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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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Eight Things We Learned from the First Employer Panel of the Semester

Leaders from PwC, Citi, Deloitte and FD joined our first employer panel to give an insight into graduate recruitment in Northern Ireland. Here are eight takeaways from the session.

1.Skills matter more than your discipline

“It doesn’t matter what degree you have, it’s more important that you have the right skills – you can develop those skills at uni. A lot of these skills you already have. We want to know you can lead yourself and others. What was your role in a sports team, in uni projects, and at the Students’ Union…”

– Stephanie Gowdy, Senior Manager, PwC

2.You can flex outside your subject

“Lift your head from academic study and look at the type of work a potential employer gets involved in. Then look at the skills you could bring to that work. We have English Literature graduates who are bringing great analytical skills to PwC, for example.” – Stephanie Gowdy, Senior Manager, PwC

3.A global mindset begins at home

This is about more than where you have travelled (though if you do want to broaden your horizons, don’t miss Go Global Week). “We want to see that you are global and inclusive. That you can network and work with different individuals. Have you worked in a team where someone worked differently? It’s about showing you can be understanding of how different personalities work together.” – Stephanie Gowdy, Senior Manager, PwC

4.Store takeaways from employer events

“Aside from the right skills, we are looking for graduates who are interested and can tell us something about the company. Show us you have a passion for the industry. Come to events like this and pick up tips and share them.” –Carla McGlynn, Technology Site Lead, Citi Belfast

5.Influencing happens outside of Insta

“We look for collaboration. How do you work with others and bring them along? It’s all about how you can bring staff along with you.”  –Carla McGlynn, Technology Site Lead,  Citi Belfast 

6.You can develop the skills you need at uni

“The skills we look for are: Management, Problem solving, Entrepreneurship, Creativity, Social Skills, Negotiation, Digital Know-How and Emotional intelligence. A lot of activities and skills you develop during uni will be appliable.”  – Karen Butler, Director in Consulting and Head of Talent, Deloitte 

7.There are opportunities to travel and make friends

“Take the chance and be open to new ideas and try new things you won’t know where it takes you. Our graduate recruits have gone to New York, London, Australia, Munich – you can go anywhere where we have clients. There is a big social aspect to it as well.” – Jordan Hendricks, Frist Derivatives

8.Use lockdown wisely

“Now is a good time to use the extra time to critically think about own skills and what you want to do.Use this time to optimise your CV – personalise your CV for each job. Do your research on the company you want to work for. Follow the  industry, look on LinkedIn… that genuine knowledge comes across well in interview.” – Jordan Hendricks, Frist Derivatives

Don’t miss our next employer panel featuring KPMG, EY, FinTrU and Allstate

Register here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/125/4qlqlu22

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advice Employer Panels Employers First Derivatives Graduate recruitment Graduate success graduate training schemes Job Hunting job search Linkedin Networking Social Networks

How to make your LinkedIn profile stand out

Guest blog by Jordan Hendricks, First Derivatives

Whether you’re trying to build your personal brand or enhancing your profile for your job search, LinkedIn is a powerful tool.

The first step in building a LinkedIn Profile that will blow recruiters away is to know what industry and types of roles you are interested in. This will help you decide which of your skills to highlight more prominently and which keywords to use. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, it’s time to get to work on the specifics.

First Impressions count!

First and foremost – your name. You should only use your full name on LinkedIn, you don’t need to add any degree qualifications, nick names, initials, etc to your public name. You’ll also need to upload a profile photo – this is your opportunity to show how you present yourself! Make sure the photo looks professional, dress smartly and have a plain background.

The headline you choose here should be relevant to you – and get creative! This is the first thing people will read about you, so make it count. Your headline should be short, snappy and clear. Don’t forget you can also customise your URL!

Highlight your unique skills in the ‘About’ section

Imagine you’re in an interview and you’re asked, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Your ‘About’ section on LinkedIn should sum up this answer. Take some time to expand on what makes you unique, highlight key achievements and portray who you are and your values. This is your opportunity to highlight your personal brand!

Be sure to keep in mind that this is a summary of your accomplishments, make sure it’s not too long. You want someone to be able to read it quickly and get a feel for who you are; if your summary drags on, readers may skip over important information!

Your profile is your profile, so it makes the most sense to write your summary and details in first person.

Your Experience and Education

If you’re looking for your first professional job, don’t panic about the experience section. Focus your efforts on the Education section – list the modules you took that are relevant to the job role you’re after. Were you a part of any clubs or societies? Note those down!

If you have had work experience, summarise the company you worked for and your role. Don’t include anything sensitive or confidential, like the names of clients you may have worked with. Highlight your key contributions to the role and the skills you use.

Don’t make this section a copy of your CV, use this as an opportunity to expand!

Your unique skillset

LinkedIn is the perfect platform to list out all of your key skills. Take the time to select at least 10 core skills to add to your profile. This will help recruiters to identify what talents you have, and help you to find jobs that align to your background. If you spend some time endorsing your colleagues, it will also help boost your profile if they endorse you back!

Whether you’re looking for your first job or just boosting your online brand, investing some time in your LinkedIn profile is never a bad idea. At First Derivatives, we’re excited for you to be taking that next step! Are you ready to join the #FDFamily? Take a look at our current vacancies here.

Want more top tips from employers, including FD, Citi, PwC and Deloitte? 

Join our Virtual Employer Panel on 30th September between 1-2pm

Register here https://event.webinarjam.com/register/114/q7v7vtro

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Employer Panels Employers Interviews Skills

Ask The Employer: What do you look for in a graduate?

We asked recruiters what are the stand-out traits they look for in graduates. Alongside the biggies like teamwork and leadership, they told us that a can-do attitude goes a long way. How many of these soft skills can you tick?

Communication

“Often times, it’s equally important that someone is able to communicate and has good presentation skills as it is the type of degree you have.” 

Adrian McCarthy, For Purpose Ireland

Integrity

“Most industries are highly regulated. Can you think of a time when you have had to demonstrate discretion and integrity? Would you be able to challenge the authority of they were displaying questionable ethics?”

Jo Ferguson, CME Group Belfast

A good attitude

“We’re looking for well-rounded individuals who have both the aptitude and attitude to thrive within their business.”

Kim McAllister, Almac

Passion

“We look for people who are enthusiastic, passionate and willing to learn. Attitude towards work is important, you should be willing to give tasks your all.”

Joelene Ridgill, Seagate

Commitment

The ideal candidate must be a team player and show commitment to the job and the firm.”

Sarah Fleming, Muldoon & Co

Adaptable

“We look for passion and enthusiasm for driving change. We need people who are quick to adapt and who are always learning.” 

Birgitta Swanberg, Liberty IT

Ambitious

We look for candidates who are driven to succeed and motivated to achieve targets set for them.” 

Clodagh Mckeefry, MRP

Creative

“We are looking for individuals who are curious, creative, and have an interest in constantly developing. People who can take initiative, ask hard questions, and develop your skillset to be successful.”

Jared Kearney, Citi

Want more top tips from employers? Join our Employer Panel series starting Sept 30, designed to help you develop your professional network and get the inside track on getting hired after graduation. 

Find Out More: https://rb.gy/8de1z8