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LCN Says

Five tips to prepare for virtual interviews and assessment centres

updated on 25 March 2024

Reading time: five minutes

Here are LawCareers.Net’s five tips to help you prepare for your upcoming virtual interviews and assessment centres.

It’s safe to say that most of us don’t enjoy interviews. Whether it’s the thought of talking about yourself or getting asked a question you don’t know the answer to – interviews are daunting.

1. Prepare yourself and your space

First things first, tidy your space and set up your computer. Check that you have a charging point nearby or plug your laptop in to be sure that it won’t lose its charge during the interview. Clear any laundry away that might be in the background and test the lighting and sound on your laptop to prevent any technical issues as the interview or assessment centre starts.

Tell those you’re living with that you’re going to be online for an interview or assessment centre and ask them to keep the noise down. On top of this, close any tabs on your computer that are likely to make notification sounds (eg, WhatsApp or your emails) to avoid any unwanted interruptions. You should also 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 you must 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.  

2. Commercial awareness – stay up to date

Keeping up with recent news and trends, particularly in relation to the business and legal worlds, is vital. This isn’t a skill or understanding that you pick up the night before an interview; it requires more effort than that.

Setting time aside to build your commercial awareness is key. Read the business sections of reputable news websites, listen to podcasts and spend 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.

Use LCN’s Commercial awareness hub to help you understand what commercial awareness is and why law firms look for it as an essential skill. You’ll also find advice on how to develop yours effectively to suit the needs of both your future firm and its clients.

3. Research and have any useful notes to hand

Research! Research! Research! We know you’ll have had this drilled into you throughout your journey into law, but we can’t stress enough how important research (research, research) is.

For an interview, consider having your application and any other useful notes you’ve made to hand. Make sure they’re easy to read at a 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, it’s useful to have them nearby as a prompt.

For an assessment centre, read all the information the firm has provided and do your additional research to ensure you’re as prepared as you can be.

In both situations, take some time to prepare a list of relevant questions that you can’t find answers to on the firm’s website. Asking one or two such questions will demonstrate to the firm that you’ve conducted in-depth research and that you’re serious about the profession and the firm itself.

It’s also important to practise your answers. There’ll 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 that pressure by preparing for these beforehand. In addition, when it comes to it – if you’re asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, it’s ok to say you’re unsure. As a prospective vac schemer or trainee, you’re not expected to know everything.

4. Look the interviewers in the eye

Body language and eye contact are still important in a virtual environment. Think about how you’d engage with the interviewer during a face-to-face interview. For example, speak directly to the interviewers and not the video of yourself.

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’d show that you’re engaged in a face-to-face interview (eg, positive body language such as nodding to show that you’re following along) and implement this into the virtual environment.

5. Review the interview or assessment centre

Once you’ve completed the interview or assessment centre, review how it went. Consider what went well, what you could improve on for next time and what you learnt during the process This will help you to prepare yourself for the next interview or assessment centre that you’re invited to.

There’ll likely be some hiccups along the way – this is 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’re 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.