Careers

Careers

The pandemic has changed how we work, meet up with friends and see family. It has also changed the recruitment process. Here is all you need to know about remote job interviews. Words by Sinead Smith, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO The new normal? The now normal? Whatever it is that we are calling it, there isn't one area of our lives that has remained untouched by COVID-19. We have been asked to bend but not break, pivot but not fall and nothing has required more reactivity, proactivity and creativity than our approach to work.  Technology made it possible for businesses to respond quickly and effectively when the call to batten down the hatches came through in mid-March. Zoom, the popular video conferencing software, reported a 50% growth to 500 million users in April 2020 while Microsoft Teams experienced a 70% jump to 75 million daily users in the same month. These apps have allowed our businesses to stay open, our clients to feel engaged and our teams to remain collaborative. Crucially, they have also made it possible for companies to continue to interview, hire and onboard talent remotely.  The setup Technology is great until it’s not. How many times has your WiFi dropped during a Netflix binge or your phone died mid-call? Now imagine those things happening during a remote interview – stressful, to say the least! However, there are some things that you can do before your interview to futureproof yourself against the frustration of frozen video or patchy audio.  Make sure that you have access to a strong WiFi connection. You can test your WiFi capabilities using a tool like Ookla. If it suggests a problem, reboot your router and try again. Sit as close to the router as is reasonable while ensuring that your background is appropriate (more on this below). If your house historically has poor phone signal, don’t hope for the best at this important moment. Get out in the car and drive to somewhere that will allow you to take the call uninterrupted or use a landline if you have one. Test the software or app beforehand with a friend – make sure you know how to access the video, that your webcam is working and that you have any dial-in information to-hand. Place your phone on silent and turn off any notifications that may have audible alerts.  Setting up for a remote interview is also about the aesthetics of the space around you. Consider what is in the background of your picture. Ideally, sit against a blank wall but, if that is not possible, ensure that what is behind you is neat and orderly. You should sit facing a window or suitable light source – don't allow yourself to be backlit as it will cast you in shadow. Try to avoid echoey rooms and make sure that anyone else in the house understands to stay quiet.  The conduct  A common refrain from both candidates and clients has been that video interviews have dismantled some of the more uptight elements of the traditional interview process. Gone is the stock artwork, the straight-backed chairs and vast boardroom tables. In their stead are squishy sofas, fridge magnets, family photographs and a more relaxed atmosphere. Getting that glimpse into the humanity, the personality and the identity of whom you are speaking with engenders a sense of ease and relatability. Having that visual reminder of this shared experience – the very reason you are interviewing from your home – can bypass some of the more conventional interview speak and lead to more open, fruitful conversations.  However, be warned: don’t allow a shared taste in IKEA armchairs to blind you to the fact that you are still interviewing. You are still being assessed. You are still expected to perform and to sell your experience. Likewise, the client is still expected to properly inform you about the company, the culture and the role.  Be professional but, don’t be afraid to be friendly – you already know at least one thing you have in common with your interviewer so don’t be afraid to ask after them and how they’ve found the transition from work to home. It will help break the ice. Dress professionally – don't be tempted to be all “business on the top, pyjamas on the bottom” just because you are sitting down. Dress as you would for any interview. Give good listening cues and posture – nod, smile, sit up straight and try to maintain eye contact. Speak clearly and be aware of any delays, static or patchy connections that may impact communication. The follow-up As with any interview, the follow-up is key so, don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a different mindset just because it wasn’t an in-person meeting. If you are represented by a recruitment consultant, provide feedback on how you felt it went and your interest levels. This will allow them to revert to the client for reciprocal feedback and keep the process moving. If you have applied directly for a role, it is a nice touch to drop a polite email the next day to HR or the Hiring Manager and thank them for their time, reiterate your interest and ask for feedback. 

