Assessment Centre 101
Applying for a vacation scheme? Worried about assessment centres? Our writer, Shannon Aiken, interviewed a student from the University of Bristol, who recently undertook an assessment centre for a top London law firm, to find out all you need to know about the dreaded assessment centre.
What was the process leading up to the Assessment Centre?
The application process consisted of five contextual questions in an application pack and this was followed by a short video interview.
What did your day consist of?
I arrived at the office where I met four other students who would be part of my group for the day. The first task consisted of a group exercise where we were presented with a company and had to discuss options for their expansion. Secondly, I completed a drafting exercise that entailed writing a reply to a client and preparing for an initial meeting with them. This meeting was acted out between myself and two of the firm’s partners and was assessed. Finally, I completed an interview which focused on why I was attracted to their firm and what skills I could offer them.
How did you prepare?
I made sure I had a detailed understanding of the company as it is vital to know why their specific firm stands out to you. In addition, I prepared competency based answers by thinking about previous experiences and how they showcase various skills I have. It was difficult to prepare for the written commercial awareness tasks, but I suggest learning how each practice area within the firm could assist a business. Also, I stayed on top of the news in the weeks leading up to the assessment centre as having a wider understanding of how specific issues can affect law firms is always beneficial.
What skills did you gain from your experience?
- Understanding of the type of work conducted by employees
- The importance of precision when completing the drafting exercise
What advice would you give to anyone going to an Assessment Centre?
- Be confident! This was my first assessment centre so I was naturally nervous. However, I soon realised that everyone in my group was in the same boat and equally as worried. No matter how daunting it is I believe I was the most successful in tasks that I relaxed in. The assessors want to see how you operate under pressure so even when you are uncertain (and most people will be too) show confidence in your decisions.
- Be personable! I know from feedback that the firm particularly valued a positive and enthusiastic approach to each task. Trainees are gaining greater exposure to clients as the years’ progress and the assessors want to see that you can be approachable in your conduct. As much as they are assessing your knowledge and ability, they want to make sure they are employing someone who will fit within the culture of the firm.
- Be prepared! I suggest knowing as much as you can about the firm. Snippets of facts about your firm can help in every task, whether they have recently implemented innovative technology or completed work in a niche practice area, it is something you can discuss at interview and relate to when completing the commercial negotiation tasks. On the other hand, do not discuss something you do not fully understand as it will be obvious and assessors value actual interest in a subject matter.
Words: Shannon Aiken