You are on page 1of 8

E&TDIG4657 08/05
The first thing to do is to find a training contract with an authorised
training organisation. You need to apply in the appropriate format
some employers require you to apply online, some prefer you to use an
application form (either their own or the Institutes), whilst others prefer
a Curriculum Vitae (CV). Whichever method you use to apply, these
handy tips and guidelines will help you to maximise your potential and
convince a prospective employer you are the right person for the job!
A CV is a summary of your skills and experience, giving all the
information about yourself that an employer may need to build up a
picture of your character and abilities. It is your chance to shine, and
should only contain positive points. As well as the advice below, you
may find it helpful to contact a Careers Adviser who could help you
with your interview strategy.
General principles and guidelines:
always be factual and honest in your CV
be concise try to keep your CV to no more than two pages of
single sided A4
try to focus on aspects of your career, qualifications, skills, etc. that
are directly relevant to the particular organisation and job
layout your CV neatly, making appropriate use of headings, bullet
points, bold, etc. and use a standard font (Times New Roman or
Arial) and font size (10 or 12pt). Make sure you check the whole
document for spelling mistakes and typing errors. Even better, ask a
friend or a Careers Adviser a fresh eye will often spot things you
do not
use good quality stationery for both your CV and the covering
Personal/contact details include your full name, date of birth,
address, home telephone number, mobile number (if applicable) and
email address (if applicable).
Personal profile/career objectives a short paragraph giving an
insight into your personality, your relevant skills and experience, what
you have to offer the firm and what you are looking for in your career.
This could equally go in a covering letter.
Qualifications give details of your formal education. Include
relevant dates, establishments and qualifications gained. If you hold any
memberships of professional bodies, show these as well.
Career/employment history starting with your current or most
recent position and working backwards, give details of all your
employment. Include dates of employment, organisation, job title,
responsibilities, achievements and skills gained. This can include any
holiday jobs or work experience you have gained while at school or
university. Do not leave any chronological gaps.
Skills and experience focus on the skills and experience that are
directly relevant to the position for which you are applying. Include
technical and computer skills as well as other skills such as team
building, interpersonal, project management, etc.
Interests include a short list of your interests and activities. This can
be used to highlight skills such as teamwork or commitment.
References you will be required to submit references at some stage
during your application. You may be asked for professional references
and/or personal references. In the case of professional references, at
least one should be your current or most recent employer, or a
university lecturer. You can either include the references with your CV
or include a statement such as references available on request. If you
do not wish your current employer to be contacted prior to a job
offer, make this clear. Remember to check first with your referees that
they are happy and willing to provide a reference!
Always send a covering letter with your CV to ensure it reaches the
right person or department, and so they know which position you are
applying for. A well written covering letter can make the difference
between getting an interview or not. Tailor the letter to the specific
job, rather than using a standard version.
keep it short and concise
use the format of a business letter
unless a hand written letter is requested, word processed letters
look more professional. Clearly state on the letter the documents
attached and the job you are applying for, along with any reference
number (as per the advert).
Include details such as:
where you saw the job advertised
when you will be available for interview
links between previous jobs and the job you are applying for
a couple of points from your CV making you ideal for that
particular job with that particular employer.
Finally, remember to keep a copy of your covering letter and CV to
refer to when preparing for an interview. The employer knows what
you said and they will expect you to know too.
Many organisations will require you to complete an online application
form or a hard copy. If this is the case, application forms are your only
chance to make the right first impression. The following tips will help
make the difference.
Make rough drafts and keep a copy of any applications.
Read the form thoroughly to make sure you understand the
instructions for each section.
Try to use evidence and specific examples from a range of
situations when describing your aptitudes - for example, academic,
paid or unpaid work, societies or sports.
Always decide exactly what a question is asking before
answering it. page 2
Never say we - employers want to know about you and you alone.
Keep your responses short and to the point - dont waffle,
make sure youre answering the question and keep referring back to
your core skills. Its ok to use bullet points when you need to write a
Make the form as neat as possible. If you do need to elaborate,
and the form permits it, use separate sheets.
