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How to Succeed in Strengths-Based Recruitment

Sarah McKeag, Associate Director for Talent Attraction and Acquisition at EY Belfast

Sarah McKeag, Associate Director for Talent Attraction and Acquisition at EY Belfast talks skills-based recruitment and how it differs from the traditional recruitment process.

About EY

EY are one of the big four professional services firms. We have about 550 staff in Belfast at present and 18,000 staff in 21 offices across the UK. We are traditionally known for bringing staff into their chartered accountancy-based exams, be that an audit business or tax business. We have a large consulting business in Belfast and we bring in students now down different routes, through data analytics, project management, contract and procurement management – so there is a wide opportunity for students at all levels within EY. We are a global organisation in 150 companies worldwide. So, the opportunity for students to move and to travel and gain that vast exposure is there, right on their doorstep in Belfast.

Strengths-based recruitment at EY

We have stepped away from traditional [recruitment] routes, we did this about 10 years ago and we work with an organisation called the Centre For Applied Psychology. They have helped us develop this strength-based recruitment process to assess potential in students. So that is the main difference in strength-based recruitment: we’re not looking for the students to have had work experience or experience in a range of things, we’re looking for the potential they have to become leaders in our business and to become successful in our business.

We review our process every couple of years. We review the strengths we use, the frameworks, to make sure that they are aligned to the people who are performing the highest in our business and then this helps assess this potential in the students coming in. So, if we think about what other employers use, they typically use a competency-based approach and the difference between a strength and a competency-based approach is around the energy and enthusiasm – competency can be learnt, whereas a strength is something where you have that natural enthusiasm and energy around doing. It is something you do well and you do often and you enjoy doing all that time. We use that across all our student recruitment, from the online assessment centre to the final interview. The majority of the strengths we use for EY are the core strengths from across all of our programmes we operate, but when you get to that final interview, we’ll have more focus strengths for the area you applied for. 

Strengths that EY recruit against 

These are the core strengths that we would measure:

Accountable

Agile

Adaptable 

Analytical 

Curious

In the know

Number Savvy

Resilient

Strong Communicator

Team Player

We are not looking for students to have done reams of work experience, we will give them a situation or a task and we will ask them how they would approach that, how they would feel about that, we may give them a number of tasks and ask them to choose their preferred 5 or we may give them a group activity and ask them to evaluate on how they have done in that activity and what they would do differently next time. We want them to have these strengths in their mind, when they are going through our process and think about how would I deal with the situation, what would I rely on to do that?

Curious

For example, if we look at the strength curious, we are looking for people that are always challenging and asking why they are doing something, they are looking for new ways to do something and challenge how something works or what’s driving a change in analytics they see so it is that curious, finding out what’s happening and what’s coming next. 

Adaptable and resilience

I think at the moment adaptable and resilience are particularly important. That’s been huge for the students we have brought on in the past 6 months. But equally for the students that are coming towards their last year in university or starting university in a different way than they had ever envisioned themselves. How can they make the most of the circumstances they are in at the moment? Things are frequently changing so there needs to be a level of resilience so they can manage that change process. So that they don’t get change fatigue, so they can have coping mechanisms for stress management, they know when they are stressed and how to deal with that. 

Number savvy

The number savvy one is not looking for someone that has done further maths or additional maths, however we are a number business and whether that be in data analytics or it be in our audit business, you will be given large volumes or data, sometimes numerical, and you will need to be comfortable working with that. People have to have a level of comfort around that, and understand what drives business or what drives our customers businesses as well. 

Team Player

The team player one, we will assess on our EY experience day in our new virtual assessment. This is a really good way at seeing everyone’s energy and how they interact withing a group. In our business you will work in teams and they can be small teams up to very large teams. So you need to have an understanding of how to integrate into a team, what roles you tend to take on, what your strengths are. You do not need to be the leader of that group, quite often you just need to be the person who focusses that group or remembers to bring the group back to a certain point or build on someone else’s idea. We are not looking for the person who talks the most or loudest, but the person who brings the most value to the group, this may be bringing in people who are more quiet in the group or bringing a focus back to the task at hand. We also need those people who start the group off, who get everyone focussed on the task.

