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“It’s better to compromise than to lose”

Viktorija Mikalauskaite, a Senior Associate in the Legal Department at FinTrU on the skills you need to be a future leader including the art of influencing, persuading and teamwork. 

Viktorija Mikalauskaite

Could you just tell us a bit about influencing skills, what are they and you know, what do they involve?

So um, influencing skills, you know, they are skills that you use to persuade someone that your idea is better than someone else’s idea that your suggested terms or make better sense and persuade someone to change their ways of thinking of but without forcing them to do so. But at the same time, respecting opinions of others and compromising or mutual agreement cannot be found, and it’s better to compromise than lose. What I like to say it is a combination of communication and persuasion and negotiation, but it also involves confidence which is an extremely important factor. And if either one of those elements are missing, then you will not be able to influence effectively, you need to be able to communicate productively, it needs to be changing your communication style, depending on personality or profession of a person that you’re communicating with or trying to influence. So whether it’s your employer, or a colleague or a client, the communication style will be different now. And an influencing it’s also about, you know, convincing someone to get on board and to gain that approval support from your team or employer on your suggested ideas. So ultimately, what you’re looking for from influencing someone is their backup. And, as I mentioned, before, communication and persuasion and negotiation, they all work hand in hand with confidence, you need to believe in yourself, you need to believe in your skills, you need to believe in your ability and your ability to influence and persuade. And, you know, that comes with time and practice and experience.

Is there anything else that you’d watch out on that, and any other techniques that we produce? 

I mean, there are several techniques that that, you know, graduates can use in the workplace, when it comes to influencing. The first one that comes into my mind is, you know, know your audience, know the people you work with, or the people you work for. So, you know, all of you who joined today, at some stage, you will be working with people that have different personalities, different level of experience, different needs, different roles, get to know them, don’t be afraid to flex your communication style, as I said, previously, when dealing with people from or, or employees from different backgrounds. Identify who you will be reporting to, and how much influence they have on the decision that company or team makes, you know, and, and really, you know, invest the time and getting to know people that you’re trying to influence and build those relationships, you know, you need to build the relationship to show how ambitious you are, and, you know, and to, to build your own personal brand that will distinguish you from the others. And, you know, if you show that you’re ambitious, that you can, then then you get noticed, people will remember you. And another technique, you know, build trust, which is also linked to know your audience. So, generally, people like to be a nurturing environment to know, but those who listen and show compassion and concern, that’s how you become trustworthy, you know, when you show that care and support to someone, you know, build upon that trust and build on the trust with your employer, by delivering work on time meeting deadlines, you know, go over, going over and above what’s expected from you, and, you know, volunteer to take extra workload if your capacity allows. And I suppose another one is, demonstrate your credibility, you know, you want to, you want to establish your reputation and prove that you’re reliable. And you know, by showing that you’re credible to your claim that you’re working with, or your employer or your client, you know, that helps to persuade them to agree with what you’re saying. And that can be achieved by, you know, being one of the strongest performers or top performers. And showing constant improvement and your quality of work and working well under pressure and, and even being accountable for your own mistakes. You know, if you made a mistake, raise your hand. Admit it, you know, don’t hide it. Don’t. Don’t defend it. Don’t blame it on someone else. Yeah, I mean, that will show that you have that sense of responsibility and credibility.

So what kind of skills do you need to put together to provide like a good case study in person or even in writing?

Well, you need to research you need to prepare, and you need to practice and, you know, communicate in a concise and clear manner. And whether it’s on paper or in person. And it’s important that your audience understands what you’re trying to say. And that you put your point across effectively. And, you know, you need to, if you if you’re presenting your case in person, think about your tone, you know, assess your audience to tailor your tone. So whether it’s a formal tone that should be using or more casual, but always remain professional. And that’s, that’s extremely important. And no, you’re topping inside out, you know, you don’t want to get stuck, especially the asked questions, and just spent about, you know, what is the purpose of that case? What is the goal here? And what do you want people to take away from that case?

Communication is extremely important. And being able to communicate effectively is essential for business. And it’s a foundation of influencing skills that I have touched on previously. And it’s also the basis for leadership and teamwork. And so it’s, you know, when you think about, you know, by communicating effectively, what that means is, you know, thinking about the content of what you’re going to say, or the content of a speech or presentation that you’re going to deliver, you know, sometimes less is more. And you know, how you present yourself when communicating, being able to answer the questions, as well as, ask good questions. You know, that’s, that’s a skill in itself. And, you know, when we talk about appealing to the head and to the heart, that for me goes back, you know, to know your audience. And if you know, your audience, and you can assess, then you can tailor your communication style, and you can tailor your tone. But you can also tailor the content of what you’re going to say as well.

