Case Study

Creating COVID-Safe Assessment Centres for St John Ambulance

Recruiting for the 2020 Student Ambulance Officer intake

Industry: Health Services


St John Ambulance WA have been using Assessment Centres for a number of years as part of the selection process for their Student Ambulance Officers (SAOs). This highly competitive process sees over 1000 applicants compete each year for a place in St John’s and Curtin’s program to become future paramedics. Previously, these Assessment Centres have provided an invaluable way to select candidates who meet the competencies required to succeed in the role, as well as those who will be a good fit for the organisation. For the second year in a row, People Solutions was asked to assist with the design and facilitation of the Assessment Centres, the assessor training, and the selection process.


COVID-19 presented a number of challenges for the 2020 SAO intake and threatened the viability of running in-person Assessment Centres. Fortunately, as restrictions lifted in WA, the assessments were able to proceed, however would require significant modification to be COVID safe. Additionally, there were candidates from interstate who had been accepted into this phase of recruitment, but who were unable to travel to WA to attend in person due to border closures and travel restrictions.


To make the in-person Assessment Centres as safe as possible, the following measures were implemented:

  • All candidates had their temperature checked before starting
  • Rooms were set up to allow for 1.5m distance between people at all times
  • Hand sanitiser was placed on all tables
  • All tables and materials were cleaned in between participants and activities
  • The group activity was adapted to a group discussion to avoid candidates having to handle the same materials and instructions were wiped down between groups

To accommodate the interstate candidates, the final three days of Assessment Centres were converted to Virtual sessions and all activities were conducted online via Microsoft Teams. The structure of the session, the activities, and assessment process were all kept the same as the in-person sessions to ensure that they were as consistent and standardised as possible. The assessment panel (St John WA and People Solutions) conducted a trial run the week before to ensure that all links and technology worked.


The Assessment Centres ran for five weeks, with over 300 candidates coming through over 43 separate sessions. The extra hygiene and safety measures posed no inconvenience and meant that candidates and assessors felt safe participating.

The Virtual Assessment Centres were a resounding success – despite a few expected technological glitches which were easily overcome, we were able to conduct all assessments as we had done in person and were able to observe and assess the same behaviours deemed as critical for the role. Interstate candidates were still able to participate in the process and were assessed the same way as in-person candidates. While there had been some initial concerns about whether the group activity would work over Teams, we found that the interactions and communication between candidates were just as natural and assessable as they had been in person. One group even gave each other a virtual high five at the end of the activity!

Successful candidates from the Assessment Centres have been shortlisted and will progress to the next stage of recruitment.



Are you wondering how to adapt your recruitment techniques to fit COVID guidelines, or regulations? We’ve conducted a range of virtual assessment centres, like this one for a WA based mining company.  Contact us to find out how we can help set up your selection process.


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