Online applications to accountancy firms: how to be the best graduate for the job
Welcome to the world of competence questionnaires, ability tests, personality profiles and online application forms for graduate jobs in accounting and financial management. We're here to explain it all to you.
Pay attention to detail, from getting the company name right, to checking your spelling and grammar carefully
An online application is your chance to make a good first impression with an accountancy or financial management employer, so make it count. A typical form will include the following sections:
- personal details
- application details
- degree education
- school/college education
- employment history
- career motivation
- positions of responsibility
- CV upload
- equal opportunities
Take your time filling in all the sections, and take it step by step.
1. Research your employer
Recruiters want to see evidence that you’ve done some research into their firm and the position you’re applying for (but make sure, as PwC advices, 'You don't repeat statements you've read in our brochures and the website.') If you’ve met people from the organisation at careers fairs, you could mention this. You could also refer to any related current news about the organisation that you’ve come across. Once you know why the employer is right for you, you’ll be in a much better position to explain why you are right for them. Check out our advice on how savvy research will get you hired.
2. Do a first draft
Print off an online form or make a photocopy of a paper application so you can practise on it. Prepare any long answers to make sure they’ll fit the space – use the size of a space as a guide to how much detail you need to provide. For an online application, type your answers in a word processing program and use the spellchecker to avoid mistakes.
3. Answer well
Demonstrate your abilities by answering the questions fully, with well-structured and specific answers. Match your skills to the selection criteria you found during your research. Provide evidence through examples drawn from a variety of areas – academic courses and projects, work experience and placements, hobbies and extracurricular activities. Organise your material and keep it relevant and punchy. Make sure your response is about what you did, not what we did – recruiters aren’t interested in anyone else. Try to go a step beyond describing the activity and talk about what you got out of it, as BDO explains: 'We’re interested in what you've done, but even more interested in what you’ve achieved or learned from the experience.'
No matter how tempteing it is, don't exaggerate. 'You don’t have to have saved the world to impress,' advises Mazars.
Think twice before you cut and paste. It’s all too easy to forget to change vital details – a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Recruiters often receive applications that are clearly copied and pasted from other company’s application forms, so be warned. No matter how good your application is, it’s not going to go down well if you’ve written the wrong company name in it. In any case, it’s important to tailor an application to the accountancy firm you’re applying to and the role being sought. Generic answers won’t impress recruiters – make sure it’s obvious that you’ve made the effort to think about what they’re looking for, why you would fit their requirements and why you want to work for them.
4. Check once then check again
It’s essential to check your application for mistakes. Recruiters receive so many applications that they need a way to reduce the pile: a form full of mistakes will go straight in the bin. If an online form has a save-and-return option, save your answers and take a break. You’re far more likely to notice any mistakes with fresh eyes. Even better is to get someone else to check – you could ask a friend or take it to your careers service. Once you’re certain you’ve answered all the questions and left no mistakes, hit ‘send’ or pop the form in the post. Make sure you keep a copy so you can refer to it when you’re invited for an interview.
Remember: finance recruiters like candidates who…
- apply early – places at many firms fill up on a first-come first-served basis and deadlines are often as early as mid-November.
- engage with the firm – candidates who generally fall by the wayside are those who have not really gathered much information about the firm itself, and who have instead applied simply because the firm is a big player.
- take the time to find out which scheme will suit them best, if there are several on offer, and apply to it as in informed candidate.
- pay attention to detail, from getting the company name right, to checking your spelling and grammar carefully. Don't rush the process. KPMG advises: 'Give your application form enough time and attention to make sure you provide all the information we need.'