Jun 30, 2020
Careers

Pandemic or not, brushing up your CV's presentation can mean the difference between an interview and a long-term job search. Sinead Smith outlines three things you can do to make sure your post-qualification CV gets you noticed. With an almost blanket adoption of technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype as interviewing tools, this pandemic doesn’t mean that your post-qualification plans need to go on hold. Companies are still recruiting and, for many of you, it may be time to start crafting your first professional CV. With almost 10 years’ experience representing newly qualified ACAs, I'm sharing three components that contribute to the creation of the perfect CV.Presentation A 2012 Business Insider piece reported on a study that found those recruiting for a role spend, on average, just six seconds looking at a CV. The study found that they “will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education.” Questionably short time period aside, the message is clear: your CV needs to make an instant impact and those eight markers should jump off the page to anyone reviewing it. You can achieve this by: choosing a single, clear font for the entire document. Typically, sans-serif fonts like Calibri and Arial look best.  only printing in black. You may think that a dash of red here and a highlight of yellow there draws attention but, conversely, it distracts the eye. Bold, italics and underline are much less aggressive ways to convey emphasis. using headings to denote the end of one section and the start of the next. This will help a recruiter or prospective employer easily navigate through your CV, quickly finding the information required. employing even line spacing and bullet points throughout to clearly present a lot of information. Prediction When you are writing your CV, you should be trying to predict what they need to know and eliminating any questions along the way. A hiring manager doesn’t know you beyond what you have included on the page, so it is crucial your CV accurately tells your story. Here are some things to consider:  Address any gaps in education or employment. Perhaps you began your career as an engineer before pivoting into accountancy, resulting in a two-month period where you weren’t working. Or maybe you decided to travel for three months after college. Rather than conceal it (never do this) or leave it open to interpretation, get ahead of the inevitable question by addressing it. It can be as simple as a line that reads:February 2018 – April 2018: Awaiting commencement of training contract. Highlight academic or professional achievements. Not only do strong Leaving Cert points or a high-performance rating satisfy the hiring criteria of many large companies, but it is also an easy way to demonstrate your calibre.  Detail your client portfolio. Unless otherwise instructed, there are no mitigating factors that prevent you from naming your most relevant or well-known clients. This is what prospective employers want to know and it demonstrates the complexity of your experience.Personalisation Personalising your CV should be considered to have two distinct purposes. First, it should tell the recipient something about you. Second, it should be tailored to reflect the role to which you are applying. Some nice touches include:  A section about your interests and hobbies – this is where you can really add some colour to your CV. Consider what pastime makes you so uniquely you and share that in your CV. Oftentimes, these hobbies will form the basis of interview questions and provide an opportunity to find common ground with the hiring team. Some great examples I have encountered are jigsaws (he used them to connect with a younger sibling), mid-80s British sitcoms (he was an expert on the escapades of Del Boy and Rodney) and agility training (she and her dog showed at international competitions). However, do be mindful of including interests that may prejudice someone against you – gambling and hunting, for example, have caused issues previously. Research the company and read the job spec carefully. What experience makes you relevant for this role? Perhaps you are applying to a retail company and two of your clients were retail giants – they should be right up the top of your client list, quietly showing the company that you understand their business. Maybe they mention a reporting standard in the job spec – provide more detail about where you encountered same. CV writing could be considered an art form and can take some time to master but, learning how to tell your professional story clearly and succinctly will see you well-positioned when the time comes to enter the market as a newly qualified ACA.Sinead Smith is the Director of Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.