What are some of the interview questions that kind of assess your influence and skills and your persuasiveness?

If an employer wants to assess your influencing skills of persuasiveness, they will most likely ask you a scenario based question. Okay. They would start with, give me an example of or tell me about that something or how you would approach certain situation. So, you know, an example can be, you know, you might be asked, tell me about the time you had to communicate effectively? Well, tell me about the time you had to change your communication style for different audience. So here, think about, maybe you delivered a presentation as part of the coursework that received the great feedback, or maybe you handled a social media account or, you know, for university or social. Yeah, that received lots of followers and became very popular, both very good examples to use, and, you know, for graduates. And you might be asked, you know, tell me about the time you worked with a difficult person. And, you know, here an employer would want to know if you have communication skills, you know, did you flex your style? What tone did you use when you talk with a difficult person? And, you know, did you confront that person over his or her behaviour? Another question you might be asked is, you know, tell me about the time, you know, you have persuaded someone to do something that, that, that they didn’t want to do. If you and that you both, you know, think about it being a part time job, and you convince your colleague to stay in the company, even though he or she received another job offer, you know, or maybe you don’t have a job, you know, if you, perhaps you convinced a person in your class, to join a charity event or similar initiative by university? Also, you know, a very good example to use for that question. And another question that, that is, a great question to ask is, tell me about the time you had an argument or disagreement with your teammate? So, this is a great question to ask by employers, because what they will be looking from your answer is that you have communication skills, that you work in a team. And, also, if you have problem solving skills, because, you know, if you had an argument, they’ll need to know how that ended as well.

What are ways that we could develop our skills then?

I mean, there are, there are the best way to develop and influencing skills or getting involved in various group activities, project work, or find a part time job that both involves client facing or customer facing. You need to get involved in the in the group activity because, you know, you, you could you can’t influence someone, if you’re not a part of the team, you know, at the same time, you can, you have a great insight in how others lead in the team, or you know, or what sort of ideas they have, you know, or ways that they use to influence someone and in the team that you pour it off. And, I mean, public speaking is a great way to develop influencing skills, you know, it will improve your confidence, it will improve your communication skills, and it will also help, you know, ways of different ways of interacting with audience Yes. Also, in university debates, I don’t know if you still have them in Queens, but university that is, is a great way to also develop influencing skills. And, you know, you don’t need to participate if you don’t want to, but simply by, you know, by watching the debate, you can have great insight. You know, as I mentioned previously, watching how others lead and how others communicate with the audience.

How do we develop then leadership potential? And how do recruiters assess leadership potential?

It’s a good question. And, you know, some people are natural leaders. But everyone can develop a necessary skill set. To become a leader, a great way to develop leadership potential is by taking on more responsibility. So volunteering to take an extra workload at work, if your capacity allows, but not taking any more than you can handle. And you need to go over and above than what’s described in your job description if you want to grow and progress. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Yes, and honestly, this is one of the best ways to learn something new. And it will certainly help to develop your personal brand and get noticed by people. And, you know, seek opportunities that allow you to develop leadership potential. Yeah, keep on top of university updates, to see if there are any project work going on, that you can take part in. So for example, maybe you can be a mentor, or maybe you know, you can get involved in the induction week, welcoming new students, or even coaching a sports team, you know, and equally important, and, you know, offer your encouragement and your guidance to people that you coach or people you work with, or even students in your class because leadership can be practised anywhere, as long as you keep learning.

Could you name a couple of leadership skills and qualities? 

These are so consistent, so many skills or qualities, you know, and the list goes on and on and on. But and some of them are you know, they should, you know you need to be ambitious, that’s your goal and focus on problem solving and organisation need to be organised, and keep the track and track the progress of work. And make sure to communicate that beats with the team, company client or to one another one is delegation. It’s very important, you know, you can’t do everything yourself, you need to learn how to delegate. You don’t delegate you for you to bring yourself up, but you delegate, you know, facilitate the workflow and help others in the team to grow and progress by allocating them the responsibility and showing that trust time management. Be aware of the deadlines. And always think how can I improve turnaround times, and learn prioritise. And once you once you learn how to prioritise, then you prioritise appropriately. 

How would you persuade someone who doesn’t seem interested in a project to get involved with the team?

