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November 26 2020

Jess and Chloe answer your Assessment Centre questions

Flex Paralegals

James Bosson

James Bosson

jess heap of L&W and chloe lloyd of Gowling

As part of our charity ‘How to ace law firm assessment centres’ event for Lawcare, our answered a huge range of questions relating to assessment centres for law firms. Clearly, this is an issue that really resonates a lot of legal professionals, as the response was immense!

We were left, however, with a few questions that really deserved some extra elaboration. We put those questions to Jess Heap, manager of Attorney Recruitment at Latham & Watkins LLP, and Chloe Lloyd, Head of Resourcing at Gowling WLG.

We’ve broken their answers down into four categories; Questions about assessment centres, Questions about general interviews, Questions about Gowling WLG, and Questions about Latham and Watkins. Here’s what they had to say!

Questions about assessment centres:

Many assessment days are now conducted virtually. Do you have any advice how to do virtual group exercises?

Chloe: I would say a lot of what we said on the call about how to approach group exercises applies whether they are done face to face or virtually. The main differences are is it is perhaps slightly more difficult to build rapport with the other members of the group and there may be a little more talking over each other as it is more difficult to see who wants to make a point. I think it just means you have to try and come to an agreement at the start of the discussion on how you will structure the discussion and make sure that you get your points across and let others do the same.

If you’re undergoing a virtual assessment centre, how do you deal with people speaking over you or not affording you the opportunity to speak?

Jess: Be polite and patient. If you’re being observed, the assessors will pick up on the other person’s rudeness and lack of self-awareness. Do your best to politely and succinctly get your point across but do not become agitated or try and compete with the other person.

Chloe: I would also just add be resilient in remaining part of the discussion, even is someone is making that difficult – don't give up and sit back as we need to see you taking part in the discussion.

When doing an online assessment centre – should you look directly into the webcam the entire time?

Jess: It’s like holding eye contact in a face to face interview, you should be confident and look directly into the webcam for the majority of the time but it need not be 100%.

During virtual assessment centres, should I keep notes around?

Jess: If the notes are going to help you and make you feel more calm, yes. Reference them if you need to but do not be reliant on them or let them distract you from natural flow.

What should I do if my wifi cuts off in the middle of a virtual assessment day?

Jess: Stay calm! Re-join as soon as you can, apologise for the technical challenge and continue on. You will not be marked down for this situation and in fact, it will reflect positively if you handle it well and remain calm

How would you approach a mergers and acquisitions case study question?

Chloe: I think we answered this during the session. The main point is not to be put off by the subject matter of the task. We do not expect our assessment day candidates to have technical legal knowledge as some of them may be non law graduates who are yet to start their academic legal studies. Stay calm if the subject matter is something you are not familiar with and understand what the exercise is asking you to do.

During assessment centre exercises, should I reference a firm’s existing clients? Would this be beneficial for me or would it not be necessary?

Jess: Absolutely! This is in fact completely necessary. You must show that you know about the firm and that you are interested in the work they do. It is crucial that your application form and conversation at interview demonstrate that you have this knowledge. We would not put you through if you could not show that you had researched the clients we work with. TIP: chose a couple of deals that the firm has done and really know the detail. Partners will expect you to speak with some depth on client work.

Questions about general interviews:

How can I show my personality in an interview without coming off as unprofessional?

Jess: Be you, relax and don’t over prepare. Try and find some common ground with the interviewers and talk to them. Be natural, your personality will come through when you’re not over thinking it or are “putting on a show”.

How can you keep yourself from waffling on or sounding robotic?

Jess: Practice structuring interview answers. This is a skill and comes with practice. Look up STAR interview responses and start practicing!

How should you answer the “what is your biggest weakness’ question? How do you answer honestly without sounding incompetent?

Jess: No one is perfect and everyone has something they can develop. Chose a competency that is important for the role you’re interviewing for, but not one of the top skills. Explain how you know this is an area for improvement, what you have done to start developing it, the success/improvement you’ve already seen and what more you plan to do in order to continuously improve.

Are there any resources available to find out your strengths and weaknesses?

Jess: Yes, there are online tests that you can do! StrengthsFinder is a good one.

Any tips on tackling pre-recorded video interviews? I find them tricky as it’s very impersonal as there’s no-one on the other end.

Jess: There is no one thing that will work for everyone, I think it’s a case of needing to practice and become comfortable with the set up. Prepare as much as possible to help with your confidence. Talk slowly and maintain eye contact with your camera.

Do you have any advice on dealing with difficult partners in interviews?

Jess: It depends what you mean by “difficult”. If this is more about partners asking difficult questions, then I think it’s a case of remaining calm, taking time to think, not being afraid to seek clarification if you don’t understand the question and most importantly, being honest if you don’t know the answer. Know that sometimes they ask difficult questions to push you and get the best out of you, it’s not a trick to trip you up it’s providing an opportunity for you to demonstrate the full extent of your knowledge.

How do you answer or approach case study questions that deal with information you don’t know?

Jess: Don’t make assumptions, or if you do, state the assumptions you’re making. Don’t waffle and don’t pretend to understand. Openness and transparency is important and will save you looking like a fool! Ask questions if need be.

Chloe: I would reiterate what I have said above re the M&A case study. If we feel that legal knowledge is required for a case study we will provide an overview of the law as part of the reading for the exercise.

Questions about Gowling WLG:

I have applied to Gowling. Is there anything specific you would you like to see from candidates in video interviews?

Chloe: It's important to make a clear attempt to answer the specific question that you have been asked. As with answering interview questions in a face to face scenario try and structure your answer to be concise (your answers will often have a time limit to them so try and make sure you finish your answers within the allocated time). Try and remain as calm as possible, speak clearly and slowly and practise before hand so you are as comfortable as possible with the set up.

I have applied for the Gowling vacation scheme. Do you have any examples of times when you thought a candidate really excelled at the assessment day? Is there anything they did that really made them stand out?

Chloe: As we said during the session, a candidate often stands out what they are themselves and don't try and be someone they're not – they come across as more natural and authentic which is what we want to see. Enthusiasm can count for a lot too. We know you'll be nervous but it's important to see an assessment day as a learning opportunity and show us that you feel like you're getting something out of the day, rather than you just can't wait for it to be over!

Questions about Latham and Watkins LLP:

L&W requires a pre-recorded interview as part of their application process. I have previously done a pre-recorded interview for L&W for a different role as a brand ambassador. Will I have to do another one for a separate application process?

Jess: Yes because the Vac Scheme questions differ to the BA selection questions.

What is L&W’s position when it comes to applying with a disability? In other words, what kind of adjustments does L&W make for disabled candidates?

Jess: If you flag that you require adjustments, we will discuss these with you ahead of starting any stage of the selection process. Reasonable adjustments can be made at every stage of our selection process to support you so please do get in touch and let us know what you need.

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