May 01, 2020
Careers

In the last issue, Sinead Smith discussed how the decision of whether to stay in practice or move externally can feel like an existential tug-of-war. But, what if you are considering another path entirely – a path which takes your professional career overseas?  After spending the best part of four years learning your craft and feeling chained to the routines of work, study and exams, the lure of pastures new may be too strong to ignore. This is a path well worn by those who have gone before you and, today, with over 4,000 Irish ACAs working abroad, there is a wealth of support and guidance available to ascertain whether going global is the best decision for you and your career.  Logistically speaking Before the seed of travel takes full root and your mind becomes an endlessly enticing slideshow of tropical sunsets and bustling metropolises, it is important to consider the logistics of working overseas.  In some cases, where you want to work may be largely influenced by where you can work. Chartered Accountants in Ireland benefit from mutual reciprocity agreements with many worldwide professional bodies. The respective Institutes of Australia and New Zealand, as well as Canada and the UK, consider your qualification to be on a par with their own, offering Institute members a seamless transition to those local markets. Working in the USA is also a reality, provided that Institute members meet specific entry criteria and pass the IQEX exam.  Within Europe, the Institute’s compliance with the Common Content Project (CCP) provides qualified members with audit rights in other countries, subject to passing local taxation and legal exam. You may also be eligible for local membership rights, depending on the country.  If your grá for travel draws you to other corners of the world, you will need to further research your eligibility to practice locally as an accountant and what hoops you may need to jump through in order to be compliant.  Other pertinent logistic considerations include:  Access to work visas – Will a company sponsor or support your application and, if not, how much time/money do you need to go through the appropriate channels directly? Safety issues – Does the country or city you are considering have any extraordinary safety concerns? Is there a local Irish attaché should you need consular assistance? Is compound living the norm for expats? Motivating factors When the Irish economy was struggling, many young professionals found themselves lured overseas by the prospect of secure employment and higher salaries. Now, with Irish unemployment at its lowest rate ever, and multinational corporations clamouring to join our marketplace, it’s important – leaving aside just a simple desire for a change of scenery – to consider what is motivating you to look for employment abroad. For instance, the market for newly qualified ACAs in 2020 Ireland is booming. There is a huge variety of career paths available to satisfy every professional preference and starting basic salaries are at the highest they have been since pre-recessionary times. Taking advantage of this prosperous and varied local market and establishing yourself as a newly qualified accountant may work out better in the longer term when it comes to progression, earning potential and networking. Conversely, overseas experience can also prove invaluable when considering longer-term career development. Larger markets can offer accountants access to more complex capital markets and a diversity of experience that may be hard to find locally. Cultural differences in business can result in a deeper understanding of how to be an effective influencer and exact change and add value in even the most diverse of working environments. All these skills are of utmost value and will be looked favourably upon when re-entering the Irish market.  Finding your tribe In last year’s edition of Abroad, Irish Chartered Accountants around the world shared the realities of what it is like to move, live and work overseas. We learned that in Japan, business etiquette is much less flexible than in Europe; in Singapore, there are quotas for expat hires as companies are required to favour local candidates; and, in the US, there is less of a sense of urgency in business than one might expect.  Each hotspot profiled offered up its own unique merits and challenges but, from Abu Dhabi to Ho Chi Minh and from Spain to Saudi, a shared importance was placed on networking.  Whether for professional purposes or personal satisfaction, it is vital to make connections very early on. Join the local Chamber of Commerce, link up with a local Chartered Accountants Ireland district society or find a sports team nearby. Try not to limit your networking to other Irish expats but seize this as an opportunity to diversify your world view and your professional connections – you never know what might come of it! 