And well, I mean, you need to first of all, and that’s a very good question. But I think I touched on this a little bit as well. Whatever I talked about, know your audience. So you know, if someone is reluctant to join the project team, then you encourage them to do so. You know, if you know that person and what they’re looking for their goals and why they’re not interested in the project. Try to find Is there something in the project that you can you can use to encourage them to join. So for example, maybe the project, create some opportunities that later can lead to better things or promotion or a payrise. You know, and you need to know once. First of all you need to know the project, what is the project, what the project entails? What are the skills that you can gain while I’m working on that project. And then knowing what the person is looking for, if he say no to that opportunity, while he or she is saying no, you know, what, what, what different? You know, what are they looking for exactly? And then, and then just find them, just find, you know, something that attracts them. So find something that would say, oh, by the way, you know, these are the skills that you will learn in the project. And by the way, do you know, did you know that, you know, people do well, then they get promoted to certain level or they moved to Fairfax?

So how do you strike a balance between influencing and forcing your opinion? 

Yeah, it is a good one. And so yes, as I said, influencing is persuading or convincing someone to do something, but without forcing them to do. Compromise was what you mentioned was not, yeah, so there’s a fine line, you know, you have to, you know, at some stage, you won’t be able to convince someone, or you won’t be able to persuade someone, but you have to find a compromise. And so rather than walking away from it, you’ll have to find a compromise. But I think there is a fine balance between forcing people to do something, rather than influencing. And it’s always thing professional, you know, and using the skills that that I mentioned today, earlier today, to, you know, speak professional, knowing your tone, knowing what tone do you use, you know, again, if you speak with your colleague, and the and your employer, you’ll use a different sort of tone. So you know, it’d be forcing someone your opinion, then your tone will change, if you’re trying to influence someone with the opinion with the communication style that suits a person. And then that’s not forcing, that’s talking. That’s a discussion that that leads to convincing or persuasion. So it’s the tone and assess the person who you’re talking with. And, and if you’re stuck, then try to see if there is a middle ground or a compromise that you can both come up with.

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“Stop thinking about a job title and start thinking about what you want your days to look like.”

John Maguire, North West Talent Partner at FinTrU gives his top tips on navigating the graduate recruitment and application process. 

John Maguire FinTrU
John Maguire, FinTrU

I am still job searching what skills should I brush up on to make me more employable?

John: So, there’s all manner of things you could be brushing up on to make yourself more employable. I think one of the key things is really to go and look at the companies you’re interested in joining, go and look at the sectors you’re interested in getting involved in your research like, there’s so much stuff now online, and you’ve no excuses to really not be not be completely filled up with all the information you need to know if you’re interested in somewhere, and you can find out so, so many things about employers and about sectors online at the moment. I suppose the other thing is just you know, don’t be afraid to ask questions you can reach out to employers, you can reach out to companies on LinkedIn, through different websites and things like that. So I would just practice kind of be in the habit of reaching I find that information, because that’s a bit of a bit of a skill in itself, I suppose, an organisational skills that everyone’s looking for kind of be a self starter if you can use your initiative, and do all that kind of thing. That’s a good place to start.

How can I make a good impression in a video interview?

John: Good question. Things are very different these days being on screen rather than in person. You can’t shake someone’s hand and you can’t get comfortable with them in the same room and sit across the desk from each other. I think it’s just doing the basics really well – having your research done. Doing everything you would do for a normal job interview really and just getting comfortable with the fact that you’re on screen with someone. We’ve been doing it for so long and it’s almost become second nature it’s becoming the new normal. It’s normal for us they kind of just do everything on video and all of our recruitment on video.

But it’s obviously a lot of people’s first names coming on, even though we’ve done dozens and hundreds of interviews with video. It’s always someone you know, first time doing a video interview. I suppose just be comfortable with it, be kind of aware that it’s just a little bit different than to be worried about things like, you know, technical difficulties happening – think people are really scared to about their internet cutting out… be aware that people are going to make room for that kind of thing that don’t happen in person like technical issues and all that kind of thing. But look, just be yourself, still be professional, you know do exactly what you would do in any other interview. Just don’t be afraid to go in and sell yourself even though it’s, it’s online and not in person.

How can I apply some of the skills I have developed in the last year when I start my job?

John: So. I think in the last year we’ve all developed some new skills in terms of working online, being based on our own and checking in with people in and the virtual environments. I think that’d be one of the positives of kind of what’s happened over the last year or two, is that some of that’s going to remain I think going forward in the future I think there’s gonna be a lot more virtual conferences and maybe people travelling to go to training sessions and things mightn’t happen as much so I don’t want people to feel like, all this virtual etiquette that everyone’s learned is gonna go out the window and no one’s gonna ever use it again. I think it’s a good thing to have under your belt, I think, like I said last kind of travelling between offices, the virtual options for doing training and team tasks are fantastic at the minute and they’re only going to get better. So I would lean heavily on that and really use that and it’s something that a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to go to, it’s been a totally different work for the last year so I would say don’t feel like your, your experience of maybe being in university from, from home, and all that kind of thing is going to go waste because it’s not you’re going to get some use out of it and you’re gonna have all the skills there for the future.

