Contestants in the ACCA Hong Kong Job Hunting Competition 2009 knew they were in for a 'job interview' with a difference once they took their seats on stage for the semi-final at University of Hong Kong. The competition attracted more than 200 contestants from nine universities in Hong Kong, and the University of Macau. The basic requirement was that they had to be full-time, non-final year undergraduate students. Sixty were selected to take the Bulats English test, and aptitude tests. After the tests, 24 candidates advanced to the semi-final, before 12 finalists were picked. The semi-final took place on March 23. The contestants were randomly split into four groups to attend a 30-minute simulated group interview with senior human resources and finance executives on stage in front of an audience. The interview was divided into three parts. First, the contestants were asked in random order to introduce themselves in Putonghua and explain why they deserved to qualify for the final round. It was not easy, said Wong Chun-wai, a third year bachelor of business administration student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who failed to make the final round. 'I was very nervous, especially as I had to use Putonghua to introduce myself,' he said. 'My Putonghua is not so good. There is still a lot of room for me to improve.' The second part was an open group discussion in English, including how the contestants viewed their career prospects in the economic downturn and how they were preparing themselves for a highly competitive job market. The contestants had different styles of performing the tasks, with some paying close attention to the people in their groups, making gestures of affirmation, such as nods, while others paid closer attention to the interviewers. Some aggressively spoke at the same time as others, even though it was meant to be a 'group discussion'. The last segment was mostly conducted in Cantonese, with the panel of judges asking the contestants questions about their personal experience, such as the most difficult projects they had ever undertaken, their career aspirations and how they would lead a team. After the group interviews, Vinna Tsang, manager of Michael Page International (Finance), gave a career seminar, providing the contestants with tips about how to stand out in a job interview within 90 seconds and what not to do. She also shared some of her own interview experiences with the contestants. 'Don't just say you did x, y and z,' Ms Tsang said. 'Use key words like, I was one of the few selected to go on an exchange. This shows [the extent of] your achievement.' Overall, even though the competition was fierce, it did not stop many of the contestants from having a good time. Finalist Kunal Parwani, a second year bachelor of business administration (marketing) student at City University, said he thought the competition was a great experience. 'Your talents are recognised, you get great advice from the judges and you get to meet great people,' he said. 'I think university education is not sufficient in itself. You've got to go out, you've got to explore and broaden your horizons.' He said he thought his weakness in Putonghua had put him at a disadvantage in a competition that clearly emphasised language skills. But he added that that had not put him off. 'I'll never go down without a fight,' he said. Yu Lan, a first year student of e-logistics and technology management at City University and the only mainland student shortlisted for the final, said she thought the experience was eye-opening. 'I never had any idea of what a job interview would be like,' she said. The finalists will compete for prizes that include internships at leading corporations, and the top three will participate in the China Grand Final Competition in Shanghai in July against the winners of events in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou.