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LCN Says

Five top tips for virtual interviews and assessment centres

updated on 16 February 2021

It’s safe to say that most of us don’t enjoy interviews. Whether it’s the thought of talking about yourself, getting asked a question you don’t know the answer to or tripping over on your way into the room – or more recently, your wifi cutting out – interviews are daunting.

Here are LawCareers.Net’s five top tips to help you to effectively prepare for and ace any virtual interviews and assessment centres that you are invited to in future.

  1. Prepare yourself and your space

First things first, make sure you have tidied your space and set up your computer. Check that you have a charging point nearby or just plug your laptop in to be sure that it’s not going to lose its charge. Clear any laundry away that might be in the background and test the lighting and sound on your laptop for the best chance of avoiding technical issues as the interview or assessment centre starts. Despite it being 2021, technology doesn’t always perform the way we want it to so it’s important to consider these aspects.

Let those you’re living with, whether that’s family or flatmates, know that you’re going to be online for an interview or assessment centre so to keep the noise down. On top of this, close down any tabs on your computer that are likely to make notification sounds (eg, WhatsApp or your emails) to avoid any unwanted interruptions and turn off phone notifications or put it away altogether. 

Once you’ve prepared the space, prepare yourself.

Despite the interview or assessment centre being virtual, these are still professional scenarios so it’s crucial that you continue to treat them as such. Wearing the appropriate dress is a great way to ensure you set off a good impression but also feel the part. You wouldn’t rock up to an interview at your dream firm in tracksuit bottoms and a blouse/shirt so don’t do the same virtually – we know it’s tempting, but to avoid any embarrassment should you need to stand up, get dressed properly.  

  1. Commercial awareness – stay up to date

Keeping up with recent news and trends, particularly in relation to the business and legal worlds, is vital. It’s important to note that this isn’t something that you just pick up the night before an interview; it requires more effort than folding your washing away and putting on some clothes.

Setting time aside throughout your legal journey to build your commercial awareness is key. Read the business sections of reputable news websites, listen to podcasts and spend some time applying techniques such as the SWOT and PESTLE analysis to consider the impact of a particular news story on a firm and its clients. Using the content provided on LCN can also help you to not only understand what commercial awareness is and why law firms look for it as an essential skill in all their future trainees, but also how to develop yours effectively to suit the needs of both your future firm and its clients.

  1. Research and have any useful notes to hand

Research! Research! Research! We know you will have had this drilled into you throughout your journey into the profession, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to research (research, research) the firm prior to your interview or assessment centre.

For an interview, consider having your application and any other useful notes you will have made to hand. Make sure they’re easy to read at a quick glance if you get stuck on a question or have a mind blank when asked about something you mentioned on your CV or cover letter, for example.

For an assessment centre, read all the information the firm has provided and do any additional research that is necessary to ensure that you are as prepared as you can possibly be.

In both situations, take some time to prepare a list of relevant questions that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find answers to on the firm’s website. Asking one or two such questions will demonstrate to the firm that you have conducted in-depth research and that you are serious about the profession and the firm itself. If you can find the answer to your question online, don’t ask it.

It’s also important to practise your own answers. There will be certain questions that you can prepare for, for example ‘Why this firm?’ or ‘Why do you have such an interest in X practice area?’, so alleviate some of the pressure you might feel during an interview or assessment centre by preparing for these beforehand. In addition, when it comes to it – if you are asked a question that you do not know the answer to, it’s ok to say you’re not sure. As a prospective vac schemer or trainee, you are not expected to know everything.

  1. Look the interviewers in the eye

Body language and eye contact are still important in a virtual environment. Think about how you would engage with the interviewer during a face-to-face interview – for example, speak directly to the interviewers and not to the video of yourself (regardless of how great you’re looking that day). It might even be worth removing the video of yourself from your screen if possible.

On top of this, sit squarely in front of the camera and remain focused throughout the interview. It seems obvious but again consider how you would show that you’re engaged in a face-to-face interview (eg, positive body language such as nodding to show that you are following along) and implement this into the virtual alternative.

  1. Review the interview or assessment centre

Once you have completed the interview or assessment centre, it’s time to review how it went. Ask yourself some questions, including what went well, what you could improve on for next time and what you learnt during the process. By considering these various factors, you are preparing yourself for the next interview or assessment centre that you are invited to.

It is likely that there will be some hiccups along the way – this is totally natural. If you get to the end of one interview or assessment centre and think it couldn’t possibly have gone worse, don’t let it put you off or distract you from any upcoming ones. Do all the necessary preparation, review it and go again.

It’s also important to remember that graduate recruiters and lawyers are human – they are aware that tech doesn’t always run smoothly, that the delivery driver might arrive at just the wrong time or that you might forget to turn yourself off mute. Don’t let circumstances like these disorientate you. The way you handle such a situation will demonstrate to the firm the type of employee you could be.