So what does onboarding look like starting work in 2021?

John: So like I said look, the recruitment, the onboarding process everything like that, is totally up in the air at the moment. We’re thankfully coming to a time where we’re thinking about actually being in an office together how exciting is that? Everyone’s looking forward to human interaction, human contact.

Say for example, you know you’re being onboarded by the minute and everything’s still totally, totally remote, any company will have put in a lot of work to make sure that they still get introduced to all the colleagues that you need to be introduced to and you don’t feel to siloed and you don’t feel too alone. FinTru puts a lot of effort into making sure that everyone that comes in, feels like part of the FinTru team and really embraces the culture and getting involved in everything that could be getting involved in the office. So the moment that’s what it looks like every company will be putting a lot of effort into making sure everyone feels included and not left out in the remote environment.

But hopefully over the next few months, things continue to go reasonably well we’ll be able to get some in-person interaction and then we’ll all have to figure out how to do that all over again so that’ll be a whole new challenge.

How can I make a good first impression?

John: So good first impression – if this is an interview or if this is your first day, whatever it might be, I think, you know, we want people to be themselves I think sometimes people get lost in trying to be someone else either on an interview on the first day of work and they have this dream picture of what the dream employee should look like and to try and be someone else but we want people, and every other company will only want to be themselves. The best version of themselves to be professional, but still just totally themselves…That’s what, that’s what you’ve been hired by that company so I would just totally focus on being yourself and uploading the best best version of yourself across really.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever seen on a CV?

John: So I would do a lot of looking at CVs in my position, I think, it’s the basics. For example, if someone says that one of their skills is attention to detail and they’ve spelt the word attention wrong, that kind of thing – just the irony of it. There’s so much online in terms of, you know, If you go to YouTube or google – how to write a good CV, a modern, clean contemporary CV that it’s just one of those things you need to get right, so there’s plenty of resources out there, plenty of people that will be able to help you online. But yeah, just basic kind of basic errors are kind of the glaring things that people should be checking.

So, if I was going to do one thing today to make me stand out in the recruitment process, what would that be?

John: I think it comes down again to research, I think look at the company you’re applying for, look at the role you’re applying for and know absolutely, absolutely everything there is to know I think it’s something that impresses employers and companies when you’ve done that, and I think, on the other hand, it’s something that can let you down if you’re not armed with all the information that’s because it’s all out there at the moment it’s not as if you have to go in anywhere and find it. It’s literally at your fingertips, it’s on your phone. So I would say number one thing is, research, research, research just get everything you can about the company you’re applying for the role you’re applying for. And like I said earlier, I think we mentioned this earlier, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions in advance, you know, maybe people on LinkedIn or different organisations, whatever it might be, I would say just have all the information and show how keen you are to really, really go for a role, as you’ve done that, you’re going to be moving on to the next step.

I think as well like even if you look at companies’ social media profiles… like everyone has Instagrams and Twitters and Linkedin profiles and you can see a lot of the stuff the the company does culturally as well – maybe some of the charity partners they work with and maybe some of the things they get involved in outside of the 9-5 which will give you another flavour of the company you’re applying for.

How can I embed myself in a virtual team?

John: Yeah, we’ve kind of touched on this already I suppose. The thing I say to people when they’re starting off – I picked up so much even just bumping into people when I was getting coffee or going up the elevator or whatever, whatever it is.. and you stumble into people and stumble upon things you didn’t know before, so I think you have to work harder to get those opportunities. I think you need to be the one to send the Teams message, or Skype message like “how’s it going?” even or just just speak to someone just catch up on someone’s weekend and maybe you discover you’ve got things in common and who knows where it goes from there… there’s so many things kind of happen accidentally in an office just jumping in and chatting to people, and we don’t get opportunities I like when I go for coffee, it’s just me and the dog like there’s no one else. It’s not as if I have any any colleagues to bump into, or just catch up on the weekends or think everything at the moment can be really transactional and it can be all to do with someone when they need something or you need something for a piece of work. I think setting time aside, literally just call someone and say, how was your football match at the weekend or did you go for that hike you were talking about going and just really making a conscious effort to do that. Otherwise we don’t get those kinds of casual opportunities.

I still don’t know what I want to do, can you give me any advice?