Prepping for a virtual strengths-based interview

Make sure your technology works

Make sure you’re comfortable to come on camera

Don’t forget you can blur your background in video’s if it makes you feel more comfortable

We want to see your face and your interaction

Virtual interviews are different from face to face as that rapport takes a bit longer to build up, however our assessors are very comfortable coming on to the camera

Make sure your WIFI is as strong as it can be

Make sure you will not get interrupted

Make sure you do all your prep work before hand

Identify your strengths

For identifying their strengths, particularly before the final interview stage, and you’re thinking about the job that you are going in to, quite often it quite difficult to identify your own strengths but if you think about your energy level – something you do well, you do often and you enjoy doing. It might not be the first thing on your list as you know you can do it in 5 minutes, it could be the thing you treat yourself to or the thing you do first because you know you can do it in 5 minutes. It will be the thing your friends always ask you to do, it will be the role you always find yourself in in any camp or society – so if you’re really good with numbers, you’ll find yourself with the treasurer, if you’re very analytical, people will come to you with their problems to find a solution. The things your friends say you never shut up about as well or something you can talk about for ages.

We will give you a situation or tell you a bit about the area you applied to, a bit about the strengths that they look for and then we will ask you about the situation and what you would find yourself doing if you were in that situation.

In our final interview stages, there is a short presentation which we ask the candidates to do and that should be your opportunity to do a little bit of research around EY and that line of service you have applied for. The final thing would be around motivation. You will be interviewed by a partner or director, who is an owner of our business, and they will want to know why you wanted to apply to EY, why you have applied to that particular area, as that is the part they own. It is really your opportunity to show the research you have done into the business and into the pathway you have applied for. There is plenty of information on our website. 

What is a good question for a candidate to ask at the end of the interview?

I personally think you should always ask a question at the end of an interview. You should by that stage, have built up a rapport with the interviewer, the questions I would tell you to absolutely avoid would be around salary and benefits, as this information is all on our website. There is plenty of time to ask the recruitment team prior to the final interview. 

Our interviewers have typically been in the business for a number of years and have had a number of interesting career paths to that point. Questions I would focus on at the end of the interview would be around what is the best client they have worked on, what has been the most challenging client they have worked on, what has been their career path to date or what has been their most interesting role in the organisation. There’s lots of questions related to the company they can ask us. A lot of questions we are being asked at the moment are about the returns to the office and how we engaged with our teams remotely and what were the biggest challenges. The partners are really open to hear from new graduates about what would work and what they would need to see coming into the business and they are keen to know what they can do.

A question at the end of the interview is an opportunity for the candidate to get a view on if they see themself working for this person? Do they want to work on their team? Do they inspire them as a leader? That is what they should be thinking about shaping their questions around if I was coming in. 

I found that it was because of the people who interviewed me that made me join, we built a rapport, we had a good chat and we quite often get feed back that our interviews don’t feel very formal and they turn out as more of a chat. When I got the offer, I made the decision because I really enjoyed the people from the company. 

For students, you need to think about what you need to know to be on that team and what else you need to know about the leader of that team you will be joining. 

To find out more about careers at EY, apply for the Discover EY programme by Nov 30.

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Highlights from Day Two of the Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair

Leaders in industry gave some valuable advice to students and graduates during some inspiring presentations and workshops. Here are some of the takeaways from Day Two.

Neil Chief Economist on Island of Ireland at EY gave the keynote speech. 

Here is what he had to say:

“The most important message for students is to remain positive and upbeat despite what you read. You can very easily feel daunted or intimidating. At a time of change or disruption, there are plenty of opportunities. If you think of it this way, when there is lots of problems, the world needs problem-solvers.”

“Keep your sense of positivity, observe and learn but don’t be intimidated as if that will close down opportunities.”

“The world is always changing. The idea you can map out a career ten or 15 years is not true, you have to keep flexibility in your mind and approach.”

“The place you thought you would get a job, that may not be the case. Think what you enjoy and what you like doing. Think what competencies or skills you have. Be less predetermined in what those opportunities might be.”

“Be open mind and absorb what you can. Recruitment is a two-way thing. It’s not just what you have to do to get an opportunity, it’s asking yourself, can be at my best in that organisation?.”

Lessons from Leaders

Mark McCormack, Head of Technology at Aflac 

“Problem-solving is one of the most important skills you can develop for any career. It’s what separates us from the computers; that and empathy – and the craic.”

“I might work with computers but it’s the people that make the work interesting and fun.”

“You learn that the things that make you successful in one part of your career are not necessarily the things that make you successful later on. You have to learn and adapt. If you are not learning, then you are probably not enjoying yourself.”

“We look for three things: adaptability, resilience and reinvention.”

“Stay flexible, keep learning and find some good people to work with and you can’t go wrong.”

