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“It’s important to be able to adapt to any change that comes your way.”

Rebecca Sinclair, a Student Talent Advisor at EY’s London office on why employers value cross-cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence. 

Rebecca Sinclair, EY

What is cross cultural sensitivity and awareness and why is it so important in the workplace?

I think for me cross cultural sensitivity is really about cultural awareness and being able to work with different people from different backgrounds to you at any level. So maybe as a student, you know, working in teams of different people, welcoming people from different backgrounds to yourself. And then also, when you’re working your colleagues, your manager will when you become a manager, the people that are working with you might be from different backgrounds, or cultural backgrounds or otherwise. So I think cross cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness is being aware of those differences and celebrating those differences so that everyone feels like they can bring their best self to work really, or to whatever environment is,

Do you think an international experience like study experience or work experience abroad might help develop that skill?

Definitely, I think any experience you can get that puts you in a maybe out of your comfort zone, or that helps you to meet people from different backgrounds, you get different experiences under your belt will, will help. And there’s no better way to get exposure to different cultures and different ways of living and different lifestyles really than to travel. And things like a year abroad or study abroad or traveling, you may not always get the opportunity to do that at a later date. So the more you can make the most of opportunities that come your way the better I think.

What is emotional intelligence? And how is it valued in the workplace?

I’ve actually done some learnings about this. Recently, we have had the EY badges programme, and I’ve done their badge in Teaming. So quite a lot of the learning was about emotional intelligence and more of the people side of things, I think. So emotional intelligence is different to, kind of, IQ that you actually think about. Emotional intelligence is having that understanding of other people around you, and learning to be aware of other people’s emotions, or how they might be handling a situation so that when you’re talking to people, you’re working with people, you can pick up on those natural indicators of how they’re feeling. And if you’re, you know, delivering news, you can start to get to know that person. So you can think, you know, what questions might they have that are going to come up from this? What concerns or other emotions might they be feeling? So you can be aware of that so you can learn to adapt your style, so that you can work with them really well?

What type of role would require emotional intelligence?

To be honest, I think any role that you are dealing with any people in any, any platform, it would be useful skill to have in terms of emotional intelligence. Particularly in professional services, the roles that you’re working with clients, and you’re building those relationships with clients, which for us personal services, it’s what we do giving guidance to clients. So having that emotional intelligence skill, being able to collaborate really well with your colleagues or with your clients can really help and you can build that positive relationship with your client. So it is definitely something that we look for, throughout the process, that ability to work with others that are different to you, if you’re in a group exercise, making sure you’re read in the room, and you’re making sure that everyone’s you know, everyone’s comfortable, and they’re able to share what they think if someone’s being a bit quieter, you know, check in and see if they have any thoughts that they want to share what they think about that’s been discussed so far. So it is definitely a really important skill that we look for during the process.

What other skills are linked to emotional intelligence? 

So yeah, there’s loads of strengths that are closely related to emotional intelligence. The ones that come to mind are resilience. So that’s one of the key strengths that we look for throughout the process. So resiliency, to keep a positive mindset and when challenges and problems come up, maybe you need to take a minute, think about what’s happened, regroup, and then keep towards that goal that you want to achieve and maybe that goalpost might change, but you still have that resiliency in you to keep going. So resiliency is a key one, and that links to team working and emotional intelligence, you know, being able to kind of rally your team around you, if you’re going through maybe a budget cut, or the switch to working virtually rather than work in the office, you know, trying to keep positive and, you know, working with your team to help everyone get through what could be a talent or could be a difficult time. So resiliency is definitely a key one. And the other one I’ll mention is adaptability. So this is another one of the strengths that we look for being adaptable is really about links very closely to resilience that looks better as a team working, and it’s about being able to adapt to changes that come your way. So if a that’s the scope of a project changes, or the budget gets cut in half, it’s about being able to still regroup, figure out what changes you need to make implement these changes. So maybe you need to have a change of timeline. And you might need to think, okay, what’s now our biggest priority, because we’ve got less time to get things done. Or if a date changes to five years in the future, maybe this project now needs to completely change, it becomes something different for the time being, until there might be other priorities that you need to work on. So I think being adaptable, and being able to collaborate with others around you know, what you can bring to the table, knowing your own being aware of your own emotions, and what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. And when you perform your best is all really closely linked, I think,

How would an employer, for example EY, assess emotional intelligence? 

