Frequently Asked Questions from Accounting Students and Newly Qualified Accountants (Based on the GAAPweb “Tweet Up” event held on Friday 27th June 2014)
Q. Should I go into the Public or Private Sector?
This really depends on what kind of industry you want to get into; which comes back to your values, and what motivates you. Of course, having a high level of self-awareness is a plus.
You might wish to get involved in the Health industry; perhaps you want to work in a hospital environment. Perhaps it’s Oil & Gas, or Renewables. Luxury Brands.
First – work out what industry you think will suit your values, then decide. If it is more the health industry or renewables, for example, it is likely there will be more opportunities in the Public sector. Banking and Investment, or Oil & Gas, for example, may require a move into the Private sector.
One thing to remember, however, is that it can be difficult to enter into the Private sector, after working in the Public Sector. Why? The public and private sectors are often seen as two different worlds – the former, a regimented workspace where everything is designed for you and you’re not really in control of your own destiny, and the latter, where the entrepreneurs prefer to reside, those who aren’t afraid to take risks to make money.
Do consider this before making your decision.
Q. What are the main concerns that students have when applying for jobs? How does one tackle this?
One of the main concerns I have come across, is the fear that the student does not have the soft skills to match their technical skills. They understand the theory, and have the books behind them, but often lack soft skills, such as leadership, team work, communication skills and so on.
So, how is this tackled?
Workshops are a perfect way to develop skills that need some refinement and most Career Services within schools offer these workshops – sometimes they are included within the course structure, and sometimes they are offered separately. Also, workshops can be found online – these are a great way to learn from home. LSBF Career Services are continuously running workshops; look out for the emails for registration.
Q. When should I start job hunting?
I usually recommend students begin looking at least 3 months prior to when they want to be starting a role. However, it's best not to be too strict on timelines – essentially you should be ready to make applications at any point. Being ready means having a refined CV, and a cover letter template. It also means being self-aware – understanding your key competencies, achievements, and being able to provide examples of when you have used your key skills and attributes.
When you feel certain that you have a refined CV and cover letter, and you feel confident to speak about your key competencies and achievements in an interview, then it is time to start applying.
Bear in mind, it can take a few months before receiving an interview or a job offer. After applications close, most organisations can take about 2-3 weeks to check all applications – so you may not hear anything for 3-4 weeks. From there, you could be invited to interview, which can then lead to a second one, or a date for a presentation. The whole process could take up to 8 weeks – and this is not accounting for rejections.
Q. If I am newly qualified, should I be looking for an interim or permanent role?
If you are just starting out, a permanent position is the way to go. Unless of course you get onto a Grad Programme – this generally has a timeframe.
It is best to settle into a full-time, permanent role to get started – this is a great way to really develop your skill set – both technical and soft skills.
Interim, or contract, roles are better when you are about 2-3 years out of graduating and have more professional experience behind you. Once you are at that level, contract positions are great if you want to have a variety of different work experiences and build a really flexible, adaptable approach to work which in turn will enhance your CV greatly.
If on ACCA, it would be better to get into temp roles after completing your PER in an initial role.
Q. How do I make my CV stand out?
There are some general rules:
1. Keep to a maximum of 2 pages long
2. Use bullet points rather than long, drawn-out paragraphs
3. Use tangible figures/facts where possible
4. Have a Personal Statement or Career Objective at the beginning – a short, succinct paragraph noting your qualification, your professional experience, key attributes, and what kind of role you are seeking, and in what industry
5. List key achievements as well as key responsibilities in each previous role
6. Keep the formatting clear and crisp, with a stand out title
What also really needs to stand out is your Cover Letter – this is your way of introducing yourself to the company. Make sure you fully understand the job spec so that you can highlight your key competencies and skills that match the role and the organisation – this will allow them to see that you are a great fit. Ensure that you are not only writing about your qualifications, experience and key competencies, but why the role and their organisation appeals to you – is it because it is a fast-moving environment? Perhaps they are “going green” and you want to be a part of that, or perhaps they are a start-up and you have an expertise in this area. Remember that for these reasons, your cover letter should change with every role you apply for.
Q. What are your top interview tips?
1. Research the company
2. Understand their values and mission statement
3. Know their key stakeholders
4. Study the media – have they been featured in anything lately?
5. Make sure you are fully self-aware – do you fully understand your key competencies? Do you have examples of where these key competencies have shone through? Do you know how these key skills and attributes will contribute the role/organisation?
6. Be prepared for the competency based questions/behavioural questions
7. Arrive 10 minutes early
8. Dress for the job, but dress smartly
9. Be prepared to be given the opportunity to ask the employer a few questions (this is your chance to work out whether the role would be a good fit for you too, and whether this is an organisation you would like to work for)
Latest PQ roles include:
- Part Qualified Finance Analyst | £30,000 to £33,000 per year
- Part Qualified Management Accountant | £25,000 to £35,000 per year
Latest NQ roles include:
- Newly Qualified Management Accountant | £45,000 to £50,000 per year
- Newly Qualified ACA | £40,000 to £45,000 per year
- Commercial Analyst (Newly Qualified) | £40,000