Researching employers and considering which ones are best suited to you will not only simplify your job search, but is also likely to impress recruiters.
Finding the right company fit can take a bit of time but it will give you a much better chance of being offered a job you will really enjoy.
A number of seasoned observers believe that a high percentage of students spend too much time thinking about whether they are right for the employer rather than whether an employer is right for them.
While looking to better understand the suitability of any potential employer, a close look at the range and levels of company benefits will be an important part of the process.
Training and development should be a major factor in your choice of employer and the range of employee benefits ranges greatly.
For example, some employers will pay for all of your exam and tuition fees (typically the larger the company, the more likely they are to pay your fees, although there are exceptions to the rule). Others will be more generous with the amount of study leave they offer.
But while many larger employers have attractive training packages, they are also likely to have high expectations around exam passes and the overall amount of time taken to qualify. Smaller organisations may generally offer less in terms of study benefits but more in terms of flexibility and wider experience.
Gareth Davage, senior managing director at Michael Page Finance London & South East Regions, says: ‘Company benefits and development opportunities can vary across companies.
‘Trainee accountants want to know that an employer has the money and the infrastructure to support them while they work towards their professional qualifications or exams.
‘For high achieving professionals, the opportunity to develop both personally and professionally is crucial for job satisfaction. Therefore, companies who invest into their talent and have clear pathways for growth and promotion are very attractive to trainees looking to get ahead in their career.’
Other important company benefits for trainees traditionally include a company that will allow them wide experience and freedom early in their careers, plus high levels of responsibility. In addition, companies that facilitate work/life balance are also very attractive.
Try to read up on some of these topics on a weekly basis to improve your knowledge and better understanding of the industry. Don’t forget recruitment companies can also offer advice on developing skills and provide key information on what employers expect from students.
Josh Rufus, manager of public practice at professional services recruiter Morgan McKinley, observes: ‘Companies are waking up to the fact that if they are going to attract and, more importantly, retain the best talent, then they have to offer their employees great benefits in addition to a good salary.
‘For example, despite the fact that a long hours culture is still evident in many large accountancy firms, we have seen a trend for some of the bigger players to introduce over-time or time off in lieu.’
Joss Collins, a financial services specialist at Venn Group, adds: ‘Company benefits are very important and, as already mentioned, increasing numbers of trainees want flexible working options and financial aid for exams as part of their employment contract.
‘However, development opportunities in the sector can be hard to come by in some cases. Professionals will often complete their exams and then implement and apply their skills before finding there is no gap to be promoted into. Firms only need a certain number of people on board, so unless the professional is too good to lose, or the company is expanding, it’s unlikely they’ll move any higher unless people leave.
‘Without experience it is highly improbable, or even impossible, to secure a role in the sector. Firms are not just looking for individuals with technical knowledge; they want a balance between skills, commercial understanding and experience.’
As a result, taking on temporary roles to help plug any gaps in the workforce is a valuable way of developing this sort of track record that can make trainees more hireable in the eyes of employers.
This approach also provides the individual with exposure to a range of different businesses and management styles, meaning students will gain wider skill sets as a result.