Although the UK is aiming to be free from restrictions on 21 June 2021, it is still very possible that assessment days for this year's training contract applicants will once again be conducted remotely. In the longer term, for better or worse, virtual assessment days may even be something which firms deploy as an additional round of the process; or even as a replacement for in-person meetings for those living further afield.
With this in mind, some of the Howard Kennedy trainees have prepared their top tips for virtual assessment days:
Make your point and then stop - don’t fill the silence
Lucy: It's normal to be nervous for an interview and on Teams/Zoom any "awkward silences" seem heightened whilst you wait for a response. However, it’s important that when it’s your turn to speak you make your point and then stop to allow the interviewer to respond. Don't feel as though you need to fill the silence and don’t trail on at the end of a sentence. Make it obvious that you have finished speaking.
Speak slowly in a calm manner and articulate your points well
Michael: As Lucy has said, it is normal to be nervous during interviews and this leads to a tendency for candidates to rush their answers because their heart rate is up and the adrenaline is flowing. It is important to try and relax, speaking slowly and clearly will help your answers seem more conversational and confident. This will make any point you raise seem clearer and better thought out, plus it will highlight any structure that you use in your answer. The firm is looking for a candidate who can remain calm under pressure.
Let others speak
Alex: As we all know by now, on Teams/Zoom it is very easy to start speaking at the same time as another person. It's likely this will unintentionally happen in the group exercise but just remember to let others have their say too. The group exercise is not just about proving your individual brilliance but also to show how well you work with others. If you notice someone struggling to get their points across, invite them to speak and listen to them.
Begin to build your commercial awareness and knowledge about the firm
Michael: Commercial awareness is much more than just knowing what is happening in the news. It is applying real time economic developments to the markets that the firm operates in and being able to spot opportunities for growth or predict risks that market share may fall. This means knowing what each individual team does within its legal market. Take the employment team for example – do they act for primarily employers or employees? In what sectors do their clients operate? What financial pressures may these clients be under? What world events are happening that may cause a need for employment law advice in these sectors? How can the firm remain competitive if it is likely that a particular sector may not require employment advice or may want to reduce the cost due to other financial pressures?
Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method for answers
Michael: This is a great structure to use for answers to questions that require you to describe a certain situation or point in time. It goes like this:
Situation - Explain the general situation, were you working at a law firm? If so, in what team? Was it during university? If so, when and in what context?
Task - Describe the task in more detail. What exactly did you have to do and in what time frame?
Action - Explain how you completed the task. If you formed part of a group, explain what your role was and how you liaised with others in the group to achieve the required objective.
Result - What was the outcome of your actions? What was the outcome of the group's actions? What did you learn about your strengths and weaknesses? Remember, when you talk about your weaknesses you should make a commitment to work on them through undertaking the relevant activities or researching the relevant points.
Dress to impress
Alex: There is a temptation to dress down when working and going through the application process from the comfort of your own home. It may sound obvious but do not dress down on an assessment day, whilst a suit might not be necessary you should dress smartly. Remember you are still interviewing and want to dress professionally
Check what's in your background
Lucy: As Alex said, it’s important to look professional during the interview/assessment day and this extends to what is in your background. Where possible, try to have a blank or plain wall behind you so the attention is on you and not your One Direction fan poster or your laundry hanging up to dry!
Look into the camera
Lucy: This one is tricky to master but will make a difference if you can get used to it. Try not to look at yourself (often in the top or bottom corner of the screen) as it will look like you are distracted. Look directly down the webcam when speaking as it will create the impression of eye contact. A Partner at the firm recently revealed that she has stuck a pair of "googly eyes" from a craft shop on either side of her webcam to help her talk directly to the audience when speaking at webinars - might be worth a try!
Check your internet
Alex: Again, it may sound obvious but good internet connection is crucial. Of course the assessors will be accommodating if you have any issues but it might mean you aren’t able to perform at your best if you are constantly breaking up throughout the day. If you live with others, try to ask that they limit their Netflix binges until you are finished. If you are concerned about this or just really organised, see if you can hotspot from your phone as a backup.
Don’t forget applications are now open for our 2022 training contact. You can apply here.