Mar 02, 2020
Careers

Deciding where you want to be post-qualification might seem like an overwhelming decision, but it doesn’t have to be. Sinead Smith explains. In the eight plus years that I have been in recruitment, my work has centred around people like you: Chartered Accountants Ireland students who are about to make the first big decision of their professional careers. This is always a time that is peppered with conflicting emotions. For some, apprehension over the exams is at the fore, while for others, it is the excitement of the finish line finally coming into view.  Regardless of which feeling is most prominent for you, a common thread that unites all soon-to-be-qualified Chartered Accountants is an understanding that whatever move is made at the end of a training contract will play a significant part in shaping career trajectory, progression opportunities and earning potential. This is apparent in the conversations that I have every exam season. Sure, these chats may start off tinged with a mild degree of panic but they quickly become about something much more important – taking control. You see, it is something of a misconception that the first big decision you will face as a Chartered Accountant will be about which role to accept. Rather, it is about what move makes the most sense for you, your interests and your ambitions. Knowledge is power The first and, oftentimes, most important question a newly qualified Chartered Accountant will have to ask themselves is whether they should stay with their training firm or make an external move. Some of you will know instinctively what makes sense for your career but most report feeling torn – whether that is out of a sense of loyalty, a fear of the unknown or a hesitancy to make the wrong decision. The easiest way to answer this dilemma is to arm yourself with knowledge. Briefly set any loyalties aside and consider what you want your career to look like in 10 years’ time and how you can achieve this. Look at potential career paths internally, read job specs for external roles, seek the counsel of trusted senior accountants who have been through this before or, indeed, recruitment consultants and the careers advisors within Chartered Accountants Ireland. You will likely find that the answer is clear after considering all angles and approaching the process methodically.  Whatever you decide, remember that there’s no shame in staying and there’s no disloyalty in leaving.Managing stress Chartered Accountants are some of the most sought after professionals in Ireland and, as a newly qualified ACA, you will be entering into a market that is very much weighted towards you with a large number of roles across a variety of disciplines and sectors available at the click of a mouse.  However, looking for a new role can become a full-time job in and of itself, and the failure to take full control of your recruitment process from the get-go can quickly begin to feel overwhelming. Get ahead of this by keeping close control of who has your CV and where and when it has been sent.  Start an Excel spreadsheet to track job applications, CV submissions and set follow-up reminders. Avoid registering with too many recruitment agencies initially. Limiting your involvement to two or three reputed agencies in the early stages ensures that you are covered on the market without losing track of your CV’s location. Get the most from those agencies that you do choose to work with – leverage them for market knowledge, ask for CV advice, offload the administrative/scheduling work. Begin with an open mind – you will find that you naturally gravitate towards some roles, companies and sectors more than others, and this will allow you to streamline your search and focus only on those opportunities that are viable.  Leveraging the knowledge pool Question everything. It might sound simplistic but asking questions of your peers and mentors, potential employers and recruitment consultants is the best way to feel like you are making a well-informed decision. Some good questions to ask your recruitment consultant or a potential employer include: Is there a policy of training and mentorship? How would you describe the corporate culture? Is there a strong precedence for progression? Do you have examples of people who have progressed? What could I expect from my first three months here? Similarly, you likely spend every day surrounded by more experienced accountants. Turn to them as impartial sources of advice and a means of gaining a good understanding of the market and what a potential move could mean for your career.Get ahead Whether you stay with your training firm or decide to take the leap, get ahead of yourself by getting into the right mindset from early on. Being able to identify and explain your motivations goes a long way towards seamlessly managing the transition from trainee accountant to newly qualified and will ensure that you are following the path best suited to you and your priorities.Sinead Smith is a Director of Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.

Jan 13, 2020
AI Extra

During your training contract, you should think about what moves you should make and how to leverage what you have now into the career you want in the future. Words by Lisa Hughes Your professional future is a long-term strategy – a little like playing chess. In chess, you don’t win in your first or second move; it’s the future options that these moves create that are key. As you train over the coming years, you should always have one eye on what you want to be doing post-contract, and how the experience you are getting now (particularly the client exposure and nature of work) might affect your options. Let’s look at a classic example: Mary trained in a Top 20 firm. Most of her clients were either smaller SMEs or sole traders. Mary wants to work for Google. The problem is that Google won’t hire Mary as there are a lot of other people out there coming from the Big 4 (and otherwise) with big tech company experience. So, how does Mary go about getting into Google?  She has three options: Mary can keep sending her CV in for jobs in Google, hoping that something sticks. It might, but that’s not likely. Miracles do happen, but I would not advise betting your entire future on one. Mary can make a move that she’s not interested in, but that will help open up more options for her in the future. Mary can make a move to a Big 4 or similar firm where she can get audit exposure to big software companies and then be in a better position to get into Google in around 18 months. Mary can make a move for a contract role in a big tech company – taking on the risk of a contract to gain the experience that Google requires. Google might even have some contract roles open, getting her foot in the door. If Mary could do it again, she might have pushed to get on the medium-sized software company audit during her training contract. It would have made the path to Google more straight forward. What do you want in your future?  How will your time during your training contract affect your options? These are the questions you should ask yourself before you qualify. There are other times when some forward-thinking and manoeuvring will come into play while training that will help you down the line. You might want to use internal audit or stat reporting as a sideways move post-contract to get into organisations where you have no previous exposure, or move into financial accounting now as a stepping stone into business partnering/financial analysis in the future. Play your future like chess – creating options over the coming years is what it’s all about. The exposure you get during your training contract is as important as what you learn in the classroom. Your career is only just getting started – the best next step is to align your client exposure with your ambitions post-contract. Or you could just hope for a miracle. That could work too.