John: So, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I think that’s okay – we’ve always had to choose really early in our lives about A-Levels and degrees and everything like that so  I would stop thinking about a a job title, without thinking about maybe, what do you want to your days to look like, what do you want your career to look like in terms of, do you want to work with people. Do you want to be travelling, do you want to be based somewhere, do you want to work with technology, I would, I would start trying to come up with a career like rather than going straight to the kind of name of the career and name of the job that you’re dreaming of I would start dreaming up the skills you have, what you want you to ask who you want to work with all that kind of thing because I know one of the best things about my role is working with people, getting to do things like this. And that’s why I’ve kind of steered myself this this direction so if that’s something you’re interested in, like I would start thinking that way rather than thinking about the ultimate job title at the end I suppose because that’s really, really difficult. So start thinking about skills start thinking about things you want to do on a daily basis, a clearer picture of the industries and stuff you can go and start looking at.

If I don’t like my job how long should I stick at it?

John: I think it’s going to take you a while to figure out what your role actually is and figure out the feel of the company you join. You’ve done your research, there’s been something that led you to apply for this company and join the company wherever we end up. I think you have to give it time. I think a lot of things can you know when they’re feeling new and you’re not totally, you know, getting to grips with the rule, yet. I think you can start thinking oh maybe I don’t like this, maybe I’m not capable, like, maybe this is something I shouldn’t be involved in but I think it takes a number of months for anyone to get settled into any kind of new role or even a role within your own business. Don’t be too hasty and give them give them, you know, I think we can confuse, not knowing everything about a role and not being totally comfortable with a role with maybe not liking it, but you owe it to yourself that, to give you a little while to settle in.

What support will I get starting a new job working from home?

John: Yep. So, I know from our perspective, we will have a lot of support in place, so things like your dedicated line manager – someone like me looking after the graduate programmes, new start programmes. And look, everyone’s so conscious of nobody getting left behind in this online world, so we’ll be reaching out, checking in with as much as we want. We want it to feel like you’re in the office and you’re still sitting beside people and having that support that you have naturally in an office. The other thing I would say is don’t be afraid to reach out, the same way you would stop someone in the office maybe ask them a question that’s on your mind. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or go on teams. I think people who are new to a company is almost feel like they’re annoying people when they send them a Teams message, but like that’s what everyone’s for everyone’s there to help and no one’s going to be annoyed at you sending them a Teams message to ask them, ask them a question in your first few weeks so don’t be afraid to reach out. 

How should I prepare before my first day?

John: So your first day in a company, the company will make sure that you have everything you need to get started, any necessary kind of information that you’re already going to have from the company. It comes down to research and just do everything you can with the company know what’s going on in the company at any given moment. Just be really up to speed with like Graham said earlier, any news and anything that’s really happening and just get a feel for the company. Again, I think it comes down to if you’re not sure or you feel like you’re missing something you should have, don’t be afraid to reach out to your new employer. Especially these days with with the online thing and virtual nature of things, you know, sometimes you just have to reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to lift the phone and just ring that number online to contact the company or whatever. I think people are doing that sometimes. So don’t be. Don’t worry. That’s something that people actually have a lot of respect towards kind of like what Graham was saying about, you know, he started February, Dorsey new members of the team and things like that, that’s really really well respected, but, you know, a company should have everything they need with you for day one, like, on top of your research and don’t be afraid to reach out just like I said.

What training do you provide graduates?

John: So, we at FinTru have a dedicated learning and development team, that kind of the way we view it is the Learning never really stops so you kind of come in to our financial services Academy, there’s loads of training provided in the graduate Academy. When you come into the business and join one of our various projects or project specific training and things like that. And really, all the way through your career depending on what role you’re in and where you go in the business we will have dedicated training available that will be specific to your role, maybe at any given time, for example, in my role dealing with people all the time and I’ve recently gone through like mental health first aid training session, kind of training side of things so it’s not just traditional examinations it’s you know, maybe some leadership modules maybe some management modules, things like that. So there’s lots of training and it never really stops. I’ve been with FinTru, many years now and I’ve never stopped learning, I’m always picking up things. Yeah, it’s one of the, one of the things we really focus on is developing our people and, and investing back in our people, we have our four key values or four Ps and one of the Ps is people. It’s something that’s really important to us, investing in our people to develop and grow them through the business really.

What is the most common mistake you see in interviews?

John: Yeah so I think we talked about it and I think we talked about it earlier – it’s trying to be someone else, I think, I think it’s that, that can come across as really kind of stilted and rehearsed. And I think your research can be brilliant, and you can have done everything right but if you try and stand up and convey it as if you try to be someone else like this version of someone that you think you should be, that’s not that’s not the way to do it I think you just have to be yourself like everyone’s different. We know we want to see you be you, and bring the best version of yourself really to the, to the table. So I think once you’ve got your research done. And once you’ve kind of you’re armed with everything you need for the interview. I would say look just be yourself you can be professional, you can still be personable at the same time and you can still have a wee bit of, you know, a bit of your own personality shine through in the interview so I think people try and really, you know, bleach all the personality, sometimes in interviews and try and be really, you know robotic and stuff. We want to see that personality, we want to see you be you really. I think interviews are a snapshot as well like they’re not- they don’t take all day and you can’t spend all day interviewing someone again. So it’s that five minutes of waffle that will be better used on another question where you can really shine. Don’t think if you’ve got a really tricky question and I’m gonna have to think of my feet here and just come up with something. You’re better using that time just moving on just saying I’m not really too sure about that.