Our application process is partly through, like online tests. And we have a job simulation, which is the third stage at the final online test, and that’s linked to the job that you’re going to be doing. So for that one, you’ll get questions that are linked to the role. So say you’re applying for consulting or you’re applying for insurance or tax, it’ll be linked to that role. And through the questions that you’ll get there. We’ll be looking for that, that strength. So how do you work with others around you? How do you handle a change in in what’s going on? So you might get questions around, you know, how would you handle this particular situation? Or this news has come out or this something’s changed in the- your managers running late? Or the client wants something different? How do you handle that? So we’re looking for that resiliency? We’re looking for that collaboration? How do you work with others? And then at the Assessment Center, which we call that experience day, you’ll have different tasks that you’ll do. So some of them will be one to one, some of them will be in a group. And throughout, we’ll be looking for that collaboration, strength. So, you know, how do you work in a team? How do you communicate your ideas, and also how to make sure that everyone else is also contributing their own thoughts, making sure that everyone’s getting the chance to share and hope bouncing ideas around and how you then kind of bring those ideas together into the final outcome. And then the last stage is the final interview. And this is with a senior member of the team that you’re applying for. And again, they’re really looking for that collaboration, you know, so you might want to have some examples in your mind of how you’ve worked in a team, what the team achieved, but also, what did you personally do towards that team success? How did you support the team? How did you make sure that everyone, you know, kept going? Did you face some challenges? How did you regroup and keep that going positively? So it’s a vital skill anyway, but it’s definitely really important for us because we work so much with clients. So it’s a really key area that we look for.

And how can you develop that skill? 

So, there’s two different ways to think about it. So there’s sort of thinking about the theory side of things and developing the strength. So there’s loads of good resources that you can do in terms of EY, I’ve done the EY badges. So I’ve done I could spend hours talking about it, but I’ll keep it nice and succinct. So I’ve done the teaming badge, which is very much about you know, how you work in teams, how you can make sure that the team is working effectively. Maybe you’re working like virtually as we are now maybe you’ve got colleagues that are in a different country or a different time zone, you know, how do you work together? So there’s learnings he can do through those kind of badges. There’s also a badge about diversity and inclusion. And that was where I learned a lot about, like cross cultural, we’re talking about a bit earlier about how you can work with people from different backgrounds. So there’s learnings you can do in that. And there’s lots of good courses on things like Udemy, about working effectively in teams and cross collaboration and cross cultural experiences. There’s also things you can do like on watching TED Talks. So I watched a really good TED talk that was called the power of introverts. And that was about something about their experiences of being an introvert and how they’ve gone through that experience, and how you can be making sure that those are quieter, and your team can still feel included. So there’s that kind of learning aspect to it. So is that good books and TED talks and YouTube videos that you can get involved in. And then there’s also the experience side to things. So when you’re thinking about your own experiences, whether it’s like workplace, so anything working in a team, you know, a consulting firm, or working in a team at a supermarket, or working in a team at a cafe or anything? What team experiences do you have? You know, try and think about who’s on your team? Or who’s in your, your business area? And how do they- How do they work? You know, and think about your own experiences? When are you happiest? What are you doing at that time? When do you feel stress, what might be causing that stress? And the more that you can learn about your own performance and your own emotions and what kind of drives you, you can then start learning about other people. And then you can bring that into practice, when you’re thinking about interviews and preparing the interviews, and thinking about what teaming experiences you’ve had, and it’s the in what did the team do? What did the team achieve? And then what have you done towards that? What’s your personal contribution to that team working?

Do you think a gap year might develop that skill a lot more?

So from my personal experience, I always went straight into the next stage, and I never took a gap year or year abroad or anything like that. It’s not essential, it’s not something that we look for, you don’t need to have it. But I do think that having that year abroad, or that experience says something a bit different, can definitely add to your, your strengths and your experiences. And especially it can give you a good platform to talk about, you know, challenges that you’ve gone through I know, some of the offer holders that we’ve had recently have talked about experiences like volunteering abroad and working in teams of people from lots of different countries and helping a community or doing something that’s just a bit different and a bit out there. So it can definitely add to your experiences your application and show that you’ve had these experiences and what you’ve learned from them. And it can get you to something a bit different to stand out. I think.

Do you think that travel can actually develop those qualities such as resilience or productivity, for employment in the future?

Yeah, I’m sure it would, I think resiliency is a difficult skill to master. So the more different experiences you go through, and you might have to face challenges and overcome them can definitely help build towards that. And many people do years abroad, or they spent time living in it in a different country that they would never have the opportunity to do. So you’ll naturally develop some strengths that you probably never would have had the opportunity to develop if you hadn’t had that opportunity. So I think it can definitely help to build your resiliency skills and learn more about yourself throughout that process as well. And also, it’s a great experience to try something different level a different country and you know, do something a bit different.

And so, why would employers like EY, for example, value resiliency or flexibility, in their employees?

