November 23 2020
10 essential tips to ace assessment centres
Legal Career Tips
1) Be yourself and know yourselfThey’ve read the application form - now they want to meet you in real life. This is the most important tip for any assessment centre attendee: be yourself and know yourself. You wouldn’t have been invited to an assessment if they didn’t think you could do it. Take the time to self-analyse and reflect on why you want this role and why it would be perfect for you. Consider your strengths, weaknesses and be prepared for personal questions.
Top tip: re-read your application form and ask your friends or family to test you before the big day.
2) Be prepared for the left fieldLaw firms love to test you with questions you couldn’t have expected, or questions that seem impossible to answer. Anything from “What type of animals would you be and why?” to “How would you describe a door to someone from Mars?”. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer to these type of questions. What is being assessed is your ability to work under pressure and think on your feet.
Top tip: don’t just answer the question - show your working! How you justify your answer is just as important as the answer itself.
3) Smile, you’re on stage!From the moment you walk through the door, imagine you’re on stage. Everyone you interact with even slightly might be asked for their opinion of you, whether it’s a receptionist or a partner. Make sure not to arrive flustered and don’t let the energy drop until the show is over and you’re out of the door!
Top tip: even if you don’t feel like it, smiling will put you and others around you at ease.
4) Don’t forget the basics.You’ve come this far, so don’t trip up on interview basics. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately and look the part, arrive early, be polite, and keep your phone on silent.
Top tip: no selfies - no matter how good the lighting is!
5. Focus on things you can controlInterview days are stressful, and it’s natural to feel flustered and feel your mind racing through everything. Just stop, slow down, and focus on one thing at a time. Try to give the day your full, undivided attention, and try to minimise other factors that could distract you if possible.
Top tip: breathe, breathe, and breathe.
6) Learn from feedbackReflect on previous feedback, and know your strong points and weak points. Before the assessment centre, consider how you can play to your strengths and be able to give examples of how you are improving on your weaknesses.
7) Slow down your answersWhen answering questions, the aim is to be clear, concise and articulate. Try to work towards one-minute answers and use a clear structure like the STAR or CAR technique. Allow your interviewer the opportunity to ask follow up questions.
Top tip: if you’re not sure how to answer a question, take a moment to pause, think and clarify your response.
8) Challenge partners carefullyMost assessment centres will allow time for you to mingle and talk to partners at the firm. If you find yourself in a position where you need to challenge something, make sure you are polite. There is a fine line between being confident and cocky.
Top tip: if you need to disagree, consider a diplomatic approach i.e. “Can I play Devil's advocate for a moment and suggest an alternative point of view?”
9) Prepare your answers, not the textbook answersAssessors and partners want to meet the real you. They’ve heard all the generic, textbook responses before, and sticking solely to those won't make you stand out. Set yourself apart from the other interviewees by being authentic, honest, and personal.
Top tip: don’t be afraid of the ‘failure’ question. The bigger the fail, the better the story. Just make sure to mention how you’ve improved since.
10) The group exercise is not an argumentIt’s a common misconception that you have to be overly competitive in group exercises. This isn’t the case! One of the things law firms are assessing is your ability to listen to those around you, build relationships and handle debate in a professional environment. Don’t be silent, but don’t dominate the conversation either.
Top tip: ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak and try to suggest a structure for your group.