I don’t have a graduate job, where can I find opportunities?

John: Yeah. So short answer again is online, like, I think, these days we have absolutely no excuse to not be not be kind of totally up to date with everything that’s out there. I think, a pretty general search online for graduate roles, fantastic place to start. And then every single business that you are interested in will have a website, will have social media, will have everything you need to kind of go and get, go and get an initial look anyway, and then follow up with questions. And don’t be afraid to reach out to potential employers or, or even have worked in that industry or work with that company before so don’t be afraid to ask a question, you learn so much just by speaking with people that are asking questions. So I would say that, but look online is a great place to start. You don’t have to wait for the weekend newspaper anymore and see the opportunities or anything like that so it’s all there, it’s all out there. If you want that, you can just go and then if you really want to get involved in a company, you need to get started so just go for a really just start looking, I would absolutely like are all the different ones out there.

What could I ask at the end of the interview?

John: I think one of the things we will say is at that section of the interview, don’t have no questions, even if you think you know everything and you’re happy with everything and your content was everything, just have a few questions lined up – it’s a really deflating end to an interview when you say do you have any questions for us, but anything to do with the company? And people say “no I’m fine” it’s just really kind of slow finish.

Interested in working for FintrU? Rewatch our recent @QUBCareers Instagram Live sessions featuring FinTrU and browse their current opportunities on theGradfest2021 site.

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Categories
Alumni Gradfest2021 Graduate recruitment Graduate success software development

“Thanks to what I learned at Queen’s, I’ve been able to hit the ground running in my role.”

MSc Software Development graduate Adam Hamill is now an Associate Consultantin Data Analytics Managed Services at
Version 1. Here is how he got there…

Msc Software Development graduate Adam Hamill 

Describe your career path to date. 

I graduated in 2016 with a degree in Electronic Engineering. I worked in an electronics company for around 3 years, then returned to university to do a Master’s course in Software Development and after I graduated I got offered a role in Version 1 which is where I am working now. 

Why Software Development? 

I always had an interest in IT and anything to do with computers. I knew a lot of friends that had got jobs in the industry too and had great things to say about it which made me apply for the Master’s course and I am now very happy I did. 

What is your current role like? 

No two days are the same, there’s a lot of variety in the types of work I could be doing and the different types of customers I could be working for. I enjoy that every day I know I will be learning something new.

What does an average week look like for you?

At the moment I’m still junior in my role so my week involves a lot of shadowing other members in my team, seeing their thought processes in working out problems and giving my own input if I feel I can help out. In a week I could be working with one customer on helping produce a dashboard in Power BI to suit their needs, while for another customer I could be trouble shooting any backend problems they may have encountered using SQL. 

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Keeping on top of all the various customers we provide support for and their ongoing requests. 

What is the most rewarding?

Receiving positive feedback from customers, knowing that you have made their day even a little bit more convenient is always a great positive about my job.  

What are your career aspirations? 

I would like to be highly experienced and knowledgeable in my field and feel that I am a great asset to the company.

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

I enjoy the fact I get to work with globally renowned companies and that my work contributes to making any processes or systems run smooth as possible for the customer.

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

Along with the technical skills required, there is a steep learning curve into learning each customer’s systems and solutions which is something I hadn’t expected.

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

Good timekeeping skills has definitely helped me as I can have many tasks with deadlines all running at the same time just like University. Additionally, communication skills gained during group assignments in Queen’s have been a great help in my career. Technical skills learned such as programming, database design and security have enabled me to hit the ground running in my role. 

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

If you are thinking about doing it and know you will be able to give it your full effort, then go for it. 


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

I made lots of new friends at the course who I still see regularly which was a great bonus of attending the course! 

How did the people you met at Queen’s inspire you?

The passion from my teachers for their subjects helped inspire me to achieve my best results in the course.

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

Changing very quickly from traditional lectures to virtual lectures thanks to a pandemic!

Interested in working for Version 1? Don’t miss our Instagram Live on 9 June at 3pm on @QUBCareers Instagram when our student host will be getting top tips on navigating the recruitment process at Version 1. Version 1 will also be talking about the importance of embracing workplace tech on @QUBCareers Instagram at 12pm on 15 June. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more. 

