WITH the pandemic moving more graduate recruitment online, students at the University of Chester have been preparing for the next steps in their careers.

More than 100 final year undergraduates studying retail management at the university's business school were given the opportunity this month to experience an online recruitment exercise.

Virtual assessment centres have overtaken in-person recruitment as the primary model for graduate recruitment.

With this, and safety, in mind, this final year assessment involved 21 groups of students demonstrating their retail management knowledge through a virtual graduate assessment centre, with a panel comprised of retailing and recruitment specialists working alongside academics.

The day involved a series of challenges to test their understanding of contemporary and strategic retailing principles, before they swap university for the world of work.

As part of the exercise, also reflecting changes in the retail sector, students critically analysed a well-known retailer; presented this research to the expert panel; answered individual 'interview' questions and took part in an observed group exercise.

The assessment panels included senior representatives from organisations including Amazon, Iceland, Marks and Spencer, Enterprise, Cheshire West and Chester Council, McCarthy Recruitment and McArthur Glen, who all supported the process to provide the candidates with authentic employer feedback.

Lisa Conway, module leader for retail management, said: "Whilst this year has created an extremely challenging environment for many retailers, it has been a particularly fascinating time to study Retail Management, and our students have embraced the opportunity to examine all that this has meant for the sector.

“Our esteemed panel has witnessed a number of excellent presentations from our students, providing engaging analysis of recent developments for specific retailers as well as structural industry changes, all whilst working very effectively in teams and practising their virtual employability skills.

"We are so grateful to be joined by so many leaders from the fields of retail and recruitment lending us their support for this process and providing our students with the benefit of their extensive expertise.”

Julie Benson, talent management (EU), Amazon, said: “It always feels like a privilege to be involved in the students’ journey, I love being part of shaping their futures. These assessments are a key step in the students’ development and an opportunity to work with industry professionals. It’s also great to stay connected with the community and stay close to up-and-coming talent.

“As we have seen over the past year - we have had to adapt in business due to the situation we find ourselves in, and although the assessments were virtual, they ran extremely well and the University and students have definitely adapted to these challenging times.”