Lessons from Leaders

Mark Dougan, Director, Prince’s Trust NI

“Courageous leaders are stepping up every single day in NI: teachers, nurses, youth workers, business professionals and young people like yourselves… you are quite literally being made into a leader as a result of this crisis.”

“Lead with courage with a small l.”

“The only thing certain is uncertainty. We have to learn to co-exist with uncertainty.”

“You are courageous leaders in the making and at this moment you need to intentionally decide to get in the game.”

“Yes, it’s challenging and you will make mistakes but the more you do, the more rewarding it becomes as you develop your skills as an effective leader.”

“Everyone is struggling with different challenges and none of those challenges outrank others. Think intentionally how you enable others to lead with courage; set them goals and give them clarity that they need to be courageous leaders in their own right and they will bring their best selves to work every day.”

“Be curious. Ask questions, lots of questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question.” 

Missed a presentation or workshop?

You can re-watch on our past events page here:

https://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/sgc/careers/careers-events/pastevents/

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Some of the 70+ Great Companies You Can Meet on Day Two of The Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair

(Psst! There are over 300 jobs on offer over the two days!)

Wow! What a jam-packed day of amazing exhibitors we had yesterday at the Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair. We have over 70+ more organisations coming today, so make sure you come back and check them out. The Day Two event lobby is already open, so you can pop in and check out employers and jobs, request interview slots with selected employers and follow employers to receive alerts.

Here are just some of the awesome companies signed up for Day Two – they are all hiring students just like you! If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here:

https://virtualcareersfairs.qub.ac.uk/events

A&L Goodbody

A&L Goodbody is a leading Irish law firm

https://www.algoodbody.com/

Accenture

Accenture plc is a multinational professional services company and a Fortune Global 500 company.

https://www.accenture.com/gb-en

Alchemy Technology Services

Global centre of excellence for insurance software implementation 

https://www.alchemytechs.com/

Almac Group

The Almac Group is an established contract development and manufacturing organisation providing an extensive range of integrated services across the drug development lifecycle to the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors globally.

AquaQ Analytics

AquaQ provides consulting services to several top tier investment banks.

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland Group plc is a commercial bank operation in Ireland and one of the traditional ‘Big Four‘ Irish banks.

https://www.bankofireland.com/

Belfast Health & Social Care Trust

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) is a health organisation covering Belfast, Northern Ireland

Bombardier

Bombardier is a global leader in the transportation industry, creating innovative and game-changing planes and trains.

https://www.bombardier.com/en/home.html

British Army, The – Army Careers

The Army is always recruiting, and there are a wide range of roles available for both officers and soldiers.          

https://www.army.mod.uk/careers/

British Council – IAESTE

From electronics in Japan to earthquake detection technology in Colombia, an IAESTE placement is a guaranteed way to boost your career. 

https://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-abroad/outside-uk/iaeste

BSG Civil Engineering Ltd

BSG Civil Engineering Ltd is a Premier Civil Engineering Contractor, delivering all Multi Discipline Schemes.

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell is Northern Ireland’s most dynamic law firm.

https://www.carson-mcdowell.com/

CDE Global Ltd

CDE Global is the world’s no 1 wet processing equipment company.

https://www.cdeglobal.com/

Citi

A global bank providing financial services.

https://www.citigroup.com/citi/

CK International              

CK International is one of the world’s leading waste baler manufacturers.

Clear Pharmacy

Clear Pharmacy is a family run group of community pharmacies

CME Group

The world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace.

https://www.cmegroup.com/

CommScope

CommScope helps design, build and manage wired and wireless networks around the world.

https://www.commscope.com/

Cygilant UK Ltd

Cygilant provides Cybersecurity-as-a-Service.

Department for the Economy

The Department for the Economy is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive.

https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/

DPS Group Global

DPS Group is a global consulting, engineering and construction management company.

https://www.dpsgroupglobal.com/

Dunbia         

Dunbia is a red meat processor that sources and manufactures beef, lamb and pork products for retail, commercial and foodservice markets locally, nationally and internationally.

