This year's contest, run as simulated job interviews, received more than 320 applications, out of which 60 students were selected to take the aptitude test.
Only 24 made it to the semi-finals, where they were divided into four groups and interviewed by senior finance and human resources executives of multinational corporations.
The group interview session was conducted in Putonghua, English and Cantonese and 12 contestants progressed to the Hong Kong final.
The top three from each of the Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hong Kong legs will contest the grand final in Guangzhou in June.
They will have the chance to work as interns at the sponsoring organisations.
Joseph Kwan, head of Deacons' litigation and dispute resolution, says the judges were impressed with the contestants' overall performance.
"Many overcame their fear [of speaking in front of an audience] and were able to articulate answers in Putonghua," he says.
Entrants were able to condense their answers into the allotted time, an indication of their time-management skills, he says.
All contestants were enthusiastic and demonstrated good rapport with one another in the group discussions, says Georgiana Tso, vice-president for recruitment, human resources at DBS Bank (Hong Kong). "They listened carefully, were able to organise their ideas despite time constraints and did well in clarifying their answers," she says.
As panel interviews have become an integral part of the process in many companies, judges looked at how each contestant took advantage of group dynamics.
"We tried to identify which contestants could initiate discussions or lead others to achieve results. These skills are essential," says Monnie Pun, senior manager for human resources at KPMG.
Given the growing number of mainland students studying in Hong Kong and Macau, the competition has seen more participation from those students. Compared with Hong Kong contestants, mainland students were generally better organised in their presentation and more articulate, according to Anthony Tsang, audit partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
"Mainland students demonstrated a high level of adaptability to different environments, probably because they study away from home and have been on overseas exchange programmes," says Jo Jo Chan, a manager in assurance services at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). "They also have more stories to share, which can work to their advantage during interviews."
"Mainland students usually have clear career paths in mind. They are driven to achieve their goals," says Charlotte Lo, assistant human resources manager at ICBC (Asia).
During the judges' deliberation, Barry Kwok and Serena Tang, of Michael Page International, shared some tips on how to prepare for job interviews. They advised doing research on the companies before interviews and being aware of the proper dress code.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
Ernst & Young
Fortune International Group
Haitong International Securities Group
Kingdee International Software Group
The Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Hung Hing Ying and Leung Hau Ling Charitable Foundation
Bank of China (Hong Kong)
Pace holds key at interviews
It is essential to pace your speech and let your positive attitude and sincerity shine through at job interviews, say judges of the ACCA Hong Kong Job Hunting Competition's semi-finals.
Bocco Chen, recruitment and human resources manager at L'Oreal Hong Kong, says job applicants need to maintain a good pace in their speaking. Pausing from time to time will help them organise their thoughts and emphasise a point. "They should not speak too fast, especially when they are nervous," he says.
Jovy Wong, associate director for the Greater China team at Ernst & Young, says being at ease helps a lot. "We look for good interpersonal and communication skills at interviews," she says. "We want to see how well candidates can articulate their viewpoints."
Many recruiters appreciate sincerity, says Georgiana Tso, vice-president for recruitment, human resources at DBS Bank (Hong Kong). "Be yourself and do not say things for the sake of impressing the interviewers. Integrity and honesty are the important traits we seek."
"Candidates should be able to outline their career plans for at least the next two years," says Alice Wong, financial controller at City Telecom (HK). "We expect them to carefully think ahead. We want to see if their goals match the company's future direction."
Candidates must know how to point out their achievements without sounding boastful. "Many job applicants list their achievements in the resume. Some companies may want candidates to elaborate on them just to have a better picture of their personality," says Anthony Tsang, audit partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
Kammy Ip, a partner at BDO, says listing achievements can grab the interviewers' attention and prompt them to ask further questions that may give a candidate an edge.