UK Employer Panel Part 1: Video Transcript

Title: UK Employer Panel Part 1
Duration: 33:38

Kate: Okay hello to everybody joining, good morning, good afternoon or good evening depending on where you are in the world and where you're joining us from. Thank you so much for joining the session today - for those of you that don't know me my name is Kate Farr and I work in the Careers in Business team in the Business School here at the University of Birmingham. I'm delighted to be joined by Henna and Kritika today who are going to be sharing their experiences and their insights into securing work in the UK, and then the recruitment and selection process and how that might differ from what you may be used to in your home country. We're going to record the session, so I hope that's okay with everybody, and for those of you that may have to leave slightly early to run to another appointment, then the recording will be available. We have an hour for the session. Please do ask questions as we go along - you can drop them into the Q&A and I will try and either address them as we go through the session, or there should be plenty of time at the end - but I want this session to be as useful as possible for you so please do ask as many questions as you have and we will do our best to answer all of the questions as we go through. I think we'll start by allowing our panelists to introduce themselves and the companies that they're from as well, so perhaps we could start with Henna who's first on my screen.

Henna: Hi everyone my name is Henna and I'm a student recruitment officer at KPMG based in the Birmingham office. Fun fact: I actually studied at the University of Birmingham - I studied law - so I'm an alumni and so happy to be back to deliver this session. So KPMG in the UK is part of a Global Network of member firms and we offer audit, tax, legal, consulting, deal advisory and technology services, and so we have over 16,000 people working in the UK alone. I manage our audit routes in the Midlands the South and the East so I'm really happy to be here to answer any questions that you might have about KPMG - about the application process, or anything related to that. Fantastic, thank you so much - and Kritika?

Kritika: Hi, thank you so much for having me, and thank you so much everyone who's attending. I am Kritika Narula, I head the marketing and content at Student Circus. In case you don't know, Student Circus we have actually partnered with the University of Birmingham. We are a platform that helps you enhance your employability - the very first way we do this is by filtering out jobs that will sponsor visas, so you don't have to go hunting for jobs anywhere else, and you can save time in the job application process and just optimise your job application for that.

Besides that we do a lot of other things like webinars or workshops and you'll notice that on we have a blog that also gives you regular advice on how to apply and we are basically all learning from our mistakes here - we were all international students, we learned a lot of lessons while we were students ourselves, and I was a student myself four years ago, so I went through a lot of other things, similar experiences, and also very different experiences, because the post-study visa did not exist at that point.

So we are very happy to be sort of supporting you in this process, which we know can be very hard and very tough. If you want to sign up you can go to and during the process of the session I hope I'll be able to explain more of how you can make the most of it. Thank you.

Kate: Thank you and I'll drop the link in the chat as well as we go through. I forgot to say in my introduction that before I joined the University nearly five years ago, I obviously used to do work in graduate recruitment. I worked for a very big engineering consultancy - we used to recruit kind of over 300 graduates, over 200 placement students every year, so hopefully I might be able to chip in and help with any tricky questions as well. So I think we'll get started; get straight into the first set of questions. I guess a good place to start is around kind of the recruitment process for entry level jobs in the UK. Perhaps if we could start maybe with Henna, could you talk us through kind of the recruitment process at KPMG, or you know kind of any of the general observations you have so that we can get an understanding of how that might differ from elsewhere?

Henna: Yeah so our recruitment process is all online at the moment so if you're applying to any of our graduate programs you can find a list of all our live vacancies on our website. You have to first complete an application form - so that's just a basic information, your academic background, any work experience that you might have, and that should take about 30 minutes for you to complete. Now once you've completed that application, if you're eligible we will invite you to complete an assessment - so it's a transforming a small business assessment - so my key advice would be if you're making an application to KPMG, be ready to be invited to complete an assessment - and you've got five days to complete that. Now that online assessment is untimed so you can take your time working through that, but we do recommend that you take 90 minutes or so to work on that, and if you do pass and you're successful in that first assessment we'll invite you to the second assessment, which is a video assessment - and similarly we do suggest you take some time out to work on that, and you've got five days to complete that. And after that if you're successful we'll invite you to the final stage - which was our 'Launch Pad' which was typically face to face, but since Covid everything's transitioned to online and we're keeping it that way for now, so our final stage is online over Teams. So that's when you have the opportunity to be interviewed and to meet Partners, graduate trainees. And if you're successful at that final stage, within two working days we'll let you know if you've been successful. So that's the process at the moment. I've got loads of hints and tips for you as well if you've got any questions, but like I said it's all online - it's pretty straightforward and if you have any questions throughout the process you could always get in touch with us. But for international students as well you'll be able to access that online, so you know it's really straightforward. If you do have any questions about the application form in particular you can ask some questions, but yeah that's kind of our process at the moment.

Kate: Right, thank you Henna. I think, you know, it's important to say that that's the process at KPMG but actually for a lot of large graduate recruiters they're very similar processes, and I think for any students on the call you probably can't fail to notice that there is an awful lot of recruitment activity at the moment - so many companies are advertising their roles now for people to join them next year, and a lot of the recruitment processes, you know, open now have closing dates, and the majority of the processes are online and they're very standardised. So you know you if any of you maybe took your CVs along to careers fairs, unfortunately it doesn't really work that way in the UK - everything tends to be done online. And Kritika, do you have anything to add to that from your own experiences, or anything that you've seen with the companies that you have on your platform?

Kritika: Yeah I think right off the bat, you know, you mentioned graduate schemes and that's pretty much the same pattern that everyone follows - you know, they have these rounds. The good part is that if you're applying to a company that has a very, you know, well-formed graduate scheme or graduate role, they'd actually share in advance what their application process is on their websites, and this is a good practice that all good employers follow. So, I know KPMG has a page that's dedicated to their careers and they share it. Similarly you notice that if it's a graduate scheme that's been running for years and years, employers usually have a page dedicated to that, so I'd say, you know, leverage that - use it to your advantage. Go in informed, walk in informed when you start the application process, because these pages also have information about what the employers are looking for - what kind of experiences would help you in the application. So get those ideas from the job description itself, get those ideas from the career pages, and from, you know, the career accounts that they have. Get a sense of what the employer's / the company culture is, research the company, and so when you apply you'll be better prepared for it. The biggest bridge that you have to cross as an international student is that information bridge, because you walk into this whole process blind and you'd be just shooting in the dark. So the more information you can get the better.

Kate: Yeah definitely and I think particularly for any postgraduate students on the call, you know, you may have just arrived here, just started your course and you've all of a sudden been thrown into making job applications. So it does take time to really research the roles and the companies that you're applying to, but that is a really really important part of the process, because you can't underestimate actually how important that first application form is that you complete. A lot of big companies use applicant tracking systems, who will be looking for keywords in your application. They'll be looking to see whether you'd have done your research and not just copied your answers from a website, from what you've seen on the website, so you can't underestimate really how important that application form is.

We have a question actually in the Q&A which I think is probably a good time to to ask: 'Any practice tests for the assessment, for example if it's a personality test then there isn't a right or wrong answer - any tips around the test?' So Henna I don't know if you have any tips around KPMG's processes?

Henna: Yeah so we do have practice assessments online and that would be my biggest tip when you are applying for KPMG and you've been invited to complete an assessment, before you complete that assessment do take part in the practice assessment. You can find it online - so if you just type into your browser 'KPMG practice assessment', or go on to our graduate page, you'll be able to see the practice assessment there. Take part in the practice just so you can familiarise yourself with what kind of questions we'll be asking; how to answer specific kind of scenario based questions - so that would be my tip. Another tip is as well we're really looking for your strengths - so on our website you'll be able to see our 11 strengths that we look for in the practice assessment, especially in the video assessment, where you'll be able to answer questions. If you mention our strengths, talk about exactly how you can align with our strengths, and the examples that you can use that will really help you with passing them assessments. But definitely do take part in the practice assessments - I'm sure other companies as well will have practice assessments on their website, so definitely do take part in them before you go ahead and submit, because once you've submitted the assessment you might not be able to do it again. So that would be my tip, definitely click on that practice assessment, take time to work on that, and then make that assessment before, yeah definitely.

