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Interview skills fit for a virtual working world

World Skills Day sees our firm celebrate the success of running our first virtual interview workshop for students to develop vital skills necessary for future employment. Learn about what tools we provided and what a couple of our firm’s volunteers thought of the experience.

Grant Thornton recently ran a two-hour virtual interview skills workshop with 100 Year 12 students at St Michael’s School in Bermondsey. This initiative forms part of our firm’s efforts to upskill young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds whose employability and education prospects have been disrupted during the pandemic. During the session, workshop facilitators Aman Harees (Assistant Manager, Public Services Advisory) and Jake Smith (Associate, Audit) guided attendees through the purpose of interviews and an idea of what students can expect. 25 volunteers across our firm also participated in the session, leading mock interview sessions with students in small groups while providing feedback.

Students gained insights into interview preparation, what to expect, articulating transferable skills and strengths based upon academic and personal achievements, and how to follow up afterwards. Mock interviews with our people placed students in the hotseat. Even when under pressure to answer our people, including resourcing professionals and partners, these enthusiastic students excelled by giving strong answers indicative of their intelligence, potential and maturity. Job application scenarios and techniques like PEEL and STARR rounded off a comprehensive overview of interviews, which we hope helps these students to build confidence as they strive to enter the world of work.

We communicated four main take-aways with participants during the workshop, which were:

  • Preparation is key
  • Be yourself
  • Sell yourself as much as you can whilst maintaining integrity
  • Relate your answers to an organisation’s values, such as our firm’s own CLEARR values.

What our interview workshop facilitators had to say:

Jake: “This was an amazing project to work on over recent months and I’ve really enjoyed it. The students engaged extremely well, and we received lots of positive feedback from our volunteers, who said the students performed excellently. I’m proud not only to have co-led the workshop but also to be part of a firm that’s proactive in helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into employment. I’d love for this initiative to be rolled out across the UK.”

Aman: “I was inspired by the bright and ambitious students we worked with. The pandemic has negatively impacted schools in lower socio-economic areas and it’s important that we do what we can to redress the education attainment gap between the wealthiest and poorest students. I was pleased to see the level of involvement from colleagues across all levels and service lines in our firm.

“Following the workshop, the assistant principal of the school noted that the students found the experience highly beneficial, with many commenting on our volunteers’ professionalism and expertise. School staff present in the room also praised the high quality of our delivery.”

What our volunteers, who participated in the student mock interviews, had to say:

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Fiona Baldwin, Head of Audit: “I felt lucky to be invited to interview and found the event really inspirational. The students were so focused and clear about what they wanted to achieve in their careers. The vast majority had at least one part-time job, which they were juggling with their school studies, and all were able to articulate how they balanced school, work and a social life. It was fascinating to hear how they’d dealt with the pandemic, in practical ways and in terms of looking after their mental health.

“As a firm, we have the opportunity to share what a career at a professional services firm is like, which helps students who don’t have friends or relatives already working in this space.”

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Karen Campbell-Williams, Head of Tax: “I was delighted to be part of the workshop - the enthusiasm and energy of the students was infectious and I was really impressed by the quality and maturity of the students’ responses. They were able to articulate how their experiences from life and school could be transferred into a workplace environment. It’s important that businesses like Grant Thornton spend time with young people to help level the playing field and build diversity of backgrounds into our teams.”