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.
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.
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:
In the know
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?
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.
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.
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.
We asked some top NI employers for their careers fairs tips ahead of our Spring Recruitment Fair on 9 February. Here is what they had to say:
Help employers get to know you
“Ensure your profile is up to date. That will help us get to know you. Get to know us by doing some research ahead of the event. Careers fairs are excellent networking opportunities, so stay in touch! Most importantly, enjoy it.”
Clodagh Nugent, Talent Acquisition, Allstate
Do your research
“Employers are impressed by students who have taken the time to do some research before the event. Appearing informed about the organisation and industry that is of interest to you demonstrates a genuine motivation and creates a great impression. Doing research beforehand and targeting relevant organisations also ensures that the student gets the most out of the event, making the best use of their valuable time.”
Kim McAllister, Almac Group, Talent Acquisition Manager
Have questions ready
“I notice students who have already done a bit of research and know what they are looking for. Have specific questions about the company and the role itself then I’ll definitely remember you.”
Elisa Herbig. Talent Acquisition Specialist at AquaQ Analytics
“Being prepared if you are going to speak to a recruiter. If you are going to a stand whether it’s in person or virtual maybe having researched that organisation a bit beforehand and having a few questions in mind that you might like to ask them. It does really stand out if someone has looked into your organisation beforehand and if they have shown kind of a real interest in it. Often times as well, the people who are going to be at these recruitment fairs are going to be working for the HR department or the recruitment team for the organisations that they are placed with. Sometimes they have graduates who have been hired there as part of the recruitment team, so it is really good and it does stand out if people have done their research beforehand.”
Adrian McCarthy, Manager, For Purpose
Be willing to learn
“By asking questions about the company and the careers available. Being open to discuss entry level careers and willing to hear the success stories of people who perhaps started off in summer/temporary roles and are now directors.”
Joelene Ridgill, Purchasing Manager at Seacoya Group Ltd
Read around your industry
“An obvious passion for software engineering goes a long way. If you’ve been coding in your spare time, tell us about it. If you’ve read anything interesting about the software engineering industry as a whole, tell us about that too. If you’ve been to any Liberty IT tech talks or events, let us know what you thought of them.”
Birgitta Swanberg, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Liberty IT
Tailor your CV to the role you want
“Come to the recruitment fair prepared, with an up-to-date CV with you, ensure you are presenting the best version of yourself. Dress for the role that you want; display good communication skills. Speak confidently and articulate your skills and experience clearly. Don’t be afraid to approach us and ask any questions.”
Chloe Brown, Corporate Recruiter, MRP
Use the opportunity to find out about the company
“Show interest in the company. Ask questions that are more specific. We bring along colleagues of different levels to have a chat and give you the opportunity to find out more.”
Jared Kearney, Senior Campus Recruiter, CitiUK and CitiIreland
Have you registered for the fair yet? If not, you can do so here: