Getting into Finance and Accountancy

In the third of our ‘Getting Into’ series, our Careers Consultant Lynda Hall gives her advice on how to get into Finance and Accountancy.

Finance blog

Accountants generally work in two main areas, professional firms, providing independent audit services to other companies or in finance departments in industry and commercial companies as financial and management accountants. Most vacancies are open to both business students and any other degree discipline. 

Work experience

The most important factor in beginning a career in this area of work is gaining work experience. If both you and the company work well together during an internship or a placement year you could come back into your final year at university with a graduate job offer, which can really help to ease the pressure in your final year!

In Accountancy over 30% of employers reported that their graduate roles would go to students who had already worked for the company in some capacity and in Banking and Finance the figure was even higher at 43%!

Start early!

  • 1st year – apply for Insight Days and other first year internships which can be found on our Careers Centre vacancies website. 
  • 2nd year – apply for a summer internship between your second and third years or an industrial placement year. Do apply early for your preferred office location – again these opportunities can be found on our vacancies website. 
  • Final year – again applying early is the key tip – many of the professional accountancy firms open their graduate application in the summer before you return for your final year. 

Even before you start applying you need to ask yourself and research the following key questions: 

  • Career motivation – which area of accountancy, you want to apply for and why e.g. audit, tax or corporate finance. 
  • Commercial awareness – about the company you are applying to, what challenges it faces in the current economic climate and their competitors. 

This research is essential at all stages of the recruitment process, from filling in the application form to preparing for an interview and assessment centre. In particular, this research can help you to decide which vacancies to apply for and in which firms, as quality not quantity is usually the key to successful applications.

The following sections of the Careers Centre website are useful to research job roles in this sector and the skills required – the section on finance and the section on Leeds University Business School.

The selection process
For both internships/placements and graduate roles will usually involve the following: online application, psychometric tests, telephone or face to face interview and an assessment centre. So for each application you will need to allow time to complete each of these stages, as well as meeting your academic assignment deadlines! Another reason for completing a smaller number of targeted applications!

Employer feedback on the selection process is that many students do not progress through the psychometric tests and in particular the numerical tests – so even though your degree may include mathematics or statistics, you still need to practise the specific content of these tests and under timed conditions. You need to revise for these tests and take practise tests, in the same way as you would revise and take ‘mock’ exams in order to perform well.

Our website offers a wide range of practice tests and e-books which you can download; as well as offering help on CV’s, applications, interviews and assessment centres.

Social media 

Do use social media to both connect to organisations on Facebook, where you can read blogs from intern students and often ask questions about the recruitment process. You can also follow companies on both LinkedIn and Twitter – both are great for the latest commercial information on your company.

For more tips on using social media in your career and vacancy search see our website, which also has several short video clips on how to use LinkedIn, e.g. creating a professional profile and using LinkedIn for networking and creating opportunities.

Most typical application/interview question asked by employers in this sector: 

Give an example of where you have delivered exceptional customer or client service?

If you need any further advice on this question or any of the information provided above please come along to our drop in.

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Filed under Advice, Getting into..., Job Market

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