Top Ten Assessment Centre Tips

  • Last updated 27-Feb-2018 12:07:39
  • By Sonia Cooke, HR Manager, Field Fisher Waterhouse

Law firms are increasingly using assessment centres to recruit for both training contracts and vacation schemes.  Follow the tips below to ensure you showcase your strengths on the big day.

1. Prepare…

It is important to have done your research about the firm before applying, as it is at this stage that you really need to know your stuff! Make sure you know office locations (and exactly where the assessment centre is), the areas of law the firm specialises in, and any recent large cases the firm has worked on.

Some firms will let you know the names of the partners assessing at the assessment centre. This is vital information! If you get your hands on those all-important names, take the time to do your research on them and find out the area of law that they specialise in.

2. Arrive in plenty of time…

There is nothing worse than arriving at an assessment centre late and flustered; all that preparation you have done will go straight out of the window. Try to arrive about five minutes before the commencement of the assessment centre, so you have a few minutes to settle in.

If you arrive at the venue really early, go for a coffee nearby rather than going into the assessment centre. They will not be ready for you and you will just be sitting there getting anxious. 

3. Practise…

You can never predict the questions and exercises the firm will throw at you, but you can do practice exercises which will help you on the day.

Most careers services will be able to provide you with practice written exercises and psychometric tests, and there will be a number of these available online too - check out Assessment Day, for example. Online practice material might differ slightly from the tests at the assessment centre (because life just isn’t that easy!), but they will give you an idea of the format and the speed at which you will have to work.

You should take some time to consider the selection criteria that the recruiters are using. It will become obvious when you look at the questions asked on the application form and, in any case, most firms have a ‘what we are looking for’ section on their website. The skills and competencies highlighted in the selection criteria will be the ones that they will be assessing you against on the day.

4. Keep up-to-date…

You have probably heard it a million times before, but it is really important to be up-to-date with the news and legal press. Interview questions, presentation topics and case study materials are likely to originate from a recent piece of news, so it will make your life a lot easier on the day and will demonstrate commercial awareness if you know something about the topic already.

5. Read all the information they give to you…

When you get a place on an assessment centre, the firm will probably send you more information about the day. It may include the exercises you will be doing, the location, who you will meet, timings etc.

Make sure you read this information extremely carefully. This information will not only help you to prepare for the day, but there may be something in this pack which you have to do beforehand.

Some firms, for example, will give you presentation topics at this stage, asking you to prepare a presentation and bring material on the day. If you are unable to do one of the exercises at the assessment centre because you didn’t prepare for it, it could cost you a training contract or a place on a vacation scheme!

6. Take the opportunity to find out more…

Recruitment is a two-way process and an assessment centre is a perfect opportunity for you to find out more about the firm. There will be current employees of the firm, usually trainees and partners, on hand to answer any questions that you might have. Take the time to speak to them and find out why they like working there, and why it might be the right firm for you.

7. Don’t start the day tired…

Be warned: assessment centres are exhausting, so make sure you are not out partying the night before!

If the assessment centre is not local to you, the firm might cover some of the accommodation costs of a hotel for the night before (this will be detailed in your information pack). However, some firms will not. In this instance, I would recommend staying with a friend or family the night before to make your journey shorter on the day.

8. Don’t take control…

There will be a number of competencies the recruiters are looking for at the assessment centre, so try not to let the need to demonstrate leadership skills take control in the group exercise. Yes, recruiters want to see some leadership skills, but of equal importance are team working, listening and communication skills.

You need to remember that the other members of the group are members of your team, not competition. You should have your own points of view and explain these to the rest of the group, but you also need to be prepared to be talked round to other ways of thinking.

9. Don’t get disheartened...

Within an assessment centre, there will be elements which you might think you didn’t do well on, but do not worry about it! Assessment centres are designed to allow candidates to demonstrate their strengths in different situations and it is rare to find applicants who excel in every exercise.

Just because one exercise has not gone as well as you’d hoped, do not get disheartened. Instead look forward to the next exercise and think about how you can showcase your strengths in that.

10. Be yourself & enjoy it...

It is extremely difficult to pretend to be something you are not throughout an assessment centre. You have made it through this far in the recruitment process by being yourself, so whilst an assessment centre is not the most natural of situations, try to enjoy it and be yourself. It will be your life experiences and personality which will make you stand out in the crowd, so don’t be afraid to show the recruiters your individuality.

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