So I mean, there’s gonna be loads of reasons why we look for it, but it’s definitely something that we look for throughout the process. I mean, look for it in our people. We’re very people focused organization, both in terms of the work that we do for clients, you know, we provide guidance to them, and what the client will need is constantly changing and evolving. A lot of the stuff we’re doing at the moment is on digital innovation and, you know, industries being massively disrupted by innovation and tech and especially that’s been escalated over the last year. Working virtually. So it’s a rapidly changing industry, a new regulation can come out or there can be a massive change in the wider environment like this last year has shown. So companies, our clients need to rapidly adapt. So we need to be there for them. And we need to be flexible and adaptable. And we need to be thinking about you know, what’s out there? Is there a new tech coming out? Or is there a new regulation coming out that might need to be thinking about so that we can be that go to advisor for them.

And so is that why employers look for someone who’s adaptable?

Yeah, so we call it agility in terms of the strength that we look for. So it’s about being agile to new, new things out there, whether that’s a new regulation, or a new way of working, or a new opportunity for one of our clients. And we look for that strength through your experiences, whether it’s, you know, previous work experience, or whether it’s working in a team, in a sports club, or working in some other some other experiences you’ve had in your personal life where you something changed. And, you know, it got through a difficult time or the last year and how you adapted to that and, you know, studied from home or worked from home or did something different. So we look for that agility, skill, being able to take on new opportunities, learn new skills, learn new, pick up new information, and then apply it to what we’re doing. So where you might have been our client site and been able to go up to a client and ask their advice. And the same in the kind of student environment, you might have been working in a team on a team project, and you can all chat and bounce ideas in person. And then you have to adapt that to online. And maybe you’re on a zoom call, or Microsoft Teams call or something else to then try and hash out ideas and figure out what you wanted to do. And it’s about how did you adapt to that situation? And what did you learn from that time?

How do you think employers can test a candidate’s agility?

So we like to look for that strength. And we like to challenge so you might have questions like, you know, what would you do? Or how would you handle if your client disagreed with you? Or how would you handle if your manager wanted to go in a different direction, and we’ll be looking for that response of how you’d handle the client, or how you’d handle your team. And maybe you’d, you know, reflect and go back and get some more evidence to support this change. Or maybe you’d work closely with the client on what they what direction they wanted to go in. And really, we’re looking for how you handle that situation, how you think about the clients best interests, how you maintain the integrity throughout that process, as well. So it’s the integrity of the company. And it’s also thinking about the client and how we can be supporting the client to get the best outcome for them as well.

How do you think students should use a gap year to develop skills such as agility?

Yeah, so I think it’s all about putting yourself out of your comfort zone during that experience. So whether it’s some kind of travel, or whether it’s some kind of volunteering, work, you know, think about what, think about why your comfort level is where you are now, and then try and think of things that are going to challenge you and they’re going to help you develop. So I didn’t take a gap year, but I did a volunteering project in Borneo, Malaysia. And we were working with a, a center there that work with disabled children, and we were building a sensory garden for them. And so through that experience, I had never had any real life experience of that before. And so it took me out my comfort zone, I was in a different climate, it was really hot and muggy that all the time, which I wasn’t used to. And I was working face to face with loads of different children I hadn’t met before, I hadn’t really had experience working with children before, and especially children with different kind of learning abilities. So that definitely put me on my comfort zone. And then I talked about that in my interview, but how I’d worked in a team with the other people that were there with me and we’re done like the physical work building this playground, but we’d also had this learning opportunity that hadn’t experienced before. And so you could talk about what you learn from it experience, how it’s then helped you when you go on to work with different people that you haven’t worked with before and from that learning so you can show that you’re really comfortable with working with different people. And you’ve had this experience and you’ve gained this from it.

Would you recommend something like that, like volunteer experience? 

I would recommend, like I said, anything that puts you out your comfort zone, and especially through the last year, there’s probably lots of different places that need support at the moment. So I think any experience that you can get that will put you out your comfort zone, that will help you to learn more about yourself and also more about others around you can help. So there’s loads of different volunteering opportunities that you can do, whether it’s more, you know, working with people, and there’s opportunities like in a teaching English in different countries, or working with children or working with adults, or there might be opportunities more like project based, like helping to clear up some land or build a house or something like that. And there’s also opportunities closer to home, I find that there’s like National Trust opportunities you can get involved in. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be abroad. But I do think that having experience to work with people who are different to you and different to your background, whatever your background, might be, can help you learn as well. So that when you then go into the working world, you know, you’ve had this exposure to different things. And you’ve developed skills about yourself, and you think, well, if I got through, like that time when I was away from home and like compensate, I can do this project. So I think it’s good in that aspect.

Interested in EY? EY are currently recruiting. You can find details of their current vacancies on the Gradfest2021 site

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“Dont be afraid to lead that team, either by example or direction. “

Jack McKeown, a Senior associate in Assurance in EY, says confidence is key in his graduate tips.