Be extremely accurate - few things go down worse with potential
employers than a spelling mistake.
Use clear, positive language. Your form is likely to be screened for
key selection criteria, and the words you use will play an important
part in your being considered further.
Interviews are notoriously stressful, but they dont have to be. Good
preparation for an interview is vital to ensure you feel confident and at
ease with yourself. Positive thinking and self belief are the key to a
good interview.
Reasons employers give for rejecting candidates after
interview include:
being late and appearing disorganised
poor communication skills
lack of insight into the organisation or job
lack of energy or enthusiasm
no clear career aim
over familiarity
lack of confidence
a defensive attitude
criticism of school, university or a past employer
inappropriate appearance
poor references.
Self assessment know your strengths, weaknesses, limitations,
achievements and ambitions. There is no room for modesty sell
Know the job familiarise yourself with the job description and the
key skills the company are looking for. Think about how your key skills
and strengths fit into this.
Know the process how many interviews will there be? Will you be
required to do any tests eg psychometric are there any examples of
these available for you to practise? (if not, try looking on the web for
some general examples). Will the interview be conducted with a
group of applicants or just you? Contact the firm if necessary to clarify
these points.
Do some research having up to date and relevant knowledge
about the firm and news in the business/accountancy sector will
impress. Look on the firms website, as well as news and business sites
for information.
Get there in time know where you are going and the time you
have to be there. Aim to arrive ten minutes early. If necessary do a dry
run to ensure you know how to get there and assess any public
transport or parking problems (if applicable).
Decide what youre going to wear try to find out how formal
the interview will be, and dress accordingly. Make sure that your
chosen outfit is comfortable, clean and ironed. First impressions count
and your appearance says a lot about your personality. Do not wear
excessive jewellery, perfume or loud clothes (ties, socks) anything
that may distract the interviewer from what you are saying.
Rehearse. However confident you are, its always worth getting used
to hearing yourself answer formal questions in as formal a setting as
possible. If your careers service doesnt offer interview practice, you
could always get a friend to do it.
Having done all of the above you should arrive at the interview feeling
confident and prepared. Keep the following Dos and Donts of
interview etiquette in mind:
sit in a comfortable position, do not slouch and do not cross your
arms or legs
always adopt a professional manner
smile! be open and receptive
be persuasive and use positive language
never indicate that you are desperate for the job
sell yourself remember you have been selected for interview from
a large number of applicants
remain calm and do not rush your answers speak clearly and give
full responses to all questions
listen to the interviewer
remember that an interview should be a two way process
relax and be yourself!
Answer the questions youve been asked dont ramble on about
everything you know.
Dont be afraid of silence take the time to form your responses.
This is a sign of a steady, confident mind.
Your prospective employer will be looking for particular
qualities. They will want to know:
why you are attracted to the profession of chartered accountancy
whether you have a realistic picture of the profession
whether you have a grasp of current business issues and how you
keep yourself up to date
whether you can relate to a wide range of people, sometimes very
different from you.
Tell us about yourself, your recent studies (eg degree), experience?
Ensure whichever direction your answer takes it has some relevance
to your professional endeavours.
Why do you want to become a chartered accountant (ACA)?
Emphasize what has attracted you to the career professionalism,
responsibility (but do not mention money!)
Why have you chosen chartered accountancy over others eg ACCA
or CIMA?
Show that you have considered all the training options, and are
fully informed about the requirements and benefits of ACA.
How do you think you will handle studying for the ACA?
ACA students must be able to juggle work, studies and a social life
show that you have considered this and have accepted that it will
be difficult, but a worthwhile challenge.
Why do you want to join this organisation/this department (eg
This is where your research comes in cite the companys
attributes and successful projects, and why you would like to be a
part of this. You should also show knowledge of, and an interest in,
the particular department (if relevant).
Which story in the financial pages has most captured your interest
in the past months?
Again, this is where your research is essential!
What have been your major achievements?
