E.ON Case Study: Assessing Graduates for Technical Roles 


Client Profile

Industry sector: Utilities

Number of employees: 90,000

Location: Germany


Faced with a Graduate Scheme which has attracted more than 2,000 applicants in previous years, E.ON sought to update and refine its Graduate selection processes to be more efficient, as well as improve the Candidate experience for its Graduate intake in 2007-8 and beyond. This presented unique challenges with respect to the volume of applications to be sifted and the variety of positions offered to E.ON Graduate recruits.

A process was required to ensure the best Candidates were secured early and mitigate the risk of losing talented Applicants to competitors. It was also evident that the selection process would need to be flexible enough to effectively select for a variety of roles from Human Resources to Engineering.

Each business unit had unique expectations of what the selection process should look like, so the challenge of creating Assessment Centres which satisfied the requirements of each department was not insignificant. Critically, the process would need to effectively measure the technical potential as well as the behavioural qualities of the Applicants, as both were considered equally important for Graduates entering these specialist roles. Assessment Centres were designed which would assess for both ‘Technical’ and ‘Non Technical’ Graduate positions.


1) Up-front ‘Health Check’ and Job Analysis

To design an effective solution based on the unique organisational structure and variety of Graduate roles, a&dc initially undertook a thorough ‘Heath Check’ review of the existing processes. This involved systematically identifying aspects of the current selection process that were working well and also flagging up areas in which amendments would help to make the process more effective.

Job Analysis was conducted whereby line managers and current job incumbents were interviewed and the results compiled, revealing the key behaviours which were required of E.ON Graduate recruits across the variety of roles offered. The research gathered led to a re-assessment of the competencies upon which the existing Graduate selection process was based.

2) Technical Skills Sifting Interview

The vast number of Candidates which would apply to specialist roles within E.ON, before being invited to more intensive stages in the selection process, would need to be sifted. This stage was essential to ensure that each of the shortlisted Candidates met the specific requirements of many of the roles.

Although a sifting process was already in place, this did not assess technical capability. It was determined that including this element would add significant value to the process, ensuring Candidates invited to the next stage of assessment had the technical ability necessary for many of the more specialist Graduate roles. The technical sifting exercise was designed in consultation with Subject Matter Experts. Their input ensured the questions reflected the level of knowledge required for the role, and that question items were both relevant and sufficiently challenging in order to effectively differentiate between Candidates. Focus groups were held, during which technical experts from the various business units discussed and agreed assessment criteria. This gave a wider range of data that Assessors would use to construct objective benchmark answers with which to compare Candidate responses. An interview guide was constructed which was structured into discrete sections, helping Participants to focus on groups of related questions. For example, questions to uncover the Participant’s motivation were designed, as well as specific questions related to technical competence. To ensure that Candidates were relaxed and open in their responses, and to guarantee consistency of results, Interviewers were given guidance as to how the interview should be structured and the best way to introduce each section.

Where technical knowledge demanded long and complex responses, the questions were broken down into simpler ones, so that information could be gathered one piece at a time. Consequently, Participants felt more confident about what was required of them, while Assessors were able to construct a detailed picture of the Candidate’s technical ability without overwhelming or confusing them. The technical sifting interview was combined with existing assessment tools used early in the selection process to enhance the quality of Graduates invited to Assessment Centre, saving time and money at the more labour-intensive (and expensive) selection stages.

3) Realistic ‘Day in the Life’ Assessment Centre

The up-front research, including Job Analysis, led to an updated competency-exercise matrix being created to ensure that the Assessment Centre was as effective as possible. A combination of tailored and bespoke exercises was selected to assess Candidates against newly agreed core behaviours or ‘competencies’. Creating a matrix which cross-references each Exercise against the core competencies helped to ensure that each behaviour could be assessed during three separate Exercises during the Assessment Centre. This level of behavioural assessment is the de facto standard in best practice Assessment Centre design, giving each of the Candidates greater opportunity to demonstrate their ability and for those who would best fit the roles to really stand out from the rest. The range of Exercises selected included an Analysis Exercise, a Fact Find, an Oral Presentation and a Group Discussion. The Exercises were linked together, creating a realistic ‘Day in the Life’ assessment experience for Candidates.


E.ON & a&dc rolled out the first Graduate Assessment Process in October 2007, within budget and on deadline. The Assessment Centres successfully identified the desired number of bright and talented Graduates who will hopefully become business leaders of the future. Graduates are recruited over a 3 month period, getting to the best Candidates quickly and giving E.ON a competitive edge.

What the client says

“The development of the selection process to include a technical interview has ensured that we get the right individuals to assessment centre and the new competency framework also ensures that at Assessment Centre we are looking for the right behaviours in the Candidates. Our Graduate scheme is constantly evolving in order to meet our business needs and the investment we made in improving our selection process has given us a strong base to move forward with.” Fern Coombes – Corporate Programme Delivery Manager