Jack McKeown, Senior Associate in EY

What has been the most challenging part of your career?

Probably the transition from student life to working life. Time management would have been a big part. Your time is structured at uni, whereas now people aren’t driving you towards a certain goal, it’s all up to you. You have to take the attitude where you are the one who is going to decide whatever path you’re going to go down. Of course, you’ll get help, but you have to be the ultimate driver.

What advice would you give to students graduating who haven’t yet secured a job?

I would just say ‘be confident’ would be the main thing. Ask questions every day; you’ll never be done learning. No one’s ever finished learning, even those right up to the management are learning from someone. And so always ask questions, and always try and understand why you’re performing the task. Once you understand the why, then the rest will follow afterwards.

What skills does your organisation expect of graduates and how can University leavers develop these while job searching?

EY has three core values. Ultimately, they are looking for people who demonstrate integrity, respect and teamwork. People with energy, enthusiasm, and the courage to lead. People who build relationships based on doing the right thing. People with a strong work ethic, who can both work together as a team, but are not afraid to lead that team, either by example, or direction. I really encourage students to throw themselves into anything they can. So internships, opportunities through queens and activities within the university. Develop all these skills: working in a team, leadership and even improving your own confidence.

What does this year look like for a graduate starting a job? Will people be office based or working from home or a blend of both.

While the guidance is ‘if possible work from home’, you will mostly be working from home, although the offices for EY are open for people who want to go in. A blended approach will probably be adopted, certainly in my line of work where we work with our clients, not just from the office. So, I think you will see many people mixing in and about, but definitely will be back in the office come whenever we’re allowed.

Why does positive attitude in the workplace matter?

I think positive attitude is so important in the workplace, and probably the most important thing that you’ll need in terms of work that you’re being asked to complete and with interactions with the client. It will allow you to keep the spirits up of yourself and your team members, and then also to help your team members by taking on work and alleviating pressure on the rest of the team. So, I do believe it is vital. And certainly in our feedback from those above, the positive attitude is always something that was mentioned.

How important is confidence? What advice would you give to increase your confidence at work?

I’d say confidence is probably one of the most important things in work. You definitely need to be confident in your own ability. To increase your confidence, I suggest increasing your own knowledge, because with knowledge comes power. And with that power comes confidence. Listen to feedback from those above you, so you know what you’re doing well, because once you know what you’re doing well at, that will also increase your confidence.

To what extent is it okay to admit that you don’t know something when starting out in a job?

It’s absolutely okay to admit you don’t know something starting out in the job. There will be no expectation of you for prior knowledge. Certainly, even in EY, we hire graduates from all degrees, because they all have a different perspective on the challenges we face in our line of work, so there’s no requirement to know anything. And you’ll be coached by your superiors. At EY we’ve a great coaching culture, and we look forward to any questions that you’ll have. So, honestly, it’s fine to admit you don’t know something.

How important is it for employers to foster workspaces where employees can be themselves?

Everyone’s going to bring a different attitude and perspective to different problems that are going to arise. I’m from an accounting degree and there’s loads of people that come from other degrees, which will give you different lines of thought that you would never have considered. But there’s other things as well that that identify us, not just the degree that we’ve come from. In EY, it’s fostered through different networks, like the Mental Health Network and Disability Network, Women’s Network, and it goes on and on. So, it’s wonderful just to be able to be yourself; you know you have that support. It makes you comfortable, and ultimately, where you’re comfortable, you’re going to perform your best.

What advice would you give to our graduating cohort?

Throw yourself into tasks and be confident in completing them. Look to challenge yourself and make sure you are engaged. Know what you expect from your career and manage those expectations but, ultimately, enjoy it. It’ll be a great journey and you’ll look back on it so definitely make sure you’re enjoying it.

Interested in working for EY? They will also be talking all things Workplace Culture live on @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 5 July. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more.

EY are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021.

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“I’ve travelled to Frankfurt and worked with exciting clients like Google”

Maths Graduate Shannon McAteer is now a Business Consultant in Technology Risk at EY, Here is how she got there…

Queen’s Maths graduate Shannon

Describe your career path to date. 

I began applying to graduate jobs during the summer of my graduation, and I had already decided to apply to EY and other “Big Four” firms. I had online assessments to complete for EY and then I had to attend an assessment centre for a day to complete various tasks with different interviewers and other candidates. Once I passed the assessment centre, I had one final interview with a Senior Manager in Belfast, and soon after this I was told I had been successful, and I would be starting in September that year. The job began with 2 weeks training in Dublin (with all expenses paid which was nice), and once back in Belfast I started on my very first audit for Belfast City Council. After a few other short projects, I joined the team working on the Google engagement in November of my first year, and I have been working on this project ever since. So, I was definitely thrown in at the deep end but there is always plenty of support, and all grads just learn as we work on different projects. 

