Assessment centres: the future of employment

Attending a training contract assessment centre may be a daunting concept, but it doesn’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.

ULaw and its students see employability as a high priority. Securing a job requires much more than just a qualification, which is why our Careers and Employability service has expanded to entire teams rather than a singular careers adviser. At ULaw employability is part of the curriculum rather than an optional extra.

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

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

Employers will present a range of exercises for candidates to complete, including written assessments, role-play, team-based tasks and presentations. This provides them with the opportunity to observe the skills and behaviours of applicants in a variety of scenarios similar to the job requirements, and gain a better understanding of how suitable several candidates would be all at once.

It’s proven to be a very effective method of interviewing applicants, allowing 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 may seem all the more intimidating, there is still one element of an assessment centre which remains the same as the conventional interview: you’re assessing them as much as they’re assessing you. In fact, an assessment centre gives you the chance to figure out what the job would be like to do. So use this to your advantage

The University of Law runs events of all types, including open days, law fairs and insight days. Check them out at

John’s top tips on handling assessment centres

  1. Stay true to yourself and bring to life the qualities that got you there. To get to the assessment centre you’ll have already made it through the earlier stages of the recruitment process. That in itself is a good sign.
  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 overly competing with your teammates and losing.