Unlocking the secrets of employability

Articles woman under microscope

This article was first published in the August 2019 edition of Student Accountant magazine.

You’ve sent out loads of CVs, but nobody’s inviting you for an interview; or you’ve made it to quite a few interviews, but the job offers just aren’t materialising. So what exactly could you do to make yourself as employable as possible?

‘What a tricky question,’ says Wendy Robertson, COO at Thrive and former CFO, when asked the million-dollar question. ‘If only we had a secret recipe for that.’ Though, she does encourage you to think of the job application process as a pitch or a sales process where you’re the product.

‘Ask yourself what you can bring to a potential employer that makes you different or special from the other applicants,’ she says. ‘To do this well, you’ll need to do your homework on the firm and the people you might be meeting, and subtly show how your skills can help them.’

At PwC Isle of Man, HR senior manager Samantha Pemberton says she looks for individuals who are motivated and committed to their chosen profession.

Using initiative

‘We want to see this standing out during an interview,’ she says. ‘To help us assess a person's motivation and commitment, we focus on students with an excellent academic track record who are able to show how they have used their initiative and team-working skills during their years at school or university.’

It’s a point reinforced by James Callander, managing director at recruitment consultancy Freshminds: ‘Recruiters and hiring managers will always be looking for evidence that you have pursued independently your dream of becoming an accountant. It shows that you are serious – even if it was a week helping with bookkeeping or volunteering for a local charity as their treasurer. You might even have been in charge of fundraising or business planning while at university, so make sure you highlight that. In fact, any commercial experience is very useful.’

Obviously all this evidence of your keenness and experience needs to be front and centre on your CV.

‘For an entry-level role, employers and recruiters can see upwards of 80 CVs, so the speed in which I read them is extremely fast,’ says Callander. ‘Avoid acronyms. Come across as human on your CV. Show why you’re interested in the role, the sector and the company.

‘Covering letters also tell me more about candidates than CVs sometimes. And please proof read! Attention to detail is everything in finance and if you can’t get it right in your opening application, it doesn’t show you in the best light.’

Careers and recruitment expert Edd Williams answers the employability question by quoting Steve Martin: ‘Be so good they can't ignore you'. But Williams does acknowledge that there's no one thing, but rather lots of small things done over a period of time that will enhance your employability.

‘Be proactive,’ he says. ‘Seek out opportunities to network, gain experiences, apply everywhere, make your CV as slick and as professional as you can, tailor it to the opportunity and populate it with meaningful, useful experiences and skills. Practise and refine your sales pitch, understand what you want and what you can offer and how to articulate that as passionately as possible.’

Applying for jobs is a tough slog, Williams recognises, and it's easy to let your head drop, but if you keep doing the right things well, eventually it will happen.

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