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Rising to the challenge: the pandemic and Polestar’s assessment centre

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The pandemic created many challenges, many of them grave. If your biggest problem was having to adapt to new working conditions, many might consider you lucky. Nonetheless, the rapid transition of many employers from centralised to decentralised working was one of the quiet success stories of the pandemic era, with many managing it admirably.

At Gerrell & Hard we consider ourselves lucky. Like all businesses we took a hit as employers furloughed staff, took stock and waited to see what the “new normal” might look like. But we’re fortunate to work in some of the most progressive and rapidly-emerging technological sectors, and for a proportion of our clients, the expansion didn’t slow.

Recruiting and onboarding new staff remotely presents a challenge, especially when that involves designing and deploying full-scale assessment centres. But that’s something we managed to do for (and with) Polestar, a rapidly-emerging force in the EV world.

A hiring curveball

Polestar found itself needing a fresh cohort of outstanding candidates for 2020, and asked Gerrell & Hard to repeat the successful assessment centre we managed for the brand in 2019. An agile manufacturer, Polestar’s hiring mirrors its business model, which means it needs to closely vet candidates, hiring people who work well together and assimilate into the business quickly.

A Polestar candidate’s potential, flexibility, eagerness to learn and ability to work with others is crucial; as a hiring partner, we needed to identify engineers that balanced  professional experience with these qualities. Assessment centres were therefore a perfect hiring tool for the brand.

We had already qualified and sustained the interest of a large pool of candidates when the pandemic required the Polestar and Gerrell & Hard teams to collaborate on radically changing our plans. Polestar were quick to recognise the issue and embrace the need to resolve it swiftly; with just over two weeks until the assessment date and candidates already invited, we transformed the session to a virtual event while preserving the conditions and methodology required.

Polestar has form overcoming pandemic-enforced limitations on face time with key stakeholders: when the company opened its showroom in Shepherd’s Bush it responded to the limits imposed by the pandemic by sending journalists an “event kit in a box” so they could remotely experience the opening in style. Inspired by this, example, we worked with Polestar to create and sent to candidates an “assessment kit in a box,” consisting of various problem-solving challenges they would need to work with others to solve, since no one candidate would receive every component of the puzzle.

Each candidate underwent half a day of remote technical group activities, along with one-to-one interviews and tasks with other engineers. Management of the assessment sessions was complex, involving group activities and breakout rooms for interviews with multiple staff.

By the time they completed the assessment centre, our candidates had been thoroughly vetted through an extended process of engagement. Their CVs had been reviewed by a number of Polestar staff. They had completed psychological profiling and created an introductory video. Their adaptability and ability to work with others had been evidenced and reviewed in a real-life working scenario. Our candidate funnel was watertight: from a very large candidate pool, all shortlisted individuals attended the assessment centre, with zero “no-shows”; a credit to the commitment and candidate nurturing from Polestar and our dedicated project team throughout the full recruitment lifecycle.

Impact

Polestar’s virtual assessment centre was the product of rewarding collaboration, our teams working together to create and deploy a compelling and effective assessment package in just over two weeks midway through a significant hiring project. As a result, Polestar successfully hired a large cohort of excellent candidates, whose feedback about its assessment centre was extremely positive.

Enjoying the challenge

The Polestar assessment centre is something the Gerrell & Hard team is hugely proud of, and greatly enjoyed. We’re grateful to the team there for working with us and trusting us with a major hiring project at an especially challenging moment in time. We have created a blueprint for remote assessment centres – notwithstanding some client-specific details that, of course, remain with Polestar. Whether and to what extent we’ll need to replicate this approach, adapted to reflect clients’ hiring specifics, we don’t yet know. But we have learned valuable lessons about hiring in the pandemic and we’re ready and able to apply them.

Read and download our Polestar case study