All that stands between you and that coveted pupillage or training contract are a few hours of high intensity questioning, immense stress and a platter of sandwiches with coffee for lunch. Well fear not; for the dreaded assessment day really need not be dreaded at all. All the assessors want to know is: whether you are good enough for the position and whether you would be a suitable person for their organisation.
It’s a question of confidence…
Having confidence in your own ability is paramount. Remind yourself why you are really there: you want to practice in law, you have what it takes, and you’re willing to prove that, to friends, to family and importantly, to the forthcoming assessors.
What does the assessment day involve?
What to expect? Usually assessment days last about four to six hours, with lunch and breaks in between each activity. Expect a formal interview with a panel of interviewers, a group activity session and another activity which may include a test under timed conditions.
There will be a number of other candidates present throughout the day which will make dealing with the stress a little easier as you are all in the same position, but never forget they are in direct competition with you. Revealing little information about your individual assessments is a good tactic.
Assessment day preparation…
Preparation for the assessment day can be completed by various methods. The key here is to prepare in a way you feel comfortable with, in similar fashion to revision for an exam.
For the interview, expect to be grilled on your CV. Know it inside out and be able to explain it in detail. Do your research on the organisation and make sure you are able to answer any questions about your motives and ambitions. You’ll almost certainly be asked why you’re applying to their organisation.
Preparing for competency-based questions
Competency-based questions are always quite tricky to deal with, but there will invariably be some asked of you. For example, they may ask you to recall a time when you showed leadership skills, or when you influenced someone. These competency-based questions are difficult to prepare for in the sense that you cannot guess what you will be asked. It might help if you go over your past work or personal experiences and be able to readily present examples of your ability, displayed in various circumstances.
You should also be prepared to answer topical questions about the current affairs. They might be legal or non-legal, so make sure you read the broadsheets and watch the news every day. The panel might ask your opinion on an issue. This could be about anything. What is not important is your actual opinion, but rather what your opinion is founded on and how you’ve come to your conclusions.
You might be asked to give a presentation on an issue or prepare an advocacy task. Here, it is important that you demonstrate your ability to follow an argument using logic and rational thinking. Don’t be afraid if you have been asked this, just do your best. The panel know you’re not a seasoned professional and will not be expecting a performance anything above the level that you are at.
Finally, on the interview, really try and enjoy it. Be as relaxed as possible and let the panel see you as a person and an individual.
Assessment day group activities…
The group activity may range hugely in nature, tailored to each organisation. In all likelihood, you will probably be marked on your ability to communicate, your interpersonal skills, teamwork, leadership and thinking outside the box. The hardest part of the group task is the probable requirement to undertake self-appraisal at the end. Your own marks on your aptitudes will be compared to their marks, to see if you have self-awareness. If you performed well, then mark yourself well. Don’t be unduly modest.
The third activity varies and as mentioned could be a test under timed conditions. Again, don’t worry, you will not be tested on something outside your own knowledge. It may be likely that you get given a fictitious statute, with a set of facts and be asked to analyse and apply the law. This sounds tricky and sometimes is, but remember everyone is in the same position, so keep calm, read your instructions carefully and simply do what has been asked of you.
What happens after an assessment day?
You’ll feel a sense of relief once the day is over. It’s not the stress of the actual assessment day that is hard to stomach, rather the anticipation of the outcome.
Whatever the result, you will have at least gained a good experience that either should prepare you for future interviews, or give you the confidence to progress into practice.