

Why set up an assessment centre for school leavers?

With apprenticeship applications on the rise, it can become a challenge to sort through large numbers of quality applications and find the candidates that are truly the best fit for your company. Assessment centres have the obvious benefit of allowing you to assess many school leaver applicants at once, saving valuable time and resources.

More importantly, however, assessment centre exercises can help you test school leavers for values and qualities that you look for in employees. Billy Sexton, project manager at AllAboutGroup, gives the example: “If one of your company values is collaboration, a group exercise as part of the assessment centre is a great way for you to see how applicants possess and express that particular value.”

But an assessment centre is not just a matter of testing school leavers; it is also a great opportunity for candidates to assess whether or not they would like to work for you, as assessment centre exercises can provide insight what it would be like. Jessica, who attended an assessment centre for Santander, said: “I think it’s important to consider whether the company is the right fit for you, but also whether you’re the right fit for the company—obviously it works both ways. I felt so comfortable in [Santander’s] assessment centre, [that] I knew it was the right place for me.”

Octavia, a successful applicant at JP Morgan, comments that her assessment centre—particularly her interactions with other employees and the recruitment team—convinced her to accept her offer: “I definitely felt like it was a place where I’d want to work because the team was amazing.”

What should employers keep in mind when creating school leaver assessment centres?

According to our research, the majority of employers (71%) have their graduate and school leaver recruitment teams merged as one. But when it comes to creating assessment centres, recruitment teams should make sure their approaches for school leavers and graduates take note of some key differences.

One of the key differences between assessment centres for graduates and school leavers is that the former should not contain any technical tasks; for many applicants, this will be their first assessment centre, and it is unlikely that they will have extensive experience or knowledge of the industry. For school leavers, the emphasis should be on assessing soft skills and gauging potential, as opposed to past experience or technical knowledge. 

Therefore, employers should not reuse or simply shorten graduate assessment materials and expect that they will cater to the needs of a school leaver cohort; these materials should be tailored specifically to them. Bespoke assessment centre materials can make for a better candidate experience, both making an organisation more attractive to applicants and ensuring that they take something away from the application process, even if unsuccessful. Bradley Fisher and Eilish McKown, both paralegal apprentices at BCLP, agreed that their assessment centre exercises were “really engaging” and useful to them later on when they progressed into their apprenticeships, with McKown praising the law firm’s efforts to tailor newly-written assessments to both the organisation’s business area and to applicants’ feedback.

Billy Sexton also notes that, alongside the aforementioned considerations, “assessment centres for school leavers should be considerate of applicants’ timetables”. School schedules are more rigid than university schedules, and employers should be mindful of organising assessment centres at an appropriate time and date—preferably not near exams in April and May.

So, how can an employer create the best possible assessment centre for school leavers?

Setting up a successful assessment centre takes both time and a rigorous evaluation of a company’s recruitment goals. At AllAboutGroup, our focus is on helping to construct the assessment centre materials and exercises that will allow your company to determine which candidates are the most likely to thrive on your school leaver programmes. 

We can help you devise an engaging assessment centre quickly and efficiently, in just four key steps. First, we hold an assessment exploration meeting with the company’s recruitment team, clarifying the competency framework and drafting questions for the job analysis we carry out—following that, we will present you with our findings and recommendations. 

Once an approach has been agreed upon, we’ll construct bespoke assessment centre materials for each of your business areas, working closely with your branding team to ensure the materials represent your organisation’s values and are intriguing to the applicant cohort.  

Then, our assessment centre materials are tested on a cross-section of your current school leaver cohort, taking into account feedback from both assessors and current apprentices. Finally, after rigorous testing, we release our assessment materials, providing delivery training sessions for assessors if required.

With our team of experts and recruitment managers, we have helped businesses across all industry sectors design and deliver assessment centres, with companies’ feedback attesting to their success. Nicola Stanley, graduate recruitment & development manager at Baker McKenzie, commented: “AllAboutGroup produced market-leading assessment materials for our assessment centre. Their expertise was evident, their work was brilliant, their correspondence was professional; I would highly recommend their services to any early careers team.”

Engaging, bespoke assessment centre materials can greatly simplify your recruitment efforts for school leaver programmes, helping you efficiently identify and attract the future talent you want at your company. If you would like to learn more about school leaver assessment centres or the services we offer, do not hesitate to contact us.

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