Date posted: 15/07/2019

How the Achiever Program makes a difference for employers

Leanne Milligan, former CFO of Waitomo Group Ltd*, shares her experience as a host employer for the Achiever Program.

When it comes to internships, it's well-known that they can prove highly beneficial experiences for the students undertaking them. But what about the employers?

For Leanne Milligan, former CFO at NZ fuel company Waitomo Group Ltd*, taking part in CA's Achiever Program for the first time last year showed there are positive takeaways for both parties.

"It was interesting because we hadn't done it before and it not only worked, but it worked extremely well," Leanne says.

What made it a success

Leanne credits the Achiever Program application process as one of the main reasons behind the success of the program at Waitomo.

The application process includes an online form, cognitive testing, a video interview, assessment centre or phone interview (depending on your state/region) and a face-to-face employer interview for successful candidates.

"I really liked the fact that students had to go through a fairly significant amount of screening before we got candidates put in front of us," she says.

According to Leanne, thanks to this rigorous process they were presented with three potential candidates to choose from and they each exceeded her expectations.

"The calibre was astounding. We had three candidates presented to us to look over and we liked them all so we ended up going a little bit further than we thought, and gave them all internships," she says.

Finding the right fit

Leanne and her team organised standard interviews for each candidate, which she says allowed them to become familiar with the interview process.

"We typically look for people who've got the right attitude. When you're going into a business, there's so much to learn and you can't expect someone to come in and know all of that. But what I want to look for is someone who's a good team fit, so they've got to have a good sense of humour and a willingness to learn," she says.

"We got that in all of our candidates, so the questions we ask in our interviews help us delve into their personality a little bit. We've got some very unusual questions that we ask, and it allows us to see how they cope with the unexpected, because that's one of the things you get every day at your desk and it's about how you cope with that."

How to make it work

While some companies may want to hire a qualified professional as opposed to an intern looking to learn on-the-job, Leanne says if you have the right plan in place both parties can benefit.

Each of the interns working under Leanne had specific duties throughout their placement including providing support work, document tracking and data analysis. As Waitomo delivers fuel all across the North Island of New Zealand, Leanne and her team also organised for each intern to experience some "in the field" work.

"They each got a day out with a truck driver, travelling around the countryside delivering fuel, which shows them the other part of the business. Because yes, we take care of all the money, coding and the accounting but there's a part of the business that actually makes all of that stuff happen," she says.

"They each thoroughly enjoyed their 'truck day' and I think we just about converted them from accountants into truck drivers," Leanne jokes.

Aside from understanding the financial aspects of running a business, Leanne says creating a positive workplace environment ensured both sides benefited from the program overall.

"The students really became part of our team while they were with us. They had senior team members as coaches and with the tasks we'd obviously show them what we wanted to achieve. We'd teach them and if there were any issues we'd work through it with them," Leanne says.

"It may have meant we were spending a bit of time teaching them, but they were making positive contributions so it was worth it. I think if you can set up supporting tasks to do rather than having interns sit there and just watch other people work, then you can both actually get some value."

* This interview was conducted in 2018. Leanne Milligan has since moved on from Waitomo Group Ltd.