Kate: Yeah absolutely and don't forget to access your careers service support as well, because we, you know, the University pays for you to be able to practice certain online tests as well, just so that you can familiarise yourself with the format, you know, how long you have to answer each question; what you'll be able to have in front of you when you're taking the the test. So don't forget to look on our on our web pages, and later on in the session I'll drop the link in the chat for some more guidance around that. On the situational judgment type tests, where you're kind of asked to put yourself in a certain situation, you know, you're asking here 'what would you do in this situation?' They can be a little bit more difficult to prepare for, and like whoever it was who asked the question said, it's really difficult to prepare for that kind of question. I think the best way you can prepare is actually make sure that you really understand the company's values, you know, actually do your research, have a look at what's important to the company? What are they saying on their website? and that will help you to understand, you know, what is the culture like at that organisation, and how you can you can tackle that kind of question. Also you kind of have to be honest and, you know, answer how you will answer in a real scenario. Kritika did you have something to add on that?

Kritika: Yeah I think this is a good time to also mention that when you're applying to several companies it's important to customise your application according to the company you're applying for, because the reason you're applying for Company A will not be the same reason you're applying to Company B. You might have different motivations, or why you like a specific company, or why you want to work in a specific role at a specific company. So always keep in mind that when you're applying you are able to align, like Kate said, and you are able to align it while being honest. So you should be honest to your own values, while aligning those values with the company values, and always make sure you're customising - even if it's just answering a question on the initial application form about why you want to work at the company, it should truly reflect how your values align and what value you can add to the company.

Kate: Absolutely. Is there anything in particular that at KPMG you are looking for in in an applicant Henna? Any particular skills or competencies that are really important for you to see throughout the process?

Henna: Really good question. So in general we're kind of looking for candidates who meet our strengths and our values. That's one thing that throughout the recruitment process we're looking for. Now we have 11 values and one of the most important and the first value is career motivation, so we really want to see whether candidates actually have done their research - why do they want to work for us in particular? So that links onto you know customisation; so why is it KPMG and not another company, and whether the candidate has really thought carefully about the program and the location. So at KPMG we offer loads of different kind of areas - so audit, tax, deals - you need to pick one, so you need to be able to show why is it that one service area that you're interested in and the location as well. Of course you know the the cliché, you know, are you passionate about working for KPMG? Why is it that you've applied for the role? Are you aware of the qualifications? So at KPMG a lot of our graduate roles have a qualification aligned to it - so you're working and you're studying towards a qualification at the same time. So has the candidate done their research - is it the ACA that you're going to be studying? Why is it that you want to study the ACA So showing us that you have got that motivation to work at KPMG. I can't go through all of our strengths because there's 11, but we have e.g. Drive Quality, Demonstrating Integrity, Leverage Technology, so these are really important to us - so my advice would be look through our strengths. A tip I have is maybe even write a list of our 11 strengths on paper and for each of the strengths put an arrow and write down exactly how you can demonstrate that you meet our strength. But definitely what we do look for is that you can meet them, them strengths, and that you align to them - not necessarily you having work experience. So you could have 10 years of working in an investment bank or in an auditing setting, compared to someone who's got zero experience - it really doesn't put you at an advantage. So we're looking at your strengths not necessarily your experience.

Kate: Yeah that's an important point as well actually Henna, because employers will differ on this - some employers will be looking at, you know, they'll be assessing you against competencies, you know, and asking you to provide evidence of things that you've done in the past. But strengths-based recruitment is more looking at your potential and, you know, what you enjoy, what your strengths are, areas for development. So just, I guess, be aware that there are different styles of recruitment, and make sure that you have an understanding of that before you go through a recruitment process.

There are a couple of questions in the chat actually whilst we're going through, as we're still talking about recruitment and selection. Somebody has asked, 'What is the level of CV customisation that you'd recommend, and how much should we be changing it for every application that we make?' Have either of you got a view on that at all?

