Harry Warren is a trainee solicitor in Shoosmiths' Solent office. In this month's blog, he shares his top five tips giving you the edge, and helping you to ace your assessment day!
After completing so many lengthy online applications, it's an amazing feeling to finally receive an email congratulating you on your successful training contact application, and inviting you to the assessment centre.
But after the initial relief/delight, you then realise that there is still a final hurdle to jump to reach your ultimate goal. Relief/delight quickly turns to nervousness/anxiety and you begin to worry about how you will stand out against all of the other candidates fighting for the same goal.
To try and attempt to ease those concerns, I have written this blog to give you my five top tips to help you ace the assessment day and secure that all important training contract!
1. You are being assessed all the time!
From the moment you enter the building, you need to consider that everything you do from hereon in is being assessed. Just before you arrive, breathe deeply, steady your nerves and make your last minute outfit adjustments. First impressions are important. It might be the building security, office receptionist or trainees who you meet first. Or you might be sharing a lift with an assessor you'll later meet formally - so be friendly, smile and make conversation.
There is some networking time in the morning over refreshments, and the same at lunch, it's a chance for you to have a more informal conversation with a wide variety of people, so speak to people you haven't met before, and don't be afraid to seek out assessors from the same office that you are applying to. There is also an opportunity during the day to speak with trainees to understand more about day to day life as a trainee with Shoosmiths. And although these are not assessed parts of the day, you still need to be on point as it all creates your "personal brand" and it will be what people remember about you.
Remember that the assessors might have that role on the day, but in a few years they could be your colleagues, so be the colleague they'll enjoy working with.
2. Be on time and keep time
I think the first part goes without saying but unless you have a very good excuse you must be not just on time but early - just not too early!
The second part of this top tip is to keep time (wear a watch!). Activities will always have a time limit, whether that's the group task, the writing exercise, or the presentation element of your interview. All elements have time related pressures, and just like in practice as a trainee and going forward, meeting deadlines is a key skill.
For example, if you decide to nominate yourself to be a time keeper, be sure to keep your team to time, provide time updates throughout, and speed decisions along if you're running out of time. Obviously don't forget to participate in the group discussion at the same time.
3. Be imaginative
Be original with your answers to stand out against everyone else at the assessment centre. Don't be afraid to provide strong interesting answers and your personal opinions. To prepare for your interview, read around different viewpoints about controversial issues in the news, and understand why you believe the things you do. Have a think about a strong team you admire and clearly understand the reasons why you think that team is successful. And most importantly, think about something you are good at, and something that makes you happy. Be positive, thought provoking and original, the best answers are the ones that the assessors would not have heard before.
Before you attend the assessment day, research the assessors likely to be present, and think about interesting and original conversation topics and questions you may want to ask the trainees, recruitment team and other assessors.
You'll have researched Shoosmiths when you applied for the training contract but that could be a few months ago. Now is the time to remind yourself why Shoosmiths is the firm for you, refresh yourself about the areas of law the firm specialises in, and the clients we work with. You can find out about Shoosmiths' clients easily on their website, or through google - just search for recent cases. Don't forget to look on LinkedIn and the firm's press page.
Be sure to thoroughly know the firm's values (Shoosmiths are Taking Initiative, Talking Business Sense, Pulling Together, and Being Within Reach and Responsive). The firm lives and breathes these values. To become a Shoosmiths trainee you do to. Research them before and know examples of when you have lived those values.
5. Be yourself!
I tried my hardest to keep this horrible cliché out of this blog but it is quite true. You have got through to this stage because on paper you match the firm's values. But now you need to match the firm's values in person.
Be interactive, be professional and be friendly. The assessors will be looking for how you interact with people, from the reception team to partners. Don't wait to be approached, seek people out and have a "normal" conversation with them. It can be hard, and most do not love networking but the process is so much easier when you have an easy-flowing conversation, and that will make you stand out a lot more than a person who asks solely work-related or law-related questions without really getting to know the person they talk to.
The people who stand out are the people that are able to enjoy a natural conversation. Being a successful trainee and solicitor is about having the ability to grow professional and personal relationships with colleagues and clients and that stems from having a personable and approachable manner.
And finally, the worst of the clichés is to say 'enjoy it' as from a personal point of view there is little to enjoy from such a day, but speaking honestly, the Shoosmiths assessment was not as bad as I thought it would be and arguably some could say enjoyable (not that I would ever want to do it again).
If you're attending a graduate assessment centre this summer, you may also be interested in reading "How to nail an assessment centre" by Sam Henegan, or watching our latest ShoosmithsLIVE video.
If you have any specific questions, you can contact the graduate recruitment team via twitter or email.
Read more posts with advice about standing out from the competition on the Shoosmiths careers blog.