Version 1 are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021
Categories
Discover EY Employer Engagement Employer Insight Employers EY Gradfest2021 Graduate recruitment Graduate success

“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

Categories
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.

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Graduate recruitment Job alert Job Hunting job search on campus jobs

Careers Advent Calendar: 6 Steps to Finding the Perfect Job on MyFuture

  1. Log in using your Queen’s ID

  2. Select ‘Jobs’ and ‘Search MyFuture Jobs’ from left hand menu.
  3. From your home page of the jobs section, you can view:
    – Recommended jobs based on your previous views
    – Jobs people on your course are looking at.
    – The latest job listings and trending jobs.
  4. You can filter your job search by industry, job function, course, date posted or closing date. 
  5. Set up a job alert for a saved search and get daily or weekly results sent directly to your Queen’s email.  
  6. You can also favourite jobs or follow employers you are interested in so their new posting appear on your home screen.

Get started now: Log in to MyFuture

Categories
advice Employer events Employer Panels Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate success

Four Employers Who Offer Surprisingly Varied Careers for Graduates from All Disciplines

Nobody likes to be pigeon-holed – it stunts professional growth and limits your options. And the same can be said of employers. Just because a company dominates in a particular field or industry doesn’t mean they are only recruiting one type of graduate from one distinct discipline.  In fact, some of the most successful and agile workplaces are committed to recruiting students from a variety of backgrounds to maximise creativity and diversify thought. Here are just four of them.

Chartered Accountants Ireland

‘We embrace diversity and creativity in the workplace – we want to see difference around the table’

“As a body we are keen to attract the brightest and the best but from all backgrounds which isn’t often known or appreciated and we find the employers we work with really welcome and endorse a mixed skillset and really welcome students coming from all degree discipline.

“As a Law graduate, to me, chartered accountancy was boring – it was going to be number-crunching accounting and it was a far cry from what I saw myself doing. I have to say my mind was completely blown. I often get asked will an employer not favour someone from a finance/accounting background and the answer is no. They don’t want to have everyone around their table with the exact same thought process and methodology. They really embrace diversity and creativity in the workplace and that really helps them excel, forcing them to innovate and disrupt the norm which is necessary in the modern workplace. Communication skills are key, which people mightn’t fully appreciate. The ability to make good decisions – to weigh up qualitative and quantitative data, to use critical thinking, to be a strategist and to influence others. So that emotional intelligence is absolutely core to becoming a good chartered accountant because ultimately that is a business leadership passport.”

Sinead Fox-Hamilton, Chartered Accountants Ireland 

PwC

‘It’s not just accountancy – there is a whole range of varied roles across the board’

“There’s lots of areas in PwC you can join as graduates – we don’t require a specific degree. As a Psychology graduate, it was never somewhere I’d considered because I just thought it was very corporate; that it’s all accountancy-based and it’s very professional and it’s maybe not for me. But actually, what I’ve found is that it totally is for me and it’s the right place for me to be. We are an accountancy firm, but there’s so much more than that – so we recruit graduates into consultancy, tax, deals, working with different clients, mergers, audit and of course accountancy so there’s a whole range of things you can do at PwC varied across the whole board.

Consultancy for example is very much working with clients and problem-solving and finding solutions for those clients. Someone might come to us looking to do a new business merger or something like that so our consultancy team would look into that for them and be their advisors.” 

Sarah Delaney,  PwC

NatWest Banking Group

‘I’ve been here 14 years and probably had about 6 different careers.’

“The reason I’ve stayed so long in the bank is that, whilst I’ve been here 14 years, I’ve probably had about 6 different careers in that time. I have done a variation of different roles including business-facing HR consultant type jobs, business partnering jobs…Right now, I’m the HR business partner for three different areas and they are group business areas. I look after three business areas – financial crime and control, fraud prevention and shared services. These are the back-office areas – basically the bits of the bank that keeps everything ticking along, but you wouldn’t necessarily see those parts of the bank because they’re not there on the high street in branches and such. My role looks after about 8000 people and they are spread across the globe – predominantly UK, Poland and India but also I have a scattering of people in the States, Singapore and Japan and other ones and twos over the globe as well. So, I have very much gone from being an Island of Ireland-focused role back when I joined the bank 14 years ago to a truly global role now.” 

Sandra Wright, NatWest Group

Belfast City Council

‘In the council, you don’t just work on one thing, you have to flexible and respond to different demands.’