Kritika: So at the start of my role with Student Circus I talked to a lot of international students who have successfully landed jobs, and this is across a variety of employers right, so from big companies that have proper graduate schemes, all the way to smaller companies that are startups that are in very niche sectors, so we run quite the spectrum there, and I have noticed a lot that - the smaller companies especially - they like having some sort of personal touch to wherever you are applying, so as much as you can customise a CV and most importantly the entire application back. To give you an example, one of the employers, who is the director at one of the creative agencies based out of London, he mentions that an applicant had applied on a speculative basis, but she had applied with an idea of what they could do on a particular marketing campaign instead of what they had actually done, and this was an alternative. She had presented her own take on the brief, so they really liked it. She also had used the branding of the firm very creatively inside the campaign, and so that brought for uh that extra effort, it showed that extra effort that went into it. And it all comes back to what Henna was mentioning, you know, you need to demonstrate evidence of what are the companies looking for - in this case this was, you know, a creative agency - they wanted people who had those kinds of ideas, and she was able to demonstrate that within her application itself. So I think for small and medium employers this works a lot more. Again with big employers it's a mix, because there is also ATS (applicant tracking systems) which actually prefer standardised CVs. So I think that this is one layer of customisation that you could do depending on the level of employer that you are applying for, and then there is customisation depending on exactly which employer you are applying for. So I think that's very important when it comes speculative applications, and if you have those applications that are ordered in the form of a form, or you know upload documents and that kind of thing, definitely go with some standardised measures. I'm sure Careers also have some templates for CVs that can be very useful to help you create something.

Kate: Yes absolutely we can look over CVs and application forms to help you to understand how to tailor it for the roles you're applying to. One of the biggest things that we used to see when I worked in graduate recruitment was people putting the wrong company name on their application, and then it was really easy to see that they just kind of copied and pasted one application from another, so don't make that mistake!

Kate: We've got quite a few questions coming in actually, and I think it would be good to address some of these before we move on to the next section. So somebody's kind of made the point, you know, 'What happens if you don't get selected, some companies don't come back to you with feedback or advice on how you can improve your application?' And you're right, I think it is kind of just very disheartening after you spend lots of time on the process. I guess the unfortunate truth is that you probably won't get every single role that you apply to, but the more effort that you put into that process beforehand, you know, the more research you do into the company, the more value you see in the experience you've had, and the more you put that into your application, you know, maybe get it checked over by a friend or a family member, or the career service, you know the more that you could put in up front then hopefully the more successful you you'll be. I don't know if either of you have anything else you want to add to that at all?

Henna: For our applications, if you are unsuccessful at the first or the second stage - which is the online assessments - you'll be given a strengths report. So at the end of that assessment, if you are unsuccessful, we will send you a strengths report and you can access that on our account area where you'll be able to see what areas that you didn't do so well on, what areas you did well on, so that way you can kind of look at that and for your next application or maybe for other applications you can bear that advice in mind. For the final stage - so at the interview stage, our virtual Launch Pad - if you're unsuccessful there, we can offer you feedback. So we're happy to give you a call and talk through what you did well on and what what you can improve on for the future. So that's kind of our feedback process. But yeah it is disheartening when you've put time in to, you know, work on assessments and you don't pass, but my advice would be do those practice assessments, speak to the careers team, get them to check over if they can help you in any way. Also making the team aware if you've got any adjustments etc. So for KPMG, if you do have any adjustments we can offer you extra time and, you know, making sure that you take advantage of these things. It might be, you know, about... it might be regarding a disability or to do with your faith. It's really important to disclose that so that you're getting that extra time or them adjustments in place for you.

Kate: Yeah that's a really important point. Thank you Henna. Somebody's asked a question around, 'Is it a good idea to ask for feedback?' I think as Henna mentioned, some companies will give feedback; some companies may only give feedback in the later stages of the process - I guess just due to the number of applications that they receive, you know - I know from working for a big company myself we used to get over 35,000 applications, so it can be tricky. I don't think there's any harm in asking - the worst a company can say is 'no'. But if you're struggling to get feedback and you're being unsuccessful in your applications, then perhaps chat to Careers Network and we can help you understand where you might be able to make changes. Somebody's asked, 'Would you recommend restricting the CV to one page?' So with the bigger companies like KPMG it will be an online application form as opposed to a CV, so it'll be very standardised. You'll be taking some of your information from your CV and putting it into an application form, and you may be having to answer additional questions on that form as well. I think with the one page CV it really depends on the type of companies that you're applying to / the industry, you know, some consultancies for example will request a one-page CV. I think if you're unsure then send it into the career service and we can give you some more advice on that.

Okay I'm just double checking the questions - we're having quite a few questions come through, but I think what I'll do is move on to the next section and we can pick some of the other questions up as we go through. I just wanted to ask whether you come across common mistakes that applicants might make during the application process - this isn't just restricted to international students, who may be unfamiliar with some of the processes in the UK, but are there any common mistakes across the board that applicants generally make? I don't know if Henna, you want to want to start?

