If you want to really impress at a law assessment centre, you’ll need to put the preparation in beforehand. So listen up boys and girls, as we impart our top tips on how to prepare for an assessment centre.
Do your research…
First of all, you should find out as much as you can about the assessment centre. Most law firms/legal organisations will give you some information about what the assessment will involve. If they haven’t, you can always ring up and ask. Some people also recommend using the internet to find out about previous assessment days and past candidates’ experiences - we've got one such account right here. However, don’t expect the assessment centre to run along the exact same lines as previous assessment days.
Next, you’ll need to do your research into the law firm/barristers chambers. Ideally, try to speak to some who has worked for the employer or attended a previous assessment centre. You should try to find out as much as you can about the organisation: who are their clients? What makes them different? What’s their workplace culture like?
Think about your own strengths too: what makes you a great potential trainee and why should they employ you? Most importantly, keep in mind the selection criteria they specified in the training contract/pupillage/vacation scheme application. What skills do you need to be a successful solicitor/barrister? Odds on, every exercise and interview will be geared towards testing you against this.
Many employers will give you details of the types of tests, exercise and tasks you might face at their assessment centre, so you might want to prepare for these individual exercises.
Probably the most obvious exercise you might come up against during an assessment centre is an interview of some sort. So, of course, you’ll want to practice answering questions you might be asked. It’s also worth thinking of things you want to mention during your interview, for example certain skills or relevant experience. Some people even compile a “skills and experience” bank of examples that they can draw upon in the interview. This will be particularly useful if you have to face a competency-based interview.
Not all interviews will be one-on-one, so you should be prepared for the fact that you might be interviewed by more than one person or even a panel. You should also devise a list of questions you want to ask the employer at the end of the interview.
Group exercise preparation…
It’s harder to get ready for group exercises, although, arguably, the group situations you’ve been placed in at university, college or employment, should have given you some preparation. Essentially, group exercises will test your team work, leadership, persuasion and negotiation skills, so try and think of ways that you give those skills a workout beforehand.
You might want to stage a couple of debates with a group of friends or try and get more involved in classroom debates and discussions in seminars. Trust us! It’ll be good practice for group interviews.
Practice psychometric tests…
Some employers will include psychometric tests as part of their assessment centre. These usually assess either ability or personality. Whilst there isn’t a great deal of preparation you can do for these, it is well worth doing a few practice tests beforehand to familiarise yourself with the format and pacing yourself during the test. Various websites, such as SHL, Morrisby and Aptitude Tests Online have practice tests that you can try out.
Whether you’re given a topic to prepare for beforehand or will be required to put together a presentation on the day, you’ll need to practice giving presentations. Make sure you know how to structure a presentation and have practised speaking in front of an audience.
Final assessment centre preparation tips…
1. It sounds a bit obvious, but make sure you know exactly where the assessment centre is and how you’ll get there on the day.
2. Plan out what you are going to wear at the assessment centre. Your suit should be clean and well-fitted and your shoes should be polished. You might want to get a haircut and, if you’re a guy, make sure you are clean shaven. First impressions do count.
3. Read and re-read through all the literature and instructions regarding the assessment centre. Check that you have got everything they have asked you to bring to the assessment centre.
4. Draw up a list of questions you might want to ask trainees, partners, barristers or other members of the organisation. There’s a very good chance that there will be a social event during the assessment centre and questions are useful conversation starters.
5. Think more ‘expect the unexpected’ rather than ‘be afraid, be very afraid’. Every assessment centre will be different, so the main thing is to be on your toes and ready to react to whatever curve ball they throw your way.