Students stay calm under fire
"We also appreciate their confidence, courage and the ability to present diverse views on various issues," says Kwan Chuk-fai, one of the judges. "We could recruit these contestants as interns right away." Kwan is group director of corporate affairs at New World Development - an internship sponsor.
Twenty-three contestants, who were non-graduating students of universities in Hong Kong and Macau, were selected from more than 350 applicants and qualified for the semi-final by going through two rounds of elimination, including the Business Language Testing Service (BULATS) test and aptitude test. The annual contest, featuring job-interview simulation, is organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Hong Kong.
Arranged into four groups, the semi-finalists were asked to introduce themselves in Putonghua and participate in a group discussion in English, focusing on current affairs. Each was asked to answer a question about their personal experiences.
At the end, 12 contestants were selected to take part in today's final. They will win summer internships with the sponsoring corporations on the mainland and in Hong Kong. The top three will also take home cash prizes and represent Hong Kong at the China Grand Final in Beijing in July.
The group discussions covered a broad range of current affairs, which helped interviewers to see the depth of candidates' understanding of important issues. "We could also assess their soft skills in the process," says Debra Poon, assistant vice-president of business human resources at DBS Bank (Hong Kong).
"We observed if the contestants were willing to let the others have the chance to contribute their views despite the time constraint. Leadership skill and the traits of good team players are demonstrated when some contestants take the initiative to facilitate the discussion."
As it is relatively difficult to prepare for questions on current affairs, it is a good test for the overall calibre, conversational and soft skills, and the swift reaction of contestants, says Alfred Tam, partner of insurance litigation at Deacons.
"We are impressed that many groups were able to discuss issues in a friendly atmosphere."
Many interviewers pay close attention to candidates' ability in managing time when answering questions, says Meisze Leung, manager of learning and development at Ernst & Young.
"Some contestants might be very keen on impressing the judges and they end up missing the main points of our questions," she adds. "There were also contestants who provided concise and pertinent answers right away. One of the proper ways to handle questions is to pause for several seconds and take a deep breath before answering. It helps candidates to calm down and think about the questions carefully."
Although each candidate was allocated 90 seconds to give their answers, they should not stretch their answers to fill the entire time slot, Kwan says. "Interviewers appreciate concise and well-structured answers that are relevant to the questions."
Commenting on a contestant who sang in her self-introduction, Mary Shih, recruitment manager at ICBC (Asia), says the contestant made a strong first impression. "This strategy helped raise the judges' expectation of the candidate's performance."
Aside from the contest, Terrence Yeung told the audience what candidates should and should not do at a job interview. He is the managing director of TACSEN Management Consultants, one of the sponsors.