It always helps to make yourself as attractive as possible to potential employers, such as through a sparkling CV, composing a compelling covering letter and knowing how to conduct yourself in interviews
First things first, finding that perfect job is no longer simply a matter of combing the appropriate listings, on or offline. Networking’s the name of the game and it’s been taken to a whole new level with the advent of social media. As Adam Gordon, managing director of social media marketing company Social Media Search, points out, your ‘job-seeker searchability’ is rapidly becoming your key to success if you want to be scouted for a great role.
‘Although many large employers won’t publicly admit to reviewing the personal social media profiles of prospective employees, almost all do,’ says Gordon. ‘As a result, individuals should expect to be held responsible for their online presence.
‘And bear in mind that being present across multiple social media channels is great for showing your online capabilities, but some are more important than others. LinkedIn, for example, is the site that most companies will search to find you.’
In light of this, Gordon urges individuals to make sure their LinkedIn profile is structured so that they can be found quickly, and fill it with keywords that your target audience would search for to find you, especially when it comes to your job title, as LinkedIn’s search tool prioritises these. As well as having a strong summary of who you are and what drives you, make sure you join relevant LinkedIn Groups and make relevant contacts.
‘The more contacts you have, the more likely that prospects will come across your status updates and see you in their “People You May Know” suggestions,’ says Gordon.
Once you’ve made that all-important connection, it’s important to have the perfect CV ready and waiting. There are reams of advice sites out there on writing an effective CV, but what is worth stressing is that employers are looking for candidates who can not only do the job, but also have an understanding of and are able to contribute to the larger business mandate, stresses Phil Sheridan, managing director at Robert Half UK. This is probably even more important for accountants.
‘Focus on specific examples where you improved efficiencies, saved money or sourced a new revenue stream and it will demonstrate your return on investment to the potential employer,’ adds Sheridan.
Don’t forget to highlight your soft skills on the CV as well.
‘While most candidates can easily recite their technical skills, providing evidence of strong communication, interpersonal and team-building skills can help a CV stand out from the crowd,’ says Sheridan. ‘And provide meaningful examples, such as presentations to senior management or to cross-departmental teams to demonstrate competencies in these areas.’
When submitting CVs, what often gets overlooked is the quality of the covering letter. This is probably your first point of contact, so make it count. Keep it simple, truthful and professional, urges Sheridan.
‘Tailor it to fit the most important criteria in the job description and don’t misrepresent yourself and claim to have skills that you don’t have.’ Read it through thoroughly, and then read it again.
‘Job applicants won’t get far if they fail to address basic spelling and grammar in letters and CVs,’ warns Sheridan. ‘When multiple candidates are applying for one role, poor grammar can act as an initial filter to reduce the volume of CVs that are shortlisted to the next stage.’
If you do get to the interview stage, it’s not enough to simply show that you really want the job. ‘It should be a given that you want the job,’ says Rona O'Brien, dean of business and accountancy at Greenwich School of Management in London.
‘What you really need to do is convince the employer that you can add value to the organisation. So research the company and the job and think how your skills fit in that organisation and, no matter what question you are asked, keep telling the interviewer that you have something to give, over and above the standard applicant with the right qualifications.’
O'Brien also urges applicants to think long-term and talk about how they can develop and add more value in the future and over time.
‘You must show that you can make a difference, however small. All this should be done with quiet confidence of course, there's no room for cockiness or arrogance,’ she adds.
You might be worried that as a student accountant, you have little experience to bring to the table, but Jacky Barrett, managing editor at TARGETjobs, suggests otherwise. ‘Whether you’ve completed formal accountancy work experience or not, you’re probably more employable than you think,’ she says. ‘The key is to know how to convey your experience in your application or at interview. For example, try to demonstrate commercial awareness at the interview even when talking about a casual job you may have done. Give the recruiter answers that demonstrate an insider’s – not a customer’s – perspective.’
Dean Gurden, freelance writer