Last spring, accounting Lecturer Dr Amanda White and her student Sejoon Heo worked together on an innovative assessment aimed at helping students ace their graduate video interviews with real-life employers. White, well-known for her YouTube channel and Facebook page ‘Amanda Loves to Audit’, implemented the simulated job interview assessment for the subject Assurance Services and Audit. It’s a move that’s already paying dividends for students.
The end of last year was the first time I met Sejoon. He came to me early in the course and told me: ‘Amanda, I’m really worried. Because I’m an international student, I feel like I lack communication skills, and during job interviews I won’t be able to answer their questions on the spot.’ Sejoon would come and meet with me weekly, for consultations, and we’d discuss the course and his career plans. It’s been an evolution, but he really has cemented his goals whilst I’ve known him.
I’ve always taken a holistic approach to teaching – going beyond the content and teaching students how they can use their business skills for more than just career progression. I want to teach them they can also help others, and contribute to the community around them. Last year, I was awarded the UTS Business School Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Teaching in both the Autumn and Spring semesters.
The reason I started my YouTube channel and Facebook page is to generate a community that people want to come back to. It just makes sense to put up relevant and helpful content on social media because that’s where the students already are. I’ve had students get job offers by being active on that page. I’ve also had students in other countries, people I’ve never met, contact me saying, ‘Thanks for your help! Your page really explained things I just didn’t understand in my own course.’
A few years ago some students came to me and said, ‘Amanda, we have to go through this video interview thing for our graduate recruitment. Do you know anything about that?’ So I started doing some research and I found out that one of the first measures that companies are using to screen candidates are these video interviews.
I started to think, ‘This would be a great experiment and if I can make it into an assessment, then all my students will be miles ahead come recruitment time’. I’ve been teaching for over 10 years, but before that I worked in the profession, so I know that one of the most important skills, in terms of preparing our graduates for the workforce, is communication. I went to a number of professional firms and asked them, ‘What are you looking for in these video interviews?’
By consulting with UTS Careers Service as well as graduate recruitment staff at the accounting firm Grant Thornton, we were able to devise a new assessment. Using an online magazine with attached YouTube clips we laid out how to make the perfect first impression with your future employer, all from your webcam.
We want students to look at themselves, assess their own abilities and then say, ‘Here’s what I need to do to improve.’ While you have to know the content, it’s those simple things, like making sure the camera is not looking up your nose, making eye contact and looking professional in your appearance and in the video’s background, that can make all the difference.
When I first met Amanda, she had no hair. I later found out this was because she had shaved it all off to raise funds for her friend’s sick child. Soon after that, it became clear that Amanda really does care. A lot of other lecturers put a bit of distance between themselves and their students – they outline their consultation times and then leave it there. But Amanda encourages her students to meet with her and reaches out on Facebook when she doesn’t have to.
Meeting Amanda came at an interesting time in my life – I had just finished my military service in South Korea and I was searching to set up my life values. I chose to come to UTS to finish my accounting studies that I started at Sogang University in Seoul because I wanted to find out how I could contribute to society on an international scale. Seeing how Amanda contributes to the community using her skills and knowledge led me to understand that I can contribute to society with my own professionalism. So I basically came to Amanda and said, ‘This is my long term goal, these are the plans I want to achieve, now how can I get there?’
I believe that before helping others as an adviser, I need to gain the necessary business skills, myself, in order to be in a position to help. It’s a culture that was fostered by my family in Jinju, South Korea, where we have what we call ‘table education’. Whenever we had a meal together as a family, my parents took that time to teach the children the importance of manners, values, ethics and wisdom. My father has helped others since he started his own business and has always taught me to help others since I was a child. It’s also an idea that has been inspired by the program, ‘Business As Mission’, which is a Christian initiative I’m involved in that encourages professionals to give back through their work.
Graduates in accounting are being assessed on their communication skills early in their online applications, so performing well in video interviews is essential. Employers will ask us a few accounting questions to make sure we’re prepared, but they also use a video interview to see how we communicate. The interview process you go through to get a job is pretty much the same as the assessment we do with Amanda.
After I did the assessment, I realised the importance of confidence in communication and how I lacked the ability to quickly and logically answer questions. So I practiced communicating confidently with others and tried to make a structure before answering questions, just like in the video interview assessment – giving myself time to think about how to answer.
When I had a real interview, even though I felt nervous, I could still answer unexpected questions with confidence and a logical flow. The materials and coaching Amanda gave us along the way definitely helped me get my part-time job as an accounting associate. Even today, I still use those skills preparing for our Monday morning video conferences with our Melbourne and Brisbane offices.