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Assessment Centres: The Future Of Employment

Training contract assessment centres might seem like a rather daunting concept, but they don’t have to be. We sat down with The University of Law’s Employability Director, John Watkins, to find out more about what assessment centres are, where they came from and to get some top tips on ensuring you make the most of your opportunity to impress.

By Cara Fielder. Published 29 January 2018. Last updated 21 October 2021.

Like ULaw, for many students a high priority is their employability. Securing a job requires much more than just a qualification, which is why our Careers and Employability service has expanded to whole teams rather than a singular careers adviser in an office. At ULaw employability is part of the curriculum rather than an optional extra.

With more and more job applicants having flawless CVs with loads of work experience, good interview techniques, engaging personalities and the ability to cope with even the most bizarre questions it’s made standing out even more of a challenge.

Assessment centres push the boundaries of the interview and integrate more practical assessment exercises so that they can gain some critical insight and identify the optimum candidate(s).

How it works is that employers present a range of exercises for candidates to complete, including written assessments, role-play, team-based tasks and presentations. This gives them the chance to observe the skills and behaviours of applicants in a variety of scenarios similar to what the job would involve and get a better understanding of how capable and suitable several candidates would be all at once.

Over time it’s proven to be a very effective method of interviewing applicants. It allows employers to assess the likelihood of your success in the role more accurately than simply judging you based on a carefully crafted document or through a structured one-to-one conversation

While this might make it seem all the more intimidating, there is still one element of the characteristics of an assessment centre which remains the same as it was for the conventional interview: You’re assessing them as much as they’re assessing you. In fact, an assessment centre gives you the chance to actually figure out what the job would be like to do. So use this to your advantage

John's top tips on handling assessment centres

  1. To get to the assessment centre stage you’ll have already made it through the earlier stages of the recruitment process. That in itself is a good sign. It’s important to remain true to yourself and bring to life the qualities that got you there.
  2. Keep on your toes. It’s an intense experience where you may be continually watched, meaning there’s no period when you can switch off.
  3. Practise whenever you can, and seek feedback after being assessed by real assessment centres. If someone’s been observing you closely for a prolonged period of time they’re bound to see aspects of you that few others do. Their insight can be extremely revealing and helpful for the future.
  4. Team work makes the dream work. An assessment centre is trying to recreate something similar to the real work place where collaboration and teamwork are vital qualities. Succeeding as a team is better than outshining and overly competing with your teammates and losing.

The University of Law’s Lawyers’ Den event gives attendees the chance to participate in mock assessment centre exercises and gives you great insider tips from practising lawyers. The first Lawyers’ Den events are taking place on Wednesday 31 January at a variety of locations across the country so be sure to book your place online.