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How the Discover EY Insight Programme Helped Land me an Internship

Craig McAuley, Queen’s student

What was your highlight of the Discover EY Programme?

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

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

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

What did you learn about the industry and about yourself?

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

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

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

What doors did the EY programme open for you?

The ability to secure a summer internship for 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apply for the Discover EY programme here

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Inside the Discover EY Insight Programme

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

Discovering options

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

Discover EY Belfast

Finding mentors

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

A Career launchpad

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

Real challenges and skills development

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

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

Start in first year

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

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

About Discover EY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apply now.

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

What was your highlight of the Discover EY Programme?

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

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

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

What did you learn about the industry and about yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apply for Discover EY here

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“I could not recommend Discover EY enough”

Annie Groom, Queen’s Accounting student

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

What was your highlight of the Discover EY programme?

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

What did you learn about the industry and about yourself?

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

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

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

What doors did the EY programme open for you?

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

Apply for the Discover EY programme here

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

How to Succeed in Strengths-Based Recruitment

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

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

About EY

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

Strengths-based recruitment at EY

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

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

Strengths that EY recruit against 

These are the core strengths that we would measure:

Accountable

Agile

Adaptable 

Analytical 

Curious

In the know

Number Savvy

Resilient

Strong Communicator

Team Player

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

Curious

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

Adaptable and resilience

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

Number savvy

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

Team Player

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

Prepping for a virtual strengths-based interview

Make sure your technology works

Make sure you’re comfortable to come on camera

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

We want to see your face and your interaction

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

Make sure your WIFI is as strong as it can be

Make sure you will not get interrupted

Make sure you do all your prep work before hand

Identify your strengths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why do employers value Degree Plus?

When it comes to articulating the skills you have developed during your time at Queen’s, Degree Plus is a great tool to have in your armour. Here is why.

Degree Plus is supported by employers 

“Employers like EY and Nicva are putting their name to the award – that is an indication of the level of interest and support employers have in students who complete this award,” says Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager at Careers, Employability and Skills, who heads up Degree Plus.

 It quantifies your soft skills

“Degree Plus develops your employability.  Even if an employer has never heard of the Degree Plus award, they will definitely be interested to see that you have completed a significant amount of extracurricular activity. It shows you have stepped up above and beyond your degree programme, and that you’ve managed your time effectively and balanced it with your studies,” says Eimear.

She adds: “The fact that you can present the validation of those activities in the form of a certificate helps to give employers security that everything you are saying you can back up and evidence through both your degree and your Degree Plus certificate.

It shows initiative

“Degree Plus is an indicator of initiative.,” says Eimear. “Degree Plus is not compulsory – it shows you chose to set up and accept the challenge of exploring a new interest.”

It allows you to practice articulating your skills 

Both routes to Degree Plus involve an element of self-reflection during which you will be asked to analyse which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how. 

With the Provider Verified route, this might involve a presentation or form at the end of the programme. For Combined Experience, you will be asked to complete an application form to evidence the skills you have gained during two extracurricular activities. 

Either way, this self-reflective element forms a key part of the award. 

“We want you to learn and gain practice in articulating the skills that you are gaining from Degree Plus and the extracurricular activities you have been involved in so you can convey those with impact in an interview situation,” says Eimear. “To be able to articulate these things and how they’ve helped you; how your employability has developed through them – that’s an important skill in itself.”

Eimear Gallagher is the Business Operations Manager at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills.

To contact the Degree Plus team, email degreeplus@qub.ac.uk

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Four Cool Things happening in Graduate Recruitment Right Now

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

1.Employer-led online skills sessions

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

Get more information and register via our events page

2.Immersive company experiences

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

Get more information and register via our events page

3.Virtual recruitment ‘parks’

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

Discover more information and register.

4.Live chats with employers 

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

Register now via Graduateland.