Why technology risk? 

Even after I finished university, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do as my career, and with Maths as my degree, it didn’t really narrow down my options at all (which is good and bad). I had first learned about the “Big Four” at grad job fairs, and I started to do my research to see if any of the career paths they offered interested me. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be an accountant, so technology risk caught my eye, especially as this is a sector that is continuously growing and changing. As I had applied for several companies, in the end I was torn between another Big Four company and EY, but as soon as I completed the assessment centre, I knew it was the company for me. EY is very people orientated, and everyone I met seemed really nice and helpful, and I also knew there would be opportunity for travel through EY, which definitely interested me as well.  

What is your current role like? 

The current project I am working on can definitely be stressful at times, and sometimes the hours are long during really busy period, but the team I am working with is fantastic, and this always motivates me to do the best I can for the benefit of the project as a whole. There are always new tasks and things to learn because it’s such a huge company with so many internal systems, and the scope of work we do for Google is always growing and changing, which makes every day new and challenging. 

What does an average week look like for you?

I will be honest and say most weeks are not just a 9-5, but the team I work with is quite flexible in terms of the hours you work each day, which is great. There can be lots of calls with the client, but also time to work by yourself and get work done which I enjoy too. We also have regular check-ins with the team, which includes sub-teams in Belfast, the US and the Philippines, so the different time zones can also be an interesting factor.  There are also always lots of social events, for my project and for technology risk or just the Belfast office, all of them have been virtual recently of course, but hoping to start getting back to in-person events now too. 

What is the most challenging part of the job?

The longer hours in busy periods can be tough sometimes, I have had to work a few weekends and it can be stressful because of tight deadlines. But we always manage to get the work done, and the team will always be on hand to help. 

What is the most rewarding?

Getting to work as part of the team has been the best experience of my EY journey so far. It is a pretty big team consisting of people from all over the world, which is always so interesting and exciting. Also, at the beginning of my career in EY, I had the opportunity to travel to Frankfurt, Germany, to complete a data centre visit. I went completely on my own, and although it was scary at the time, it definitely helped me with my professional and personal development and is something I’ll always remember! 

What are your career aspirations? 

I want to keep moving up through positions in EY and hopefully become a Senior Manager one day (if not higher up). I also want to complete more qualifications to do with IT, cybersecurity, etc, to keep up to date with the ever-changing trends in this sector. 

In what way do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job?

Through our work for Google, we’re making one of the biggest companies safe to use for all of its customers around the world and getting to be a part of this is very rewarding. 

What expectations did you have about this career path that you have found differed from reality?

During the first 2 weeks training, I don’t think any of us thought we would be thrown straight into proper projects the way we were, I thought there would be a lot more training, or even just helping with smaller tasks on different projects. But I have enjoyed learning new things right from the start, and I always think it’s easier to learn on the job.  The Coronavirus pandemic has obviously changed things massively, so there has also been less travel and time in the office than I initially expected, but I am hoping to still experience this at some point soon. 

What skills did you learn at Queen’s that have helped you in your career?

I learned so many skills during my time at Queen’s that have helped me, for example; people skills, organisational skills, independence to be able to work alone but also being able to work well as part of a team. I also learned how to manage strict deadlines, and how to try and keep calm under pressure. As well as this I picked up so many basic computer skills that I still use every day during work now, like google sheets/docs etc.  

What advice do you have for students and graduates wanting to move into this area?

I would recommend definitely doing some research about which service line you want to go into, and then also which sub-service line, as EY or other similar companies have so many different roles and opportunities available. However, I know for EY there is always the chance to move around within the company if you feel another role would suit you better. A lot of EY’s hiring process is based on whether you’re a good fit for the company based on what type of person you are, how you work etc, but this works both ways, so it’s really important to be sure big companies like EY are also suited for you and what your career aspirations are.  


How did your Queen’s experience help your personal and professional development?

Studying at Queen’s helped me gain and improve upon so many professional and personal skills, without which I may not be where I am today. It also enabled me to enhance my interpersonal skills through completing a volunteering programming at the Sandy Row Community Centre and obtaining the Degree Plus certification which has been a significant factor in my personal and professional development. 

What’s the one thing you’ll never forget about your time at Queen’s?

My graduation day was one of the best day’s in my life to date. Being able to celebrate finishing my degree with my family and friends and knowing that all of my hard work over the last 3 years had paid off, is something that I’ll never forget. 

Interested in working for EY? Don’t miss our employer panel on 10 June at 12pm on @QUBCareers Facebook. They will also be talking all things Workplace Culture live on @QUBCareers Instagram at 12pm on 17 June. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more. 

EY are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021

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How the Discover EY Insight Programme Helped Land me an Internship

Craig McAuley, Queen’s student

What was your highlight of the Discover EY Programme?

Having the opportunity to learn more about the opportunities available within the company as well as get a first-hand insight into the day-to-day workings of each service line was invaluable. Doing your research online is one thing, but finding out what people actually do on a day to day basis and the skills required for the roles they work in was a big plus for me and a key decider in my decision to select the service line I did for my internship.

How did the knowledge and insight you gained on the programme help you along your career journey?

Having the opportunity to interview for the summer 2021 position so early on certainly took the stress off applying for internships during the academic year, as well as helping me come much closer to deciding what I wanted to do as a career.

What did you learn about the industry and about yourself?

What struck me most at EY was the emphasis on technology and how it is applied to all industries in a bid to streamline processes and make companies more efficient. The multifaceted nature of each service line in terms of the work they did, and the range of individuals from different backgrounds who worked within them was also encouraging as someone who had come to university later than most.

How did the networking sessions differ from what you had imagined?

The opportunity to ask any questions I liked I found very valuable, and that they didn’t have to be directly related to that individual’s occupation. Each person I spoke too also came across just as approachable as the next, regardless of their role within the company. 

What doors did the EY programme open for you?

The ability to secure a summer internship for 2021.

At what stage did you decide you would like a career at EY?

Following the discover EY programme, and when I compared it to similar events with other firms.

In what ways did the people you meet at Discover EY inspire you?

The passion each person had for their role and how they seemingly, genuinely enjoyed what they did, was perhaps the most inspiring of all. This in turn gave me the confidence to apply knowing it was a place where I too would enjoy working and which provided a culture I could relate to.

Can you describe which workshops and networking sessions you found most engaging and why?

Surprisingly, found the assessment day the most engaging of all the sessions. Being left to our own devices, with some pressure, really brought the best out of the group and I felt what we produced in the time given was of a high standard.

What would you say to first years who thinks it’s too early to start researching employers and building up their professional network?

If you don’t, it’s too late! All internships and placements with big firms are so competitive now, and if you don’t start in first year, you are already on the back foot. Given the first years on such programmes have access to the internship and placement positions via fast tracked interviews and assessment centres before anyone else, if you leave it to second or final year, many of the places are already gone before you have even started.

In what ways did the insight programme help build your confidence, professional network and skills?

Given that at the time, a work from home environment was still quite unique for many, having the opportunity to interact, network and work as a team in a virtual environment I found invaluable. I certainly feel it set me up well for my years study this semester, and in other endeavours between then and now. I have also made contacts in the form of both fellow students, as well as employees at EY which I have no doubt will be invaluable at some stage in the future. 

Apply for the Discover EY programme here

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Discover EY Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employers EY First years Graduate recruitment Graduate success graduate training schemes placements Second years Social Media Takeover

Inside the Discover EY Insight Programme

I took part in the Discover EY programme in June 2018 and for me, the highlight was getting to meet and interact with different people across all the departments within EY. The Discover EY experience provided the opportunity to really understand the individual service lines within EY and what their main roles are. This was a huge insight to me as previously I wasn’t fully aware of the differences between each service line and what a typical day looks like working in each. 

Discovering options

The programme brought to my attention the scope of the work that EY carry out for big name clients and that there were so many more career paths and opportunities in varying departments, most of which I didn’t known EY even had. This was interesting to me as it showed how you can progress and try new things within your career at EY. The programme allowed me to see the differences between EY and its competitors through listening to some colleagues describing their career paths.

Discover EY Belfast

Finding mentors

Throughout Discover EY, each team had mentor leads, most of which were people completing their Graduate Training Programme. The networking and relaxed working environment made me feel at ease asking questions and getting to know the company better as I was speaking to people who were in my shoes a matter of years ago. We also had a BBQ one evening with some food and drinks which was very informal and allowed us to network with many different people within EY of all levels. The BBQ was enjoyable because it was outside of the office, and the new atmosphere made everyone feel relaxed and more confident to ask questions, as it can be intimidating asking questions in quiet room where there are a lot of people.

A Career launchpad

From the Discover EY programme, the talent team asked me to put forward service lines and choice of programme, i.e. summer internship or industrial placement, which I would be interested in. I interviewed for an Industrial Placement within Strategy and Transactions and was successful. I completed my Industrial Placement from July 2019 to September 2020 in the sub-service line Turnaround and Restructuring Strategy, from where I got an offer to complete my Graduate Training Programme from September 2021. Therefore, the Discover EY programme has made a huge impact on my career and has provided me with many opportunities and so I would advise anyone to give it a go.