“We have a community plan which is focal to everything that we do and it’s called the Belfast Agenda and it focuses on Belfast becoming a safe, fair and inclusive city where everyone benefits from the success of the city. We’re looking for analytical skills, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, communication skills – especially if you’re going out into the communities and engaging with the citizens of Belfast. As well as good written and oral communication skills, because you’d be working with a range of different audiences – so maybe colleagues, managers and members of the public. Researching and benchmarking skills are really important to us, work planning, project management and partnership working. So, whilst you’re at university, try to get as much experience as you can around that. Demonstrate that you’re self-motivated and you’re a good team player, and that you’re flexible in your approach to work. In the council you don’t just get working in one thing, there’s different demands all the time from different people and you have to be flexible in managing that demand, as well as working to tight deadlines.” 

Alison Long, Belfast City Council

To access more inspiring advice from business leaders, catch up on our Employer Panel series by re-watching our past events here:

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

Categories
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.

Categories
Applications CVs Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair Graduate success graduate training schemes internship Interviews

Ask the employer: What sets a winning job applicant apart?

Many graduate recruiters see piles of CVs and interview hundreds of applicants to fill jobs and placement roles. So, what sets a good candidate apart? We cornered some of NI’s top recruiters at the Graduate Recruiter and Placement Fair last week to find out. Here is what they had to say…

Include skills developed through extracurricular activities

“It is important to appreciate that on paper, all graduates from the same degree programme look the same. However candidates who succinctly articulate how their skills and experience meet the essential and desirable criteria outlined on the Job Description will stand out, as this shows they have considered the requirements of the role and thought about how they will bring value to the organisation. I would encourage students to really think about what they have achieved outside of their academic qualification.  Reflection upon the skills developed through involvement in extracurricular activities such as clubs, societies, sports, volunteering and work experience, and setting this in the context of the competencies employers seek, will set your application apart from others.”

Kim McAllister, Talent Acquisition Manager, Almac Group

EDITOR’S NOTE: Queen’s Degree Plus programme provides an opportunity to articulate the skills you have built up through extracurricular activities to employers. Find out more at GO.QUB.AC.UK/DEGREEPLUS

Show that you are keen

“If we get the feeling that you are super keen and can’t wait to get started sometime that is worth even more than a high score in the technical test. “

Elisa Herbig. Talent Acquisition Specialist at AquaQ Analytics

Make sure your CV hits the mark

“Your CV doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy. A lot of the time what really helps people is having something presentable that is easy to read. For the recruiter who is going to be reviewing it. Making sure the formatting is correct. Making sure there are no typos. Making sure the application is as easy to read as possible. Highlight any relevant experience for the role. Voluntary experience is good to include. Even if you have been working part-time show you have been doing something alongside your academic studies.” 

Adrian McCarthy is the manager of For Purpose

Relax in the interview

“Top interview tip – relax! We are just as nervous as you are. We want to sell you the job as much as you want to sell your skills to us. We want to make sure this is somewhere you want to work.” 

Joelene Ridgill , Purchasing Manager at Seacoya Group Ltd

Include work experience in your CV

“It sounds obvious but, in terms of a winning CV, good grades go a long way. It shows that the applicant knows how to put the work in to achieve their goals. It’s also very important to have some work experience or extracurricular activities since a candidate will have gained invaluable skills and experiences that they can bring into their new role. It also shows their adaptability and an appreciation for hard work. 

For an interview, it’s easy to say but just try to relax and be yourself. Your CV already shows many of your skills and this is a chance to show your personality. Remember that interviewers are just people, and someday it will be you in the interviewer’s seat!”

Sarah Fleming, Senior Manager, Muldoon & Co

Read assessment centre instructions

“At Liberty IT, we don’t ask for your CV when you apply. We only ask for your basic details such as what you’re studying and what year you’re in. If you meet the criteria you will then be invited to complete an online coding test through Codility and if you’re successful in that you get to attend our recruitment centres. 

The recruitment centre is broken up into four sections to make sure we get the best idea of your skills, experience and potential. To do well, make sure you read the advice we’ll send you, be yourself and try to enjoy the experience.”

Birgitta Swanberg, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Liberty IT

Tailor your CV for the role

Information within a CV needs to be clear and concise. No long paragraphs.  Ensure your skills and experience are easily identifiable throughout. Remember the recruiter looking at your CV doesn’t know you so highlight your relevant experience using the job description. To help you refine your CV to the role and make it stand out from the pile. Finally don’t forget to include personal achievements. Competing in team sports is a good indicator that you work well within a team and have competitive nature. 

Clodagh Mckeefry, Corporate Recruiter, MRP 

Show who you are as a person

I want to see what you do in your free time. An academic record is fantastic but I want to know about your volunteer experience, part time jobs, clubs you’re a part of, etc. It’s all about showing people that you are capable of doing more and pushing yourself.

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

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Employer Engagement Employer events Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair Graduate success graduateland Leadership

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/