ESO Solutions UK Ltd

ESO offers an integrated suite of software products for EMS agencies, fire departments, and hospitals.

https://www.eso.com/

EY (UK)

A multinational professional services network (Accountancy Firm).

https://www.ey.com/en_uk

Farrans

Farrans Construction is an established building and civil engineering contractor.

https://www.farrans.com/

fDi Intelligence

fDi Intelligence, a service from the Financial Times, is the largest FDI centre of excellence globally.

https://www.fdiintelligence.com/

FinTrU

Multi-award winning Financial Services company providing resourcing solutions for Global Investment Banks

https://www.fintru.com/

Fox Contracts

An award winning Northern Irish based Civil Engineering company

https://www.fox-contracts.com/

Graham Construction

A large award winning UK construction company. 

https://www.graham.co.uk/

Harbinson Mulholland

Award winning accountants rooted in Northern Ireland,

https://www.harbinson-mulholland.com/

HMRC

The Non-ministerial department of the UK Government responsible for the collection of taxes and other forms of support within the UK.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs

IBM

American cloud platform and cognitive solutions multinational technology and consulting company

www.ibm.com

iManage

Large software company focused exclusively on professional work product management.

www.imanage.com

Infosys

Global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting.

www.infosys.com/

InterTradeIreland – Career Boost

Provider of practical cross-border business funding, intelligence and contacts.

www.intertradeireland.com/

Invest NI

www.investni.com/

Invest Northern Ireland is Northern Ireland’s regional economic development agency.

Jacobs UK Ltd

http://www.jacobs.com/

Jacobs is multidisciplinary engineering company that operates globally. 

Jameson Graduate Programme

Part of the Irish Distillers Company.  It is the largest distiller of Irish whiskey.

https://www.jamesongraduateprogramme.com/

Jones Day

Commercial Law Firm

https://www.jonesday.com/en

Kainos Software Ltd

Large NI & UK based software company.

www.kainos.com

Kingspan Group

Building Materials company based in Ireland.

https://www.kingspan.com/

KTP@QUB

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) at Queen’s University Belfast

https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/graduate-support/employers/Knowledge-Transfer-Partnership-(KTP)-at-Queen’s/

Lakeland Dairies

Irish Dairy Co-operative and manufacturer of application specific food ingredients.

www.lakeland.ie/

Marks & Spencer

Large major multinational retailer.

www.marksandspencers.com/

Marsh and McLennan

Marsh & McLennan is the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people.

https://www.mmc.com/

McAleer & Rushe

McAleer and Rushe is one of the UK’s largest design and build construction companies

McCann FitzGerald

Leading Irish Law firm

https://www.mccannfitzgerald.com/

MCL InsureTech Ltd

A high-quality provider of services to the insurance industry.

http://www.mclinsuretech.co.uk/

Mott MacDonald

Consultancy Firm

https://www.mottmac.com/

MRP

Sales & Marketing Innovation That Fosters Business Transformation.

Musgrave Limited

Irish Food Wholesaler

Options Technology

The leading provider of cloud-enabled managed services to the global capital markets.

PA Consulting Group

Consultancy Firm

https://www.paconsulting.com/

PAC GROUP

A UK-based leading provider of a diverse range of electrical and mechanical engineering applications and solutions.

https://www.pacgroup.co.uk/

Philip Morris Limited

An American multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, with products sold in over 180 countries.

https://www.pmi.com/

PM Group

International Project Delivery Firm    

https://www.pmgroup-global.com/

Puppet

Automation software development company

https://puppet.com/

PwC

Accountancy Firm

https://www.pwc.co.uk/

Randox Laboratories Ltd

Randox provides clinical diagnostic solutions to laboratories worldwide and is dedicated to improving health on a global scale.

Rapid7

Rapid7 powers the practice of SecOps by delivering shared visibility, analytics, and automation to unite security, IT, and DevOps teams.

https://www.rapid7.com/

Specialisterne

A socially innovative company where the majority of employees have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.

Synergy Learning

Experts in creating learning with impact. Premium Certified Moodle Services Provider & Platinum Totara Partner.

Terex GB Ltd

Terex Corporation is a global manufacturer of lifting and material processing products and services delivering lifecycle solutions.

https://www.terex.com/

Thermo Fisher Scientific

An American provisioner of scientific instrumentation, reagents and consumables, and software and services to healthcare, life science, and other laboratories in academia, government, and industry.

https://www.thermofisher.com/uk/en/home.html

TLT NI LLP

Commercial Law Firm

https://www.tltsolicitors.com/locations/belfast/

TPICAP

TP ICAP plc is a global firm of professional intermediaries that operates in the world’s financial, energy and commodities markets

https://tpicap.com/tpicap/

TriMedika Ltd

Company developing innovative medical devices.

Version 1 Ltd

Version 1 proves that IT can make a real difference to our customers’ businesses.

