The pandemic has changed the way that law firms are assessing applicants for Vacation Schemes, and Training Contracts. One of the main changes to emerge from the pandemic is the ‘Virtual Assessment Centre’. We want to provide you with some guidance around how to prepare for a Virtual Assessment Centre, and some key things to keep in mind throughout the day.
What is a Virtual Assessment Centre?
A Virtual Assessment Centre is the final stage of our graduate recruitment process for Vacation Schemes and Training Contracts, and involves a series of exercises and tasks. This includes a document review exercise, a group exercise, a competency based interview, and a case study interview. These same components would be included in a standard in-person Assessment Centre, so the only difference is the online format. This means that you will not meet the Graduate Recruitment Team in person, and will not visit the Firm’s offices.
The Graduate Recruitment Team have however taken steps to ensure that the experience is as similar to an in-person Assessment Centre as possible, all while completing the Assessment Centre in the comfort of your own home. Breaks are also integrated into the timetable, ensuring that you are able to get some time away from your screen between exercises.
A typical timetable for our Virtual Assessment centres is below:
- 09:00 – 9:30 – Welcome by the Graduate Recruitment team
- 09:30 – 10:00 – Document review exercise
- 10:00 – 10:45 – Associate interview
- 10:45 – 11:00 – Break
- 11:00 – 12:00 – Group exercise
- 12:00 – 12:30 – Lunch
- 12:30 – 13:00 – Case study preparation
- 13:00 – 14:00 – Case study interview
Before the Assessment Centre
Read the instructions carefully
If you are invited to attend a Baker McKenzie Assessment Centre, you will receive a briefing email to ensure that you are ready for the day. This isn’t just for some light reading! This will help ensure that you have a sufficient level of understanding of what to expect at the Assessment Centre, including the timetable, how the sessions will run, and what you need to do before, during and after to leave a lasting impression on the Firm. Basic instructions such as “make sure your microphone is on mute” or “update your username to show your name” can make an event run much more smoothly.
Familiarise yourself with the platform
We hold our Assessment Centres on Zoom, so we would recommend that you familiarise yourself with this technology. Nobody will expect you to be an expert on Zoom, but doing some background reading and practice sessions of the system will help to put your mind at ease, and allow you to focus more on the tasks or interviews at hand, and therefore perform to the best of your ability.
Test out your technology
Before the day we would also recommend testing out your Wi-Fi connection, your webcam, and your microphone. If you have any concerns about the strength of your connection, then please do inform the Graduate Recruitment Team before the Assessment Centre. They can then pass this information onto your interviewers. It is highly possible that there will be some connection issues for one or more of the attendees, or possibly even interviewers or Graduate Recruitment. This is normal and not something that you should worry about. Difficulty surrounding internet connection is a common problem while working from home and attending virtual events.
Do thorough preparation
Make sure that you re-read your initial application, as you may be asked questions based off this application form in your interviews. Ensure that you have prepared for some questions that you might expect in a law firm interview (e.g. why law and why Baker McKenzie), and ensure you can elaborate on the experiences you have detailed on your form. Furthermore, we would recommend preparing some questions for your interviewers too.
On the Day
Join the call early
Make sure you join the call about 10 minutes before it starts. You will be placed in a Waiting Room in Zoom, and will not be admitted to the call until the first session, however joining early gives you a bit of time to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and provides some buffer time in case you need to resolve any technical issues.
Think about your environment
Consider your environment and your surroundings when attending a Virtual Assessment Centre. Just because you are attending an event from the comfort of your own home, you should still ensure that your environment enables you to focus entirely on the Assessment Centre. Consider things such as;
- Sound and lighting
- Noise levels
- Dress code
- Body language
All of the above contribute to your personal impact during the day. Make sure that you are in a location that has a neutral background and free of clutter and movement that may distract you (and others) during the event. Alternatively, we would recommend using a virtual background on the call to avoid distraction, e.g. a plain white image.
When you are speaking in a video call, it is best to avoid generating any background noise (such as moving items on your desk, shuffling paper or making a drink). Again, this will keep you, and any other participants free from distraction and allow your point be articulated properly and heard clearly. A good way to minimise background noise is to use a pair of headphones with a built in microphone, as this will focus sound and help reduce any background noise. Of course background noise isn’t always possible to avoid, so whenever you are not required to speak, put your microphone on mute. In regards to dress code, we recommend that you treat a Virtual Assessment Centre like you would an in-person Assessment Centre, and dress in business attire.
If you experience technical difficulties
If you do have any connection issues, then it is a good idea to try some troubleshooting, such as turning off your video or close other applications that are using the internet when not in use. If you do struggle with your connection issues, don’t be afraid to let the Graduate Recruitment Team know that you might disconnect from the call, and need to re-join, perhaps on a different device (e.g. a mobile phone).
Body language still matters
Body language is just as important in a virtual assessment centre as it is in-person. You might be tempted to look at the monitor or yourself, but focus on making eye contact with your interviewer via the camera. In the group exercise you can use body language to show support for other people’s ideas by nodding along, and it doesn’t hurt to smile!
- Read all instructions carefully
- Check your technology (Wi-Fi, webcam, and microphone) in advance
- Remain professional at all times
- Contact the Graduate Recruitment team if you have any questions or concerns
- Join the call early
- Let your personality shine through!
Best of luck if you have a Virtual Assessment Centre coming up – we hope you found this tips helpful!