Keep your answer recent and relate it to work where possible eg
a successful project, even if this was undertaken at university. Refer
to any skills you learnt or developed whilst undertaking this. Hint
that your biggest achievements are still to come.
What are your strengths?
Think about high points from your background and build in a
couple of your key personal qualities, such as: pride in your work,
reliability, perseverance, adaptability, confidence, leadership skills,
team player.
What are your weaknesses?
Offer minor weaknesses along with how you plan to improve them
eg a lack of knowledge in a certain (small) area, but a keen
interest in gaining experience in this, along with the ability to pick
up skills/knowledge quickly. You could also try using a positive
weakness such as sometimes feeling you care too much about
your work.
At the end of the interview you will be given an opportunity to raise
any points that have not been covered. You can use this time to clarify
any issues arising from the interview. However, ensure that your
questions are short and sharp:
Job anything not covered in the recruitment literature you have
received first assignments, opportunities for career development
and/or secondment, support for training, how are appraisals
conducted, amount of travel, size of team.
Organisation future plans for development, strategic goals,
challenges they are facing including current issues and significant
recent developments.
Process what happens next.
Do not ask about salary/benefits this should be dealt with once
you have received an offer. General information that you have already
been given it creates the impression you have not been listening or
are not really interested in the position. page 5
If you cannot attend the interview, eg if you are ill or have decided not
to proceed with the application, ensure you inform the firm in plenty
of time.
Assessment centres push you a bit further than a first stage interview,
and use a different way to monitor how you react to situations.
Assessment centres are based around practical exercises where the
organisation will be looking to assess your ability to react in both
group and one to one situations, which differ from traditional
If you have been invited to an assessment centre as a school leaver,
the day may take a slightly different format. You can usually expect a
one day event where youll sit verbal, numerical and logical reasoning
tests, probably an interview with a senior member of the firm as well
as taking part in group exercises and presentations.
Graduates can expect one or two day events where youll take part in
scenarios including:
group exercises
individual tasks
additional interviews
psychometric tests
in-tray exercises
The result? You can show your skills and abilities, not just your
interview technique. And if you dont excel well in one exercise, you
have the opportunity to improve in another.
Dont get too competitive you need to remain calm and
focussed on your strengths. Remember, youre being assessed against
the organisations criteria, not other candidates.
Visit your careers service most offer workshops which help you
prepare for assessment centres, these may be run by the careers
service or even the organisations who are recruiting.
If you are still at school, your careers adviser at school may be able to
offer some advice about what to expect and how to prepare for an
assessment centre.
The information you receive from the organisation when they invite
you to attend the day may also give you an indication of what to
On the way home, think objectively about the interview. Did you
actually prepare thoroughly as we have suggested? Was there
anything you could have done differently or better?
While you are waiting to hear how you got on, continue to contact
other firms. Keep your options open. If you have a number of
opportunities to choose from, you will be in a better position to
decide your future.
Learn from the experience and use it to help prepare for your next
interview. It can be extremely valuable to get some feedback on your
interview by telephoning the Recruitment Section of the company
concerned but be prepared to hear something you do not like!
Practice using mock interviews so that you become more confident
and gain further feedback most school and university careers services
offer this.
Remember this is one of the most important decisions of your life
and once you have found the position that is right for you, you will be
embarking on a career that offers you the greatest of rewards. Good
If you are offered the job Congratulations! What do you do now?
You may get other offers and you want to be sure this is the right one
for you. Remember that you do not have to take the first offer you
receive but this can be difficult if the offer is made by phone. In this
case you should thank them, and say that you are looking forward to
receiving their offer letter. Discuss it with your family or friends and
job and training opportunities
salary and overtime
tuition arrangements
pension plan and medical insurance
travel requirements.
Do not make the mistake of accepting a position that you are
unhappy with. Trust your instincts. How did you feel about the people
you met and the surroundings? Ask for some time to consider your
decision if necessary. At the same time, however, keep in mind that
competition for jobs is fierce in todays tough economy. If youre
offered the job and decide not to take it, let the employer know as
soon as possible.