WuXi Biologics

WuXi Biologics is a Chinese headquartered organization that provides open-access, integrated technology platforms for biologics drug development.

https://www.wuxibiologics.com/

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Career advice from top employers

At our recent Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair, we hosted over 130 top employers from all industries and sectors. We took the opportunity to grill them for their best career advice, so you can learn from leaders at the top of their game. Prepare to be inspired…

Use Queen’s Careers Service

“I would advise students to engage with the University Careers Service.  Guidance from careers advisors in making applications, developing your CV and identifying future career paths is invaluable. The University Careers Service works closely with employers such as Almac, they know what we are looking for and can really provide added value through employability training and support. Programmes such as Queen’s  Degree Plus Award provide students with a great opportunity to develop and hone the key skills needed to succeed within the workplace.”

Kim McAllister, Talent Acquisition Manager, Almac Group 

Keep an open mind

“If I was to go back in time, when I was starting my career, the key thing I would say is to keep an open mind. Back when I was finishing my undergraduate degree, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to do but I ended up going down a route I wouldn’t have imagined in terms of working in recruitment and HR. I studied drama and English initially and the field of work I am in now is really focussed on people. I actually draw on a lot of the stud I learned in terms of communication styles and people from my undergraduate degree into my current role. So yeah, keep an open mind when you are finishing your degree about what it is you want to do. Be patient. Sometimes it can take a while to find the right kind of fit for you when you are graduating. Even in your first year or two of a graduate role you want to get everything right from the first go. It is okay to make mistakes along the way so be patient with yourself.”

Adrian McCarthy is the manager of For Purpose

Back yourself

“Always take the opportunities, don’t doubt yourself. You don’t know where they will lead and what you will learn along the way.”

Joelene RidgillPurchasing Manager at Seacoya Group Ltd

Build up your work-related experience

“I’d say, try to get as much experience as possible whether it be through part time jobs, internships or volunteering. For example, working in a shop or restaurant…if you can handle angry customers, you can handle anything! 

“Also remember that it’s not just about having the grades. Yes, they are important, but transferrable skills such as proficiency in Microsoft packages, time management, first aid training or experience in organising events, to name a few, are also important. A well­rounded individual who can adapt to different environments and maybe bring something new to the table is very appealing to employers.”

Robbie Barr, Partner, Muldoon & Co

Engage with employers

“Go to as many events run by employers as possible. They really give you an idea of the culture of the workplace and a feel for the people that work there. Liberty IT have a Tech Carnival event which we make as reflective of our culture as possible, it’s pretty casual, has a focus on our people’s passion for technology and is full of employees that are happy to tell you anything you want to know about working for LIT.”

Birgitta Swanberg, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Liberty IT

Have a career plan

“Know what your end goal is and plan your next move from there. Know what you need to do now to get where you need to go. Look for opportunities, even if you take small steps, those steps might take you closer to your end goal, whatever they may be. Be patient but don’t settle. Do your research and make a plan. This will help you when you want to apply for promotion or career advancement.”

Clodagh Mckeefry, Corporate Recruiter, MRP

Try new things

“Try new things and put yourself out there. You could end up in the best position by taking a chance and trying something new. Sometimes it is good to fall outside of the box and not to limit yourself to obvious career choices. Skills are interchangeable.”

Jared Kearney, Senior Campus Recruiter, Citi UK and Citi Ireland

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How to impress an employer at the Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair

We asked some top NI employers for their careers fairs tips ahead of our Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair on Oct 21 and 22. Here is what they had to say:

Do your research

“Employers are impressed by students who have taken the time to do some research before the event.  Appearing informed about the organisation and industry that is of interest to you demonstrates a genuine motivation and creates a great impression. Doing research beforehand and targeting relevant organisations also ensures that the student gets the most out of the event, making the best use of their valuable time.”

Kim McAllister, Almac Group, Talent Acquisition Manager

Have questions ready

“I notice students who have already done a bit of research and know what they are looking for. Have specific questions about the company and the role itself then I’ll definitely remember you.”

Elisa Herbig. Talent Acquisition Specialist at AquaQ Analytics

Come prepared

“Being prepared if you are going to speak to a recruiter. If you are going to a stand whether it’s in person or virtual maybe having researched that organisation a bit beforehand and having a few questions in mind that you might like to ask them. It does really stand out if someone has looked into your organisation beforehand and if they have shown kind of a real interest in it.  Often times as well, the people who are going to be at these recruitment fairs are going to be working for the HR department or the recruitment team for the organisations that they are placed with. Sometimes they have graduates who have been hired there as part of the recruitment team, so it is really good and it does stand out if people have done their research beforehand.”  

