Student and graduate job seekers prefer assessment centres to take place virtually over in-person, according to our research project on the future of virtual assessment centres.

We surveyed over 1,000 university students and recent graduates across the UK throughout spring 2023 about their experiences and preferences when it comes to dealing with employer assessment centres.

We found that not only do early talent candidates prefer virtual recruitment stages, but they also feel better able to perform virtually and therefore are more likely to attend.

On the reason behind conducting the survey, TopScore Co-Founder, Phin Naughton, said:

“Before the pandemic, attending a virtual assessment centre was almost unheard of. The norm was that assessment centres were held by employers in an office or rented event space. That all changed very quickly because of Covid-19, during which there was no choice but to attend assessment centres and similar events virtually.

“And while it was a challenging time, employers immediately saw benefits in terms of reduced overhead costs and greater digital efficiencies. Because of this, and the fact that many more people work remotely now than before, virtual assessment centres have remained in place despite Covid-19 restrictions being long gone. However, I couldn’t help but ask myself, how do candidates actually feel about this?”


Candidates value their home comforts

The research found that 60% would prefer to have their assessment centre conducted virtually, with 66% saying they’d be more likely to attend if they didn’t have to travel to a location.

As well as preferring online recruitment stages, 70% also said they would feel more comfortable performing and demonstrating their skills in a virtual scenario, with only 7% saying that they’d feel better able to perform in-person.

The survey asked students to elaborate on why online or virtual assessment centres are more appealing to them, and some of the responses included: “It takes the nerves away as you’re in the comfort of your home rather than a strange place,” “You have the physical and mental space to work. You’re more motivated as you’re comfortable in your space,” and simply, “it’s less intimidating.”


The boost to accessibility

As well as sentiments of feeling more comfortable and less intimidated, the research revealed the importance of virtual events on accessibility and inclusion.

Responses on how they feel towards virtual assessment centres included, “[They are] more accessible. I have autism, so I feel less nervous,” and “You are not restricted by location or any mobility-related disabilities.”


Why this matters for employers

The research identified a need for candidates to feel assured and comfortable throughout the assessment event, and the majority (72%) of those surveyed said that their assessment centre experience influences whether they accept a job offer. As well as this, we asked candidates to list what would make their assessment centre experience a positive one, helping employers to make appropriate, candidate-led changes.


With such a high percentage of candidates saying that their assessment experience influences their decision to accept a job offer, employers can look at these findings to inform their decision on how they host their recruitment processes, and ensure they avoid any risk of losing out on talented candidates by choosing not to run assessment centres virtually.

To read the full report for free, download your copy here: