Now the end of January has passed (finally), and with it the deadline for many vacation schemes and training contracts for City and regional firms alike, it is time for many to shift their focus to the dreaded assessment centre or interview. However, there is no reason to be scared – nerves are normal, and healthy, and with a bit of preparation you can work towards securing a successful outcome. So where do you start?
The first port of call is the internet, of course – try to find out as much as you can about the individual firm’s process at this second stage. Some many have full day assessment centres, consisting of interviews, group exercises, presentations and written exercises; others a half day consisting of a selection of the above; some only include an interview.
As well as the firm’s website, there are many forums and blogs online which can outline in more detail the firm’s approach. At this stage, you should also utilise any contacts you may have. If a student in the year above you did a vacation scheme with this firm, send them a quick message and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help out a fellow aspiring lawyer with some insight into the assessment process.
So now you know what you’re in for – but how can you prepare? This obviously depends on what type of assessment you’ll be undertaking, so here’s a few tips for each type you may encounter:
No matter whether your interview is with graduate recruitment or a partner, you should prepare yourself to answer questions about why you chose the firm, why you chose law as a career (and commercial law in particular, if it’s a City firm), and also think about your competencies. Almost certainly in one way or another you will be assessed on skills such as communication, teamwork, dealing with problems, time-management, attention to detail and many others, so ensure you have many examples on hand to deal with any question probing into such attributes.
With written exercises, it is difficult to prepare in advance, however ensure you remember to keep an eye on the time and sub-divide the task in the allotted time if it lends itself to that, in order to ensure you finish all you have been asked to complete. Moreover, a quick look online as to how to start and finish letters may demonstrate clear communication skills.
The main piece of advice I can convey for group exercises is easy to give but difficult to secure in situ – you have to make sure you speak and contribute enough, in order to demonstrate how good a candidate you are, but also not to speak too much, so the graduate recruitment team go away with a bad taste in their mouth.
One way to effectively balance this is to ensure you listen to your teammates and in your response to anything they say, bring to the fore some of their strong points or arguments and build on them. This shows good teamwork and communication and allows the best arguments to be put forward overall.
All that’s left to say is good luck – if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail!
For the ultimate preparation for an assessment day, check out the TSL Training Contract Surgery’s assessment day workshops, which give you the chance to practice interviews, group and written exercise in a risk-free environment with feedback from our team of qualified lawyers.