We caught up with our current intake to talk about the application process, what they love about working here, and some of the technological challenges they face…
Each year the ABI recruits students looking for placement years as part of their degree course. Meet this year’s cohort:
- Ben: Data & Analytics
- Natasha: Data & Analytics
- Jennifer: Member Relations
- Diana: Public Affairs
Plied with plenty of biscuits, we sat down with our four interns to talk about their time at the ABI, their tips for the application process, why they like working here and how technology still gets the better of one of them…
What sort of things have you been doing while you’ve been at the ABI?
Diana: My main tasks are creating a daily monitoring note, which is a roundup of political activity that’s been happening throughout the day. I reply to constituency case work – so if an MP writes to us with a concern about a constituent I will help draft a response with the policy teams, and generally support the Public Affairs team with any admin tasks.
Jennifer: My jobs include putting together the weekly member news, supporting any task forces that are member related, liaising with members, managing the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system – sometimes I think that’s the biggest job! I also work with the events team, so part of my job is helping to plan and run events.
Ben: My main job is to collect data from the providers, quality assuring it, making sure there are no errors in it, making cool graphs out of it and analysing it, which is great if you love numbers. We publish the data in reports that people pay to read, so there’s a good sense of responsibility in the job.
I’m also the self-proclaimed chief of banter.
Sorry, you’re the what?
Ben (to Natasha): You’ll back me, won’t you?
Natasha: No comment… (laughs) I help with all the data collections on investment, savings, protection and pensions. I have similar tasks to Ben, and we also manage the statistics help desk, so if any members of the public go on the website and see something they are unsure about in reference to stats, then they can email or call us.
Ben: When we get a phone call it’s hilarious, because I just can’t use [phones].
We’ve got to work on that over the course of this year. Is it that the technology is complicated or….?
Ben: No, I just swear I have a panic attack – I don’t know what it is, I just can’t answer the simplest of questions when I have to use the phone.
Do you have a self-proclaimed title, Natasha?
Natasha: No, I don’t.
How did everyone find the application process?
Diana: It definitely wasn’t easy, but I liked the practical tasks as they ended up being quite similar to what I do at the moment. I had to write a report on fire cladding using some information I had been given, and that was really good because I do similar things now. I feel like it accurately reflected the role.
Ben: I preferred the application process massively to the other companies I applied for. The essay questions were a really good way to engage with what the ABI was about and get a bit of knowledge of the sector which, to be honest, I hadn’t been looking at all when I got the job advert for it.
Probably my favourite aspect of the whole thing was that once I had done the essay questions, the next step was a face to face interview. I immediately got to visit the place I would be working, meet the team I would be working with. It just showed that you were a bit more valued than the other firms, who would just have online assessments, numerical tests, abstract reasoning etc. That’s fine, but it doesn’t seem like a good way to be differentiating people for a role. Then you would be doing video interviews to cameras, so immediately you feel as though they’ve got to work their way through thousands of other applicants. This was different as you went into the office and expenses were paid as well, so you just felt immediately valued.
Natasha: I felt that as well – I didn’t pass one of the psychometric tests [and] you just have to do badly in one for it to flag. My numeracy is quite high but I’m a bit slower at the reasoning test, so automatically you’re no longer considered. But what I liked about the ABI application process was that you didn’t see those processes of disregarding people, which is nicer.
Jennifer: I really liked the BeApplied system. It wasn’t just the usual write a cover letter and send your CV off when you have no idea what they’re looking for. You knew what you had to answer rather than just reeling off the usual application spiel.
What advice would you all have for people who are thinking of applying this year?
Natasha: Spend time properly researching the company and working out exactly what the ABI does. I know when I researched it I realised I needed to look deeper into it because it’s not complicated, but it’s not traditionally how a business works. Being able to know exactly what the ABI does is really important and was definitely worthwhile looking into.
