Blog – Applications
When people mention Graduation, final exams, the final term, I always start to switch off then I realise, wait, that’s me!! It’s such a strange feeling to think that this will be my last undergraduate year at Lancaster because it feels like yesterday when I was just a nervous bundle moving into Pendle College. But it’s not, that was 2012 and now, over 3 years later, I’ve changed, grown up and I’ve learnt a lot, academically speaking and in life. That also means that now is the time to decide what I actually want to do, long-term and, although it is scary, it’s also a little bit exciting.
Applications are really really important and they are definitely time well spent. I covered CV’s in an earlier blog but these are important again at this stage as many online applications have the option to upload a CV, so if yours is ready and up to date you’ll be good to go and apply for jobs before they’re snapped up.
From my experience, applying for an accounting firm to do audit/assurance has been similar each time, following a typical format. There are variations and each of the stages is different, dependent on the firm, in one way or another but, at the core, they’re the same.
The initial stage is the application form, which is vital as it decides if you can progress pass the first stage, which is an important hurdle to overcome. The key mistakes people look for are spelling, sentences that don’t make sense, inappropriate language etc, all easy errors to make but can mean the difference between a yes and a no. Therefore getting someone to proof read your application, especially if it’s someone without ‘technical’ knowledge about the area, is a good idea as they will be able to tell you if it reads well/makes sense. Also ensure you paint the best picture of yourself; include all your achievements and things you’ve done over the years that you’re proud of. Try to keep things relevant, always link an activity/skill back to the firm’s values or ethos, to demonstrate why you should get the job and how you’d adapt/fit into the team.
After you’ve passed the initial stage, hopefully, you may be invited to take part in psychometric tests. These are pretty standard tests in numeracy, verbal reasoning and logic and you may be asked to complete a combination of the tests, depending on the job. They test your ability to face situations and attempt to glean how you would react to different situations/logically see a way through. They require a specific type of answer/way of thinking so it’s importance you practice beforehand. There are practice examples online you can try from accountancy firm websites and other places and I bought books with examples in which really helped me. The more practice you do, the more prepared you will be for any variation of the tests.
The next stage can vary dependent on the firm/programme etc. It could be a phone interview, an initial face-to-face interview/Skype interview or perhaps straight to an assessment centre. Phone interviews can be very tough as you aren’t physically meeting the person and can’t give them a first impression by your body language or your smart look. Therefore it’s important you sound positive and formal on the phone. Make sure you are somewhere quiet and with good signal when they ring so it doesn’t cut out halfway through and you can hear them clearly. When answering the questions remain calm, keep your answers clear and to the point, there may be a silence as they are writing your answers down so don’t feel the need to keep talking, once you’ve said what you wanted and evidenced your skill leave it at that.
Face-to-face interviews are very important, as you need to make a good first impression. You need to wear appropriate clothing, smile, make eye contact and have a good, firm handshake. During the interview try not to fidget, remain calm, keeping good eye contact and take your time when answering questions. If you are struggling to answer a question take a breath, reword the question back to them to give yourself some thinking time, and then clearly deliver your answer.
After one of these stages above you will hopefully be invited to an assessment centre. These are make or break in the job process, where you can really evidence why you should get the job. It’s a massive achievement to get to an assessment centre and when you get there you need to prove why you’ve made it that far and why you’re the right person for the job. The day will consist of both individual and teamwork tasks/challenges related to key skill development/tasks you may have to do in the job. You need to get involved in everything, excelling in each area but remembering all the time the values of the firm and demonstrating these through your actions. Teamwork is always an important factor in every job so it’s really important to demonstrate this skill and showcase it well.
If you pass the assessment centre there can be a final interview. This is your final chance to impress the firm, likely a senior staff member, so use everything you have learnt in the process and show the best that you can be in that 40mins-1 hour.
I hope this blog has been somewhat helpful in those applying to jobs/will be in the future. Thanks again for reading, Jenni.