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Assessment centres: what’s all the stress about?

So after all your hard work in the application process you finally get invited to an interview only to find out the first stage in the process is the dreaded “assessment centre”

For those of you who’ve had the joy of attending assessment centres, I’m sure you’ll agree they can be quite a long and daunting day. I have had the pleasure of experiencing the assessment centre from being both a candidate and an assessor so understand the process from both perspectives. Assessment centres often vary widely from company to company and can last anything from half a day to two full days. But I think there are common themes, most will include various activities such as a one-to-one interview, a role play, a psychometric test, a presentation and a group exercise.

Below are some general dos and don’ts that I’ve gathered from my personal experience both observing and participating at assessment centres.

The Interview

I would advise candidates to find out the format of the interview as a vast range of interview formats exist i.e. Competency, Panel, Structured or Partner based. It is advantageous to know so you can prepare either specific examples based on the company & role competencies or fictional case study questions where interviewers are interested in your thought process to specific situations.

Role Play

Role-play exercises are another common selection process due to their similarity with real-life situations. They simulate a meeting or professional interaction with a client, colleague or opposing lawyer. Assessors are looking at how you behave, react and conduct yourself in high-pressure situations, often involving negotiation.

Try to think realistically about how you would really respond in a work setting, not how a text book would respond. Try to establish a rapport with the role player; in real life, when trying to persuade someone, the chances are you would start with polite conversation before trying to gently win them round. Aggressive tactics rarely get positive marks.

Group Exercises

These allow the assessors to observe how you solve problems, cooperate with others and work under pressure. Usually, between four and eight candidates will take part in a group exercise. You will be asked collectively to provide recommended actions in response to a fictional scenario. Not only is the quality of each candidate’s contributions evaluated, but so are their interpersonal behaviours, conduct, encouragement and empathy with others in the group. I have been involved in many group discussions and have found that getting across the correct answer in situations like this is secondary to the importance of being a team player. A lot of the time there isn’t actually a right or wrong answer anyway.

Some candidates try to compete with others by dominating the discussion or behaving aggressively. This sort of behaviour is likely to be negatively scored, while positive scores are awarded for collaborative behaviour such as encouraging quiet people to contribute, listening to others and building on others’ ideas. My advice is to try and get a happy medium of ensuring you get your opinion over clearly and confidently, whilst listening attentively and taking other peoples’ suggestions on board. And definitely, no matter what, never talk over people.

Psychometric Tests

These types of tests can include critical thinking, verbal reasoning tests, numerical reasoning tests and personality questionnaires. As with any test I advise practice, practice, practice by trying out lots of example tests beforehand. And again if you can find out which psychometric tests will be included as this will aid in your preparation.

Hopefully you will find the advice useful however you should always remember that making it to the assessment centre stage is an achievement in itself and whether you are successful or not use each experience to hone your skills for the next interview as you grow in your career.

For further information please contact Adele Hindley at BCL Legal on 0161 819 7475 or info@bclgraduates.com

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