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Selection and Assessment

Make sure that selection of candidates for interview relies on defined criteria so that bias cannot inform who is included and who isn’t.

  • Use the job description to pull out the essential and desirable requirements for the role.
  • If necessary, weight the requirements so the most important get more consideration.
  • Include scoring for each requirement, for example, 0-2 scoring if the candidate meets this requirement, partially meets, or doesn’t meet.

Having women within the selection and interview panel will support diverse recruitment by helping put diverse candidates at ease and demonstrating your organisation is a place for people like them. If you do not have women to support this you may be able to enlist the help of partner organisations who have.

Attending an assessment centre or interview can be a stressful experience for anyone. For women and girls attending assessment for STEM apprenticeships, this can be more stressful, particularly if they are entering a male dominated work environment. There are some practical steps you can take to make the experience and the environment less daunting.

Preparing for the assessment:

Think about offering female only open days as a chance for women to familiarise themselves with tools and the environment.

If the girls and women being interviewed are in a minority, consider your environment and how they might get to the interview e.g. is the route safe and well lit, does public transport take them to your door.

Make sure the environment is as welcoming as possible – ensure there is someone to greet candidates when they arrive; if the assessment test requires safety gear, make sure you have women’s sizes available and (it may seem obvious but is sometimes missed) choose a venue with appropriate toilet facilities.

Try and be flexible in the timings of interviews, some women will have family or other commitments which prevent them attending during working hours. If the site is remote, try to time interviews so that it is daylight at arrival and when they leave, or encourage them to attend with a friend or relative, providing them with refreshments and somewhere comfortable to wait during the interview.

When inviting female candidates to assessment centres, it may be tempting to spread them out between groups but grouping them together will help women to feel less daunted.

The process:

  • Remove questions at the start of the assessment tests that require candidates to identify their gender or put these questions at the end. This can prime girls to think about the fact they are minorities and may negatively impact performance.
  • When candidates arrive for assessment centre, remind them of your expectations of behaviour – including showing respect and politeness to other candidates. Monitor for any behaviour by candidates that may exclude women in the groups.
  • Avoid competitions in assessment centres or application processes – studies have shown that girls are less interested in competitions and if they don’t succeed can reinforce images that they are ‘not good’ at STEM.
  • Be conscious of the fact that if women and girls are in the minority at group assessment centres they may be less likely to put themselves forward. This does not mean they are less qualified, try and avoid judging female candidates too harshly based on their participation in group tasks.
  • Similarly, girls may not ask as many questions if they are in the minority, but will perform better for example in team building situations.
  • Ensure any assessment tests have been rigorously tested for gender biased effects on the outcomes or success of candidates.
If you use group work or role play scenarios in your assessment centre, try and include some diversity-related scenarios so you can assess candidates responses.

Structured interviews slow down decision-making processes, which removes the reliance on our quick thinking brain. By setting specific questions assessors may avoid confirmation bias (asking different questions of candidates from different background to re-affirm initial impressions).

  1. Use consistent questions for each candidate, linking directly to the requirements for the role.
  2. Develop scoring criteria for each question based on whether the candidate could show competency for the requirement.
  3. Use competency based questions, which ask a candidate to “give an example when…”. This helps demonstrate what a candidate did do, rather than what they would do, thus showing greater potential success in the role. Each question should link directly to a requirement for the role.
    • When assessing responsibility: Tell me about a time when you recognised that your own or someone else’s work, was not of the required standard. (Follow up questions: How did you identify there was a problem with the quality of the work? How did you handle the situation? What happened in the end? How did you ensure that this did not happen again?)
    • When assessing communication skills: Tell us about your proudest achievement? (Follow up questions: Ask what barriers they had to overcome to get there? What specifically did you do that enabled you to succeed? Why was it challenging? How long did it take? How did it make you feel?)

Girls may not have had opportunity to use tools and equipment in advance of the assessment and may find this particularly daunting. This lack of experience can count against them unfairly and you will need to consider this

  • Ensure that if assessment tests are used they are directly applicable to the apprenticeship job role you are hiring for.
  • Explain in advance what they will be asked to do at the assessment.
  • If you provide a technical assessment using specialised tools, where possible, offer site visits in advance so candidates can familiarise themselves with equipment or techniques they might need in the assessment. Girls may be less likely to have used hand tools, changed tyres or carried out domestic electrical tasks than boys, and may be less confident in doing this type of activity.
Score the assessment using a pre-agreed framework to ensure candidates’ performance is compared objectively. Where possible use numerical scoring.


Unsuccessful female candidates may be deterred and believe STEM apprenticeships are not for them. Providing them with feedback can help them improve for future applications but can also encourage them to continue pursuing opportunities in STEM apprenticeships.

  • Where possible provide unsuccessful candidates with constructive feedback they can work on for next time they attend an assessment.
  • Encourage unsuccessful candidates to register as a member of WISE to receive our weekly job alerts to help find other opportunities in STEM careers.
  • Contact successful and unsuccessful candidates asking for feedback on their experience of the recruitment process and where they feel they may have needed more support.

Asking for feedback from female candidates can help you to improve your assessment process and better support apprenticeship candidates in the future.

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