Jennifer: The [ABI] video had come out just before I applied, which was good because it showed a bit of the culture you’re going into. It made me more relaxed knowing what the people were like. Advice-wise I would say be aware of the culture, and then that helps you feel more relaxed at interview too. It was good to know that it was less corporate than I had been expecting, and that everyone seemed friendly.
Diana: Before applying for this role I read Emma’s blog, and that was useful because it gave me an idea of what to expect. It was helpful to hear straight from the actual intern! During your interview I think it’s important to be enthusiastic. I don’t think anyone is expecting you to come in with loads of knowledge – they know that you’re still in university, so most people don’t know much about insurance coming in, but it’s about showing your enthusiasm. Ask a lot of questions, be engaged.
Ben: The most important thing I would suggest is that you don’t go into the interview thinking ‘oh God they’re looking at me, I have to show that I’m right for the role.’ You need to realise that you’re going to be working with each other and that it needs to be more like a conversation. If you think of it that like that, you’ll also avoid so many of the problems associated with nerves in interviews. It’s not a one-way process. They need to sell the job to you too.
Natasha: I think it’s as much of a personality thing as a knowledge thing, especially at our level when we don’t have that much experience. We don’t have the practical knowledge or a background working in the industry, so you need to shine as a person rather than reel off everything you’ve ever done.
That’s a good point. We’re looking for potential. You might not have had loads of experience, but it doesn’t matter because we’re not expecting that at this stage.
This leads me nicely on to my next question, which is: describe your team.
Natasha: Inclusive and open.
Diana: My team are fast paced and in everything we do, we do to a high standard. My team has high expectations of me and of everyone else. That can sometimes be full on, but it also pushes me to perform.
Ben: We are just a good unit in data. We all interact well and they’re encouraging.
Jennifer: My team are hard-working, friendly and really supportive. If something goes wrong or I need help, they’ll all back me.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received so far on your placement?
Natasha: Ask lots of questions. You have to be able to work quite independently here, and sometimes you might find it difficult to be able to ask things, but I think asking questions is the most important thing.
Jennifer: Don’t be afraid to say when you’re struggling. Tell people what you’re doing and if you can’t do something, because it makes it worse for everyone else if you pretend up until the deadline that you’re fine.
Ben: Come up with a list of what you want to develop and stick to that list. Then through the year if something comes up to help you improve on these aspects, just go for it. Even if you’re nervous, you just have to do it.
Diana: Speak out at meetings. Make your personality known. Don’t just be a fly on the wall, then people will remember you.
What do you all love and hate the most about your jobs?
Ben: I hate phones. And I love putting the phone down.
Diana: But you like speaking to people face to face?
Ben: Yes, I absolutely love it. Face to face interactions, speaking to people, even interviews and stuff like that, but phones? No.
Natasha: I would say that the best thing is the independence I’ve had here. I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten that at another placement. The worse bit is not knowing things! I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I find it hard that I don’t know things, even though I know it’s absolutely fine because then you ask, and then you do know!
Ben: I thought you were going to say sitting opposite me was the worst thing!
Jennifer: I love that we get to meet a lot of people from a lot of companies, members and non-members. It’s a lot of exposure and that brings a lot of potential opportunities with it. You never know who you could meet networking. What do I hate… Umm, the commute? That’s about it!
Diana: The thing I like the most is the trust that’s been put in me. I will be given projects which I know are important to the team, and which are of value.
Ben: The thing that I love is that I did not expect the workplace to be anything like how I found it here. I actually got to know the whole group. You can meet and have conversations with all the teams, even though what you do is so different.
Jennifer: One of my favourite things too is where we work. I think people have this idea that if you do a placement in London the only places you can apply for an internship is at a big corporate consultancy. You can work in London here but still have a nice job that you enjoy, with nice people. I expected that if you work in the centre of London you’ll get that corporate feel, but you don’t surprisingly. And you don’t expect that.
We’re currently advertising these four placements and for 2019, we’ve added a brand new one in our HR team. If you’re looking for a sandwich placement year starting in Summer 2019, check out the jobs we have available.