Henna: Yeah so there are quite a few common mistakes that happen. One mistake is - so I did mention earlier about picking a service line - so for example at KPMG like I said we've got a range of different service areas. Now if you apply for audit you can't then switch to work in tax - so that is something that I would really really advise you do if you're interested in working at a big company is really research which area you want to work in, because a lot of the firms won't allow you to kind of switch over. Same with location - if you're currently thinking about, 'oh I want to move to London, but later on I might move to Birmingham or Manchester', you need to think about where you're going to be located, because at KPMG as well once you've picked a location it can be quite hard to switch that as well. Another common mistake is in the actual application form - putting in the correct information. Now it could be as simple as the date that your visa expires, or the type of visa you have, or your qualification, you know, making sure that you put in the information correctly and to the best of your knowledge. Just because it might be that at the first stage you might be kicked out because of a certain bit of information you've provided, so it could be about your visa - you might have incorrectly put in information but then once you've submitted that form there's nothing that we can do on our end. So that's my top tip, is take your time to fill in that application form. We don't necessarily require a CV at KPMG, you just need to input that information. If it's the case that you're not sure what the equivalent professional qualifications are, so for example GCSEs, A Levels - you might have studied that in different country - well that's absolutely fine, just put in the information that you know, maybe the exam boards, the type of qualification it is, and leave that to us to work on. But just make sure that you've giving that correct accurate information, because sometimes it might be the case that you submit it and then you realise that, 'Oh actually that wasn't the exam that I studied', or, 'Actually my visa hasn't expired yet'. So yeah just take your time, re-read the information before you submit it.

Kate: Excellent tips, thank you. Kritika do you have anything to add, any kind of feedback that you've had from employers, or from students that have been successful and unsuccessful in applications?

Kritika: I think most of the common mistakes relate to... that I have come across, you know, it's mostly understanding the cultural context of the UK employability market, so when the job market looks very different. So I would suggest international students start exploring that side of things - just try to understand how the job market works, the moment you step into the UK. We have mentioned this before - Masters students only have a year, and I know that feels a little unfair, because it's a lot to do within a year, but you need to also start applying now, because graduate schemes are opening, if you want a job when you graduate. So I think it's one of those things about pre-empting all of this, being very proactive about all of this. So don't miss out on great opportunities because of not knowing, or because of thinking that, 'Oh this is a rolling application, I can apply later on', because even with rolling applications what that means is the moment they find all of the candidates, all the good candidates to fill, the applications close. So do not take rolling applications for granted. Understand how and why employers are saying certain things in their applications. So you know some employers might mention certain qualities, and you might still not have the exact same qualifications but you might have the soft skills, or you might have qualifications that you have acquired through experience, or you've acquired through short-term courses - not maybe from your degree, but you can still qualify. So again always get those questions answered, do not hesitate, do not feel... do not downplay yourself. I think as international students first arriving at the UK, we're also very under-confident - we are not sure we fit in - we always feel like maybe domestic students will always have a better understanding of the market. So let's bridge that gap immediately. I think that's that's one thing I'd suggest.

Kate: That's really interesting, interesting points, thank you and actually to just pick up on one of those - you mentioned there about not downplaying your experience, I think maybe a common mistake I used to see from students is they don't see the value in the experience that they've had. So when a company is asking you to talk about various things that you've done, they don't necessarily mean in a formal work placement, and I know that some students really worry that if they haven't got an eight week summer placement on their CV then they haven't got anything of value to add, but think about all the things that you've done over the course of your life and your study, you know, all of the societies that you might be involved in, the projects that you've been involved in on your course, where you may have had to work with students from other disciplines or from different backgrounds, all of that experience counts. So don't be afraid to really see the value in what you've done. And if you are worried that you don't have experience on your CV, there is still time, you know, you've still got time whilst you're making applications to continue to add to your CV as you go through.

So just kind of want to move on to the next bit which is around, you know, any advice that you have to international students who are looking to succeed in the UK jobs market. So just general tips. I guess a good place to start might be how can a student or a graduate kind of develop their skills and their experience while they're here in the UK, and then whilst they're applying for jobs - [ends]


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