Smith & Willamson only allows you to apply once to one of its four business areas during any twelve-month period, so it’s worth taking your time to get the first stage, the graduate online application form, perfect.
Eleanor Beattie (Assistant Manager, Graduate Recruitment), advises, ‘A good application will take you a couple of hours to complete. Your application (which you can access via TARGETjobs' 'Apply online' button) is the first thing a recruiter will see so make sure it gives a good first impression. We want to know candidates are genuinely keen and interested in working for us.’ Follow the tips below to get it right.
Choosing your business area
Make sure you do your research so that you select the area – assurance and business services, business tax, investment management or private client tax services – that will genuinely interest you the most. Is providing advice and solutions your thing (assurance), for example, or does ensuring clients are tax efficient and compliant (corporate tax) sound more appealing? For an overview of the main areas of work in accountancy, go to the accountancy sector homepage, then read the detailed job descriptions on the ‘Apply’ section of Smith & Williamson’s trainee website.
Don’t skip anything!
It sounds obvious, but make sure you detail your academic achievements, work experience and your extra-curricular activities thoroughly. For example, make sure you include all your academic grades in the application form by subject, ie all your GCSEs, A levels and your final year degree grade (predicted or obtained).You will need a minimum of a 2.1 in any discipline, as well as 112 UCAS points and at least a B in English and maths to apply.
Remember, all work experience has transferable skills, so don’t exclude experiences that aren’t obviously accountancy-related. Ensure you highlight key responsibilities and achievements and include any details that are particularly relevant to the role you are applying for.
We genuinely want to hear about the other things that interest you and where you spend your time when you aren’t studying or working, so don’t miss this question. Be it a sports team, a society or a volunteering project – this is what could set you apart from other applicants.
Competencies – use the STAR approach
When you answer the competency questions, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve researched the firm, the specific role for which you are applying and have a sound level of commercial awareness. Eleanor warns: ‘Don’t regurgitate our website! Read the information there (and on the firm’s employer hub), understand it and use it in your own way to answer the questions in a tailored manner.’
When asked to give an example of a situation in order to outline a particular competency, try using the STAR approach. Briefly outline the Situation, explain what the Task in hand was, talk about what you did in the task (Action), and then end your answer with the Result. This approach will help you cover what Smith & Williamson assessors are looking for.
Watch your language
Smith & Williamson is a professional and financial services firm, so don’t use colloquial language. ‘You should adopt a business tone,’ says Eleanor. She also reminds candidates to make use of the word count. ‘If you are only writing a few lines, this is not giving us enough detail,’ she says. ‘You simply won’t manage to cover the points we are looking for.’
Remember, your application is your opportunity to showcase your skills, achievements, and interest in the role. More importantly, make sure you read the questions carefully and answer what you are asked, not what you want to be asked!