Real challenges and skills development

From hearing of different career paths of those who worked in EY, I was inspired to learn more about Strategy and Transactions and work to secure a position within the service line. I had never understood or was aware of the different services provided in Turnaround and Restructuring Strategy and was interested in the tasks they carried out. 

Some of the tasks within the Discover EY programme included a case study of a hypothetical company. Each group had to interview some senior members of staff acting as the company directors, which helped develop skills that would be relevant if ever meeting clients. Reflecting real life situations showed what would be expected if I ever would work closely with clients in a career and provided me with application of client interview skills.

Start in first year

I was in first year when I applied for the Discover EY programme, and took part in it in the summer after first year. If I had completed it the year after I would not have had the opportunity to complete my placement with EY and then would not have been able to secure a Graduate role. It is important that in first year you seek information about companies that appeal to you and where you feel you would fit in well as it could open many doors for you.

The insight programme developed my network and made me feel more confident in what career path interested me most. It provided me with extent knowledge of the financial services industry and allowed me to develop skills in client scenarios which I could transfer to future interviews and further on in my career. 

About Discover EY

Find out more about EY Belfast by taking part in our Discover EY Insight Programme. 

Over the course of two and a half days you can expect to take part in:

  • Sessions that will help you understand what we do, our service lines and our client work
  • Interactive skills sessions and case study work
  • Networking events with EY staff and recent graduate joiners
  • Take part in assessed activities
  • Opportunity to hear from panels of EY staff 

You’ll learn lots about what we do – and about yourself. We want to help you understand how you can apply your strengths to your ideal career. If you show enthusiasm, make a positive impact and demonstrate strengths we look for in our teams, there is the possibility you will be fast tracked to a final interview for your chosen placement or internship with us. 

Discover EY is a learning experience aimed at first- year university students and those in their second year of a four year course. We welcome applications from students across all degree disciplines. 

A two-step application process includes filling in a basic application form followed by online assessments- including a numerical test. 

Apply now.

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Discover EY Employer Engagement Employer Insight Employers EY internship

“I enjoyed hearing about the focus on people and culture”

What was your highlight of the Discover EY Programme?

I really enjoyed hearing about the networks, including the international network, the family network, the women’s network and the mental health network as well as many more. My highlight was hearing from all these different sections and what EY is doing to focus on the people culture aspect of the firm. It was great to speak with Philip Hull and hear his experiences while learning that EY focuses on wellbeing and diversity. It was also great to get a little package of EY merch in the post!

How did the knowledge and insight you gained on the programme help you along your career journey?

I found the ‘Get to Know us’ section very beneficial as I was able to find out more about the firm and the four service lines. The assurance service line interested me the most hearing where they focus on the audit process and how they test and analyse data. As I gained knowledge on the four service lines, I discovered I would be interested in auditing with the opportunity to work with many clients. After hearing this I chose to apply for an internship.

What did you learn about the industry and about yourself?

More than anything I learnt that EY are very focused on the individuals that work for them. Instead of just academia they are focused on individuals that are strong communicators, team players, adaptable, analytical, number savvy and in the know. This helped me to understand that I need to concentrate not only on my university degree but also how I am as a person. The interactive side of Discover EY helped me to develop skills and the feedback on my online tests and interviews have allowed me to identify and work on my weaknesses.

How did the networking sessions differ from what you had imagined? (For example, were they more relaxed/fun/informative than you had envisaged?)

Originally, I expected Discover EY to be in person, but quickly realised with the restrictions and current state of COVID, it was to be moved online. The online aspect of it worked really well as it was very accessible. The sessions were interactive with many opportunities to ask questions and respond via speaking or answering in the chat section. I especially enjoyed their interactivity as I had a lot of questions for most of the sessions, but I also enjoyed being involved in the quiz that took place on a video call through ‘Kahoot!’ it was great fun. 

What doors did the EY programme open for you? (For example, knowledge/confidence to secure a placement and or graduate role)

Through the Discover EY programme, I have been able to secure a summer internship role which I am looking forward to. I am really hoping I will enjoy this and be able to further my career in EY. I have also been able to keep track with events that EY hold and I have already been able to get involved in some, for example their virtual event for ‘Wellbeing week’ which is taking place this week. So far ‘Wellbeing Week’ has been very insightful and relatable, with great guests including Dr Alex George, Anthony Joshua and Joe Wicks.

At what stage did you decide you would like a career at EY?

From the very start of the Discover EY virtual event I was sold. The friendliness of the facilitators made me feel very welcome. I love that they focus on the person they are employing rather than just qualifications. This shows me that they are very inclusive, flexible and are part of a culture I would like to be part of. 

