Traineeships

Due to attend an assessment centre? Read on for advice on what to expect and how best to prepare.

Assessment centres are a way for you, as a candidate, to demonstrate that you have the skills required to be a successful trainee solicitor. They tend to invoke greater apprehension than a standalone interview. However, if approached in the right way, they are an excellent opportunity for you to show that you have the entire range of skills that the recruiters are looking for.

The exercises used at an assessment centre will differ from firm to firm, but each exercise will invariably have been selected because the assessors are looking for you to display a particular skill or set of skills.

For this reason, with every task you are asked to complete it is important to consider the purpose of the exercise and to ask yourself what skill you are being asked to demonstrate.

It is useful to remember that, at Brodies, prospective trainees are measured against the following core competencies:

  • Conduct and communication skills
  • Teamwork and adaptability
  • Self-motivated and driven
  • Prepared, organised and able to prioritise
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Commercial and profit focused

A helpful outline of these competencies can be viewed here.

Below are examples of three exercises commonly used at assessments centres and my advice on how best to approach them.

Interviews

The interview is typically a chance for the assessor to get to know you as a person and to hear more about your skills and experience.

All of the competencies will be covered in this exercise – the questions will be designed to see if you can provide examples of a time when you have demonstrated a particular competency.

With that in mind, a useful way to approach your interview preparation is by thinking of examples of things that you can discuss under each competency. Make sure that these examples are strong – this is the time for you to sell yourself!

Never forget that an interview is also a chance for you to learn more about a firm and to show where your areas of interest lie. It is always good to come prepared with questions that show that you have done your research – don’t just ask questions that you could easily find the answer to online.

Written exercises

The key skills being assessed here are your written communication skills and your ability to organise and prioritise your time. Written exercises will usually deal with legal topics and will test your ability to dissect the issues in front of you.

Time is always short with these exercises, so it is worth taking a few minutes to plan your time before you start writing. This will make it easier to ensure that you cover all of the key points and don’t go off track.

The assessors will want to see a well-written and structured piece of work that demonstrates an understanding of the task you have been set. Always bear in mind the intended audience – your writing style should be different depending on whether you are drafting an advice note to a client or an email to a partner.

Presentations

Presentations are a chance for you to display your verbal communication skills, and often require you to process a large amount of information in a short space of time.

It is important that you structure your presentation and deliver it in the most effective way possible. You must make sure that the information covered in your presentation is relevant to the task and addresses the issues.

If you are given materials to prepare from in advance make sure that you take the time to get to know these – they are an invaluable resource!

As with the written exercise it is important to tailor your presentation based on who your intended audience is. You should also be prepared to answer questions based on your presentation.

Finally… be confident!

My top piece of advice for the entire process is that you go into your assessment centre with the belief that you can make it through. It might sound clichéd, but if you are confident on the day that you can succeed then that confidence is more than likely to come across in the way that you present yourself, and improve your overall performance.

This is, undoubtedly, much easier said than done, but the fact that your application has been selected from hundreds of others tells you that you already have the necessary skills and experience that the recruiters are looking for. The assessment centre is simply an opportunity for you to demonstrate this to them in person.

Good luck!