Receiving an invitation to an assessment centre can feel like a victory in itself, but how do you overcome the next hurdle? April, a trainee solicitor in Shoosmiths’ Solent office shares her tips on how to excel at a virtual assessment centre.
In line with the differences in work and culture between law firms, you will find that every assessment centre will differ slightly from the last. This will apply even more so in the current times. Each firm is looking for something different in its trainees and as such, it is hard to give specific advice. However, I am a firm believer that if you can nail the basics and become more familiar with the virtual process, you will stand a better chance of performing well on the day.
I have pulled together some of my top tips for excelling at the assessment centre stage.
Build familiarity with the process
Knowing what to expect can be difficult if you have limited experience of assessment centres. This coupled with the overhaul in process, due to the pandemic, can feel overwhelming but remember, everyone wants you to do well and show your full potential.
Use the opportunities offered by firms to get to know the new, temporary process, whether that be via social media, virtual law fairs or through direct contact with the firm as they will all prove useful in understanding what will be expected of you at a virtual assessment centre. If you can, take the chance to ask both trainees and qualified lawyers any questions you may have about the day as they will be able to draw on their experiences as successful candidates and assessors. Whilst the medium of the assessment day might have changed, their experiences remain very valuable.
Don’t give up
On the day itself, don’t be disheartened if an activity doesn’t go quite to plan. Whilst it is important to try your best in every aspect of the day, you will be assessed on your overall performance. Therefore, just because one exercise does not reflect your true potential, always give 100% on the remaining activities. Not only does it demonstrate your resilience, but your overall performance may be enough to be successful.
Working remotely has presented a mix of challenges over the past few months and in order to succeed, it has been crucial for me to acknowledge where things haven’t gone to plan, reflect and then move forward. Some tasks have been much harder to complete from home and being able to adapt to the challenges presented, is an important skill for any lawyer.
It is also important to remember that if you found an exercise particularly challenging, you are usually not alone!
For the right reasons, of course! In your interaction with assessors on the day, make sure that they have a reason to remember you. Whether that be in relation to a hobby, a part time job or an interest you may have, it all adds to you as a candidate. As the assessors won’t have the opportunity to meet you in person this year, this becomes even more important. Conveying your personality and interests will really help the assessors to build a better picture of you as a person.
I discussed my part time retail job in my interview and my assessor still remembers which shop I worked at! These insights into your life can be very powerful in demonstrating that there is more to you than academics and in such a competitive field, this can make all the difference.
Enjoy the experience
This might seem like a strange piece of advice, but you are more likely to perform well if you are relaxed and enjoying the experience. It is unlikely that many of you will have experienced a completely virtual assessment centre before, so do your best to control your nerves before the day begins. Make sure that you have everything you may need within easy reach and test your technology before starting the day!
A large majority of our client meetings have been via video call over the last few months and making sure that this process runs smoothly for clients is really important. Technical issues are an inevitable part of working remotely and using different platforms can be challenging. However, being late dialling in to a client meeting or missing crucial content does not deliver the level of client service expected. Take the time to log in well before the start time as it will put your mind at ease and avoid any last minute panic.
It is easy to focus on the overall result but try and focus, instead, on what you can take away from the experience. It is likely that you will create new contacts from your virtual networking with both assessors and fellow candidates, develop your understanding of the process further and refine your technique along the way. This is all very valuable experience irrespective of the end result. With the legal industry considering the benefits of increased remote working, the experience of a virtual assessment centre will be beneficial in understanding what life could be like as a lawyer in the coming years.
The day itself will go by so quickly. Take the time when you log off to reflect on your performance. Naturally, as time goes by you will forget certain details and it will become more difficult to evaluate, so try and do this at the earliest opportunity.
Think about where you performed well and the areas where you could improve. As this is a new format, these reflections may be different from previous assessment centres you may have attended. This will help to not only prepare you for future assessment centres if unsuccessful, but in the long term it will help to make you a better trainee.
For further inspiration for assessment centres take a look at Harry’s blog or have a read of Sam’s advice.
You can also watch this #ShoosmithsLIVE video chat where Callum (future trainee solicitor) and Sam (Graduate Recruitment Manager) share the ins and outs of each assessment centre exercise, and how this will look in a virtual world.
If you have any questions you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.