Adrian McCarthy, Manager, For Purpose

Be willing to learn

“By asking questions about the company and the careers available. Being open to discuss entry level careers and willing to hear the success stories of people who perhaps started off in summer/temporary roles and are now directors.” 

Joelene Ridgill, Purchasing Manager at Seacoya Group Ltd

Read around your industry

“An obvious passion for software engineering goes a long way. If you’ve been coding in your spare time, tell us about it. If you’ve read anything interesting about the software engineering industry as a whole, tell us about that too. If you’ve been to any Liberty IT tech talks or events, let us know what you thought of them.”

Birgitta Swanberg, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Liberty IT

Tailor your CV to the role you want

“Come to the recruitment fair prepared, with an up-to-date CV with you, ensure you are presenting the best version of yourself. Dress for the role that you want; display good communication skills. Speak confidently and articulate your skills and experience clearly. Don’t be afraid to approach us and ask any questions.” 

Chloe Brown, Corporate Recruiter, MRP

Use the opportunity to find out about the company

“Show interest in the company. Ask questions that are more specific. We bring along colleagues of different levels to have a chat and give you the opportunity to find out more.”  

Jared Kearney, Senior Campus Recruiter, Citi UK and Citi Ireland

Have you registered for the fair yet? If not, you can do so here:

https://virtualcareersfairs.qub.ac.uk/events

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HOW TO NETWORK WITHOUT CRINGING

FORGET PALM PRESSING AND SWAPPING BUSINESS CARDS, NETWORKING IN THE REMOTE WORKING ERA IS AS EASY AS ONE, TWO, TWEET

As a university student, you’ve probably been advised to start building your professional network while you are still at university – but what does that mean and where do you start?

Sandra Scannell Head of the Employer Engagement Team at Queen’s explains: “A great degree can get you far, but the network and connections you build at university can help you get there faster.  While the old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is not entirely accurate – a brilliant academic qualification makes you more likely to get a job than a non-graduate (89 per cent compared to 72 per cent, according to the Department for Education) –  networking remains an essential part of the graduate job hunt. According to recent statistics from LinkedIn, as much 85 per cent of jobs are filled via networking. No matter what way you cut it, it’s important to know people.”

Networking without the stress

Traditionally, networking on campus might have meant completing a circuit of the Whitla Hall at the annual Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair, collecting handshakes, business cards and solid job leads. All very well if you are the confident type; slightly awkward and stressful if you are not. This year, however, the event is being hosted virtually – levelly the playing field. 

“The virtual platform dispenses with a lot of the embarrassment and stress that comes as part of a traditional networking environment– especially if you are more introverted or less confident,” says Sandra. “You can ask questions directly to recruiters and companies via live chat instead of navigating the throngs to speak to a busy recruiter, who is already being bombarded with questions.  You can hone your ‘elevator pitch’ into a succinct 100-word introduction on an online profile, giving you a stronger chance to get noticed. A few simple clicks and you can add you CV and the URL to your LinkedIn profile. Names and key details are displayed on screen – meaning awkward introductions are also dispensed off.”

As easy as Instagram

The good news is, if you’ve ever used Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you know how to network online. “The Instagram generation are more than capable of flexing to new ways of working and are very comfortable networking in the digital realm,” says Sandra. “Facebook was launched in 2004, meaning students enrolling in 2022 will be the first generation of university students for who social networking has always existed. You have the tools to build an online brand: whether its chronicling your life on your Instagram grid or presenting a professional profile picture, you are more than ready to network from your laptop.” 

The golden rules

While modern day networking is as easy as clicking a button, some golden rules still apply, of course. “Preparation is key,” says Sandra. “Doing your research on a company and making sure your CV is tailored to the job you want, for starters. Our Careers Consultants are still on-hand to walk you through the recruitment and application process. But, rest assured, you already have a lot of digital tools in your armour – and you know how to use them.”

She adds: “Professional networking sites like LinkedIn allow you to sell your personal brand with key words and phrases relating to your target industry, well-written profiles and a strong professional headline. You can join LinkedIn professional groups, participate in conversations and pick up industry intel. Twitter allows graduate jobseekers and recruiters to connect through hashtags like #hiring #recruiting and #gradjobs. You can follow potential employers, Tweet organisations and ask about graduate opportunities… The online networking opportunities for students are endless.”

Ready to start networking?

Register here for our Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair on 21 and 22 October