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What to expect at a DWF assessment centre

20 May 2020

Assessment centres are a key part of the graduate recruitment process. Emerging Talent Specialist, Charis McGowan explains what it's like to attend a DWF assessment centre.

You've completed hours of research, re-drafted your application form more times than you can count, been through the dreaded video interview experience and finally, you've received an invitation to attend an assessment centre. If you've never attended an assessment centre before then this can seem quite daunting, and even if you have attended one previously, each firm will assess applicants in a slightly different way.

We've broken down our assessment centre step by step, so that you know what to expect if you are invited to attend.

What to expect in the run up to an assessment centre

If you're invited to a DWF assessment centre, you'll be sent an email which confirms that you have received a place. Within the email, it will outline all of the activities that you will undertake on the assessment centre and it will also give you a URL link to book your place. You will have the choice of either a morning or an afternoon session, depending on live slot availability.

We usually have a 'reserve' list of applicants who are awaiting an assessment centre place if one becomes available, so it's important that you book on as soon as possible if you would like to attend. Within the email will be further instructions that you will require to complete to confirm your attendance at the assessment centre.

When completing your pre-assessment centre research, there's lots of DWF resources that you might find useful. We recommend our graduate social media pages, Trainee Blogs and video content (which can be found on the Graduate web pages and YouTube).

When you arrive at the assessment centre

On arrival you'll be asked to register your attendance at the ground floor reception and then you'll be sent to our client floor. Here, a member of our client support team or emerging talent team will be waiting to greet you. You'll then take your place in the client lounge until we are ready to start.

It's worth bearing in mind that when you're at an assessment centre, all of your interactions will be informally assessed while you are in the building. You should be mindful of how you present yourself, especially in public areas such as the lift or client lounge, where you may be surrounded by clients.

Once the team are ready to start, you will be taken through for a group introduction session where you will be provided with a timetable and given further guidance on what to expect. The exercises will be split into three parts; an interview, group exercise/presentation and a proof-reading session.

Interview

The interview session will be conducted with a fee earner (associate, senior associate or partner) and a member of the emerging talent team. The interview style is a strengths-based interview as opposed to a competency based interview; this will assess what are your strengths (i.e. what you are good at) and what you enjoy. This interview style tends to be forward thinking, looking ahead to the role of a trainee solicitor, as opposed to using your previous experience to demonstrate why you are suitable for a role.

We have published a blog post which provides advice on how to prepare for a strengths-based interview. You can access this here.

Group exercise

The group exercise will be facilitated and assessed by two fee-earners (associate, senior-associate or partner level). Within the group exercise, there tends to a maximum of four applicants.

The facilitators will bring you to the room and will read out the instructions and explain any timings that you will need to be aware of. You will then be given five minutes individual reading time before the facilitator begins the group aspect of the exercise.

Our group exercise is designed to allow you to demonstrate teamwork skills, communication skills, negotiation skills and commercial awareness. Once the group discussion time has ended, you will be required to take part in a small group presentation. This allows you to demonstrate your ability to present confidently and articulately.

Following the group presentation, you will also be asked further questions from the assessors about your performance.

We have prepared a blog post which focuses solely on tips for the group exercise. You can find our 'How to ace a group exercise' post here. 

Proof-reading exercise

The final exercise to complete is the proof-reading exercise. When you start the exercise, the facilitator will introduce the exercise and will read out the instructions for you to follow along. Usually, the facilitator will also give you the opportunity to ask any questions which you might have.

Once the instructions have been read out, you'll be given a time frame and the exercise will begin. If you do have any questions, it's important to ask them before the exercise starts, as you may be refused the opportunity to ask questions during the exercise.

It's important to note that proof-reading exercises may be more than simply identifying spelling or punctuation errors. You may be asked to look for spelling, grammar or typographical errors, errors with formatting or even completing missing information.

You will also need to be clear on the instructions for the task; some exercises will request that you identify and correct the errors, while others will merely ask you to identify errors. If this isn't clear at the outset, it's recommended that you ask the facilitator to clarify as you could miss out on marks.

We have prepared a mock proof-reading exercise which you can download and practice. 

Informal networking

As part of our assessment centres, we also offer you the opportunity to network with the assessors from across the day. This is a valuable part of the day and although not formally assessed, may contribute to your performance across the day.

You should take this opportunity to find out more information about DWF, the training contract and opportunities outside of the training contract. There will be a number of assessors that you may not have had the opportunity to speak to across the day, so it's recommended that you take this opportunity to get to know them more.

It's also a good opportunity to demonstrate networking skills, which is a vital skill for any prospective lawyer. You should showcase this by interacting with other candidates as well as assessors.

To finish the day

At the end of the session, the emerging talent team will explain the next steps and give you an indication of when you are likely to hear the outcome of the assessment centre. You will be thanked for your time and shown to collect your belongings - the hard part is over!

We are committed to providing constructive feedback to applicants who have attended the assessment centre. Once a decision has been communicated, applicants who have not received an offer will have the opportunity to book a slot and arrange a feedback call with a member of the team. These usually last around 15-20 minutes and will cover each activity of the day.

If you have been successful and received an offer, you can also request feedback and this will be scheduled dependent on the team's availability.

One final point to mention, is that it's important to be yourself and to try and enjoy the day as much as possible.

We hope to see you at a DWF assessment centre one day!

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