So you’re hunting for that elusive graduate position, wondering what employers in the tax industry want and how can you impress them. Here are three pieces of advice, plus some career words of wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth.
1. Having a good personality matters
If you’ve managed to graduate with your degree firmly in hand, you’re probably more than up to the technical side of the job. What employers will be keen to establish is whether you’ll be a good cultural fit. Try to establish a good rapport with them and let your personality shine through.
2. Don’t place too much emphasis on your tax education
Trust us, your employer understands you only completed one or two tax courses and have largely forgotten what you learnt. There’s no need to talk up your skill set given they’ll be enrolling you in taxation education if they decide to hire you.
3. Exaggeration is acceptable – lying isn’t
Interviewers expect you to talk yourself up – it demonstrates you’re keen to get the position – but they won’t appreciate being seriously misled. Make sure you don’t cross the line by pretending to have a Master of Taxation when you actually don’t.
Here’s what two respected tax professionals look for in their job applicants.
Daleen Van der Merwe, HR manager at DKM
“When employing graduates, we pay more attention to whether their attitudes and personality are such that they will fit into our existing team, rather than focusing just on their academic record. They need to be the type of person who is prepared to ask questions and be ready to learn. They also need to be comfortable with starting at the bottom and have realistic expectations.
“We’ve found that those who’ve done extra study, such as a Master of Taxation, straight after their undergraduate degree are overqualified and inexperienced. We prefer that people come to us and then do the CTA1 Foundations program while working here.”
Martin Booth, partner at Moore Stephens
“I used to focus heavily on the academic side, but then found that I also had to give thought to cultural fit – is the person going to have the ability to get along with other staff? Are you going to be confident putting them in front of clients? That said, you still need to have a fairly good CV behind you.
“If someone took the initiative and did the CTA1 Foundations at their own expense before applying for a job here, that would certainly be to their advantage. The issue many employers have with Gen Y is not so much a lack of skills as an attitude of entitlement. So someone who is going to invest their own time in broadening their skill set, either before or after being employed here, would always be looked favourably upon.”