The guide to getting onto an accountancy school leaver scheme
This is a brief guide on how to get a job on an accountancy school leaver scheme. I will be breaking down the key areas that helped me get onto a school leaver scheme at a large accountancy firm. Some of the things I discuss in this article may come as a surprise, however they all come from my personal experience.
Experience, experience, experience
Lets start with the single most important part of your application – experience.
First of all you must realise that your experience does not have to be within the sector. Any experience whether it be in a different profession, volunteering at a local charity or working for your parents is experience that you can talk about in your application or interview. What is important is not the type of experience you have; but the way you link your skills to examples of you using the skills while gaining experience.
When I applied for my accountancy school leaver scheme I had done work experience within the financial sector. I had not however, had any experience in public practice. This did not matter however, as I applied the skills I had learnt while working in an office environment to examples from my day-to-day work in the company.
I also had experience working in a large law firm. This may seem irrelevant to some people when they are writing their CV but an accountancy firm is not expecting you to be an accountant before you start. The skills you learn in any office, team or general work environment are all skills you can apply to your new job. Yes, you may be working with numbers rather than cases but you are still working in a team in an office for a client. When you break it down, the situation you find yourself in, within most jobs, is pretty similar. The only difference is the technical work you carry out.
The main point to take away from this section is that experience is the most important part of applying for any job. If you are in the position where you can still do work experience before you apply (even if it means taking a week from your holiday) do it. One week out your summer holiday in the grand scheme of things is very little. However, it could be the difference between starting an excellent career and being rejected at application stage.
All school leaver schemes will require different types of subjects. Accountancy school leaver schemes however require one subject above all. Maths. When I joined the firm I work for I was told something that stuck with me “we are here to teach you accountancy from the beginning, but we cannot sit down with you and teach you maths.” This quote couldn’t be more true. If you have never done any accountancy before, or have very little knowledge, this is not the end of the world. An issue arises however, if you do not have a reasonable aptitude with maths. This will cause a problem.
If you have the choice to do accountancy as a subject as well as maths then great. Do not however, choose accountancy over maths. Maths is the foundation for accountancy. Accountancy is a numbers profession and if you seriously struggle with maths then you will struggle with your day job let alone the professional qualifications!
Apart from maths the subjects you choose, in my experience, do not matter. I did mostly writing subjects while getting an ‘A’ in maths which showed I was well-rounded. You do not want to appear like a one trick pony where you are the greatest mathematician to walk the earth, but you can’t type an email without numerous spelling mistakes.
If you get through the application stage you will then have to sit at least one interview. The first, is usually with someone from the recruitment team and possibly a manager from the department you are joining. The second, in my case, was a partner and a director.
Apart from the usually interview tips there are a few things I believe helped me get my job as an accountancy school leaver.
First of all, I backed up every single answer to a question with an example of when i showed the specific skill or any experience I had relating to the question. This is important as it helps highlight the fact that you have already dealt with similar issues you may experience in your day-to-day job.
Secondly, confidence really does trump all. If you don’t have confidence in the things you are saying then why would the interviewer have any confidence in what you are telling them. Confidence however, is not the same as cocky. Do not walk into an interview thinking you are the best thing since sliced bread! The people interviewing you are trying to find,first and foremost, someone who will fit into their team or department. If you act like someone who is over-confident and could cause friction in the team, even if you have the best CV, you wont be chosen. Technical skills can be taught however, attitude and the way you work in a team need to be perfected before you join an office environment.
All in all, accountancy school leaver schemes are the way forward in terms of getting into a career in accountancy.
Please feel free to read my new post on the pros and cons of accountancy school leaver schemes. In the mean time have a look at my post on making tax digital.