Sep 02, 2019
AI Extra

On average, each job attracts hundreds of CVs. How do you make yours stand out from the crowd? Having gone through this process a few times, Neil Murphy ACA gives his top tips to help you achieve this.  According to Glassdoor, each corporate job offer brings in roughly 250 CVs on average. Out of those 250 applications, four to six will get called for an interview and, as we all know, only one will get the job. So, in an increasingly competitive market, how do you make your CV stand out from the crowd, and more importantly, how do you create an outstanding CV that helps you get called for that interview?  Oh, the effort... Chances are a few years back you put a CV together for a summer job. When it came to seeking advice on what to include and how to structure your CV, you will have searched the internet, or may have asked family and friends for their advice. You then probably saved your CV somewhere and haven’t looked at it since.  Now as you work your way through your ACA exams, it’s likely you’re starting to think about your CV once again. The idea of updating it seems like a chore, especially as you have exams to focus on. But trust me, even though it feels like a big ordeal and lots of effort, starting early and perfecting your CV will take the pain out of it in the long run and will most definitely help you to stand out from the crowd. Top 5 CV don’ts  Here are my top 5 tips on what not to do when writing your CV. 1. Get your spelling wrong This may seem like an obvious one, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of CVs we see on a daily basis with spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure to pay attention to the detail too. A colleague of mine once got called for interview (and subsequently got the role) partly because she noticed the hiring manager spelt his surname (FitzGerald) with a capital G!!  2. Fancy formatting  With so much access to editing and design solutions online, it can be very tempting to add some fancy formatting and design to your CV in an effort to make it stand out. In our experience, simple is better. Focus your effort on the content and demonstrating your skills and experience, not the colour or font style!  3. ‘Flowery’ language  It’s so tempting to bump up your CV with ‘flowery’ descriptive words and adjectives like ‘dynamic’, ‘exceptional, ‘hard-working’. Chances are you don’t use these in real life, so why would you use these in your CV? Dump the descriptive words and focus on including what makes you unique – where have you been successful and what is it that separates you from others?  4. Copy and paste your job description Another common mistake is a ‘copy and paste’ job. Of course, your job description – with a few exceptions and additions – is what you do, so it makes sense to do this. However, no recruiter or line manager is going to trawl through a formal job description: they will want to be able to quickly understand the core elements of your role and what you have achieved.  5. One size fits all  Having perfected your new CV to a tee, you might be tempted to use this ‘perfect’ CV for every job you apply for. Our advice is: don’t! Your CV absolutely has to be tweaked and tailored depending on the role you’re applying for. Failing to do this will not help you in any way.  Top 5 CV dos  Here are my top 5 tips on what to do when writing your CV. When it comes to describing your roles, try to identify the core objective of your role and the top five priorities. Keep it short and concise, link it to your measurables/KPIs and detail these in a clear bullet point format. Think about your achievements, even if they aren’t obvious. Take a step back and reflect on all the different ways you, directly and indirectly, contributed to the successful delivery of specific projects or how the company benefited from what you delivered in your time with them.  Keep it short and concise. Avoid listing every role you’ve had since school unless it is relevant to the role you’re applying for. Make sure to showcase your more recent roles and achievements.  Include a personal aspect to your CV. Remember, the reader is reading this in black and white, so it can be tricky to get a true picture of you. Make sure to include a brief outline of some more personal aspects on your CV, such as your interests, hobbies, and whether you’re involved in any volunteering or pro-bono work.  Make sure to use bullet points (much easier to read), and provide context about your past roles to give a sense of your ability. Focus on the information that sets you apart from others and, if you can, engage a specialist recruiter to help you draft your CV.  Writing and updating your CV is an art form in itself, so make sure to take time and put the effort into it. It will pay off.  Neil trained with Deloitte and qualified in 2011. He then worked in corporate banking before relocating to Australia. In Sydney, Neil worked in financial accounting and analysis across MacQuarie and AMP, before taking a leadership role as Performance Reporting Manager with Commonwealth Bank. Neil currently works with Barden’s recently qualified accountant recruitment team.

Jul 01, 2019