In what ways did the people you meet at Discover EY inspire you?

The people who were involved were passionate about EY and clearly very knowledgeable, they were able to answer all of our questions. They were very professional but clearly had fun and enjoy their work.

Can you describe which workshops and networking sessions you found most engaging and why?

I really enjoyed a session in which we completed various tasks such as: dealing with incomplete data, leveraging different perspectives and ability to see the big picture (a riddle), these were an interactive set of challenges which were designed to assess us but despite being challenging, they were great fun.

What would you say to first years who thinks it’s too early to start researching employers and building up their professional network?

There is a lot more to employers and firms, than just their logo and what we think we know about them. It’s good to get involved early to be able to make the most of events organised and to allow you to discover more about their culture by interacting with their people. 

In what ways did the insight programme help build your confidence, professional network and skills?

It challenged me by having to think on my feet, interact with people who I had never met before and this has certainly helped my confidence. I have only had a few interviews for part time jobs, and it was the first interview for a professional job and this will help me in my future career. Since Discover EY I have made a conscious effort to create a LinkedIn account and connect with others.

Apply for Discover EY here

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Discover EY Employer Insight Employers EY internship

“I could not recommend Discover EY enough”

Annie Groom, Queen’s Accounting student

Annie Groom, a second year Accountancy student at Queen’s completed the Discover EY Insight Programme and has secured a summer internship with the company.

What was your highlight of the Discover EY programme?

My highlight of the Discover EY programme was the friendliness and energy from each EY employee who we had the chance to interact with. This ranged from graduate employees to partners of the firm! Each possessed a willingness to help and allowed us to feel comfortable asking questions, providing as much information as possible.

What did you learn about the industry and about yourself?

Throughout the Discover EY programme, the company largely emphasised their culture of putting ‘people’ first, which is important now more than ever, given the current situation. The company’s values were also reinforced, which they rely heavily upon. Whilst listening, I learnt that I myself possess many of these values, making me feel confident that I was the right fit for EY!

How did the networking sessions differ from what you had imagined?

Of course, my experience of Discover EY was a little different to previous years, given the current pandemic, causing the programme to be held virtually. At first, I felt nervous and a little apprehensive, as this was like nothing I had ever experienced before, however I quickly learnt that there was nothing to be worried about. Despite being virtual, the networking sessions were more informative than I had expected, and EY still managed to introduce multiple speakers and presenters to share their experience with us, which was definitely not expected! The networking sessions were much more relaxed and comfortable than I had imagined, and it was amazing to see how smooth it went given the virtuality!

What doors did the EY programme open for you?

I could not recommend Discover EY enough for the opportunities that were presented to me. I was fortunate enough to score highly in the final day assessments which then presented me with the option to apply for a summer internship and fast track to the individual interview stage. Thankfully I was successful and secured a place in this year’s Business Risk Services Summer Internship! I am so excited to get the opportunity to work within EY itself and gain lots of experience for my future career!

Apply for the Discover EY programme here

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Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Panels Employers EY Graduate recruitment Interviews Skills Strengths-based interviews Uncategorised Virtual recruitment

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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Deloitte Employer events Employers Events EY Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair PwC Skills Virtual recruitment

Four Cool Things happening in Graduate Recruitment Right Now

The graduate job market looks a little different this year, but the era of remote working has paved the way for tech advances in the way companies recruit students. For starters, Queen’s Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair is going digital this year allowing you to browse employers’ virtual stalls, watch company videos and find out what it might be like to work at a particular company – all from your laptop. Here, some recruiting companies who have flexed the way they recruit to meet the challenges of virtual recruiting.

1.Employer-led online skills sessions

Accessing training with experts from top companies is just a click of a button away. Take Deloitte who are running skills sessions online throughout Autumn. Available to watch live or on demand, topics covered include building confidence, research and communication – all skills that will stand you in good stead in the future.

Get more information and register via our events page

2.Immersive company experiences

The digital world allows you to get under the skin of a company and get a feel for what it’s really like to work there. Take EY – they are running a Build Your EY Experience Week from 5-9 October. With a live welcome address from their partners, the week promises insight into the people, clients and culture that make the company unique.

Get more information and register via our events page

3.Virtual recruitment ‘parks’

Imagine creating a virtual avatar that can virtually walk around a company, meet the people who work there and take part in events. Sounds like the stuff of a sci-fi movie but PwC’s Virtual Park allows you to do just that.

Discover more information and register.

4.Live chats with employers 

There are more opportunities than ever to live chat potential bosses. At Queen’s Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair, employers can filter candidates by their student profiles and invite candidates with the skills they are looking for into a live chat or video call. Make sure you stand out by completing your online profile in as much detail as possible.

Register now via Graduateland.