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Tips and Advice

This section provides information and advice to help you get the most from your job hunting.

What employers want

We asked 20 business leaders and accountancy partners the million dollar question: What do bosses want from recruits? While many of them talk about what they want from their finance recruits, there is some great advice for everyone on how to stand out in the workplace. You might be surprised by what they say.

We also asked top professionals to tell us about the best piece of career advice they had received and what guidance they would now pass on to the latest young recruits?

Building your professional online profile

Using LinkedIn to find a job / work experience

Whether you are looking for a summer internship, work experience or a full-time job, using LinkedIn can help you get it. It’s easier than you think to stand out from the crowd and LinkedIn has some great advice for just that.

These short clips and instructions from LinkedIn will help you understand:

  • how LinkedIn can be used to get a job;
  • the importance of your LinkedIn profile;
  • how recruiters really use LinkedIn to search for candidates; and
  • how connecting with others and building up your network will support your job search

This short article from CABA, the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association provides a beginners guide on how to build a positive online presence.

Please feel free to look at other articles on the CABA website. However, please be aware that the CABA helplines and personal advice service shown on their website is only available to ACA students in a training agreement and fully qualified ICAEW Chartered Accountants.

Do your research: why and how

The first stage in any career search is research. It is a vital step in the application process.

Find out as much as you can about the job and organisation you are applying for. This is equally important whether you are applying for a job vacancy that is advertised or if you plan to send a speculative application to an organisation you’re interested in working for.

Why is doing research so important?

It does take time and you might feel like all this research is a waste of time – especially if you are applying to a number of different companies. But, it is hugely important to know about the company and the role you are applying for, before you actually send in your application. So, how can research prove useful to your job search?

By doing your research, you will:

Be well informed

It’s your chance to find out more about the company or job before you apply. You can make sure that they are the right fit for you and that the advertised job will actually use your strengths, enable you to grow your skills and progress your career.

Identify key skills

Research can help you identify key skills and competencies that the company may be looking for in candidates. This will help you tailor your CV, application and/or covering letter accordingly to bring out your strengths and job-relevant skills.

Discover new opportunities

You may find other job opportunities that you hadn’t previously seen advertised within that company, or identify other possible contacts to send a speculative application to. Research may also lead you to other departments within that organisation for which your strengths and skills would be suitable.

Focus your job search

You may be able to identify companies or sectors that you feel are not suited to your skillset or career ambitions. This will help you avoid unnecessary or inappropriate applications, which would be a waste of your time and energy.

Why does a recruiter need to see you have done your research?

  • Recruiters want to see personalised applications, rather than a standard ‘one-size fits all’ style application. 
  • Recruiting is a long and costly process, so employers want to have confidence that you want the job they are offering, not just any job. Doing your research will help them understand this – especially at interview stage. 

How?

Here are just a few suggested sources that you could use.

  • The internet
  • Corporate brochures, video, booklets
  • Company annual review
  • Information you have gathered from careers fairs
  • Reference files from your careers service
  • Public, business or academic libraries
  • Your friends, family and people you know who work in the company, sector or profession you are interested in
  • Academic blogs or forums

Whilst going through the information you find about the company, try to use your critical abilities as much as you can. Don’t just absorb details, try to read between the lines. This will help you identify issues that the company might be having, or traits that not many people associate with that company, but are close to what you are looking for in an employer. 

The recruiter doesn’t expect you to know the whole history of the company year by year, but they are looking for someone who can select the most important details and put them into context. 

Dress for success

Can what you wear affect your success?

Ever wondered if the clothes you wear to work (or for an interview) matter? Can certain clothes affect your success? The answer is YES. Here’s what you need to know and how to dress to impress.

Employees in some sectors, such as banking and law still have to dress in traditional suits and ties every day but in other sectors things are more relaxed. In many organisations a more relaxed work dress code now applies. This can range from smart jeans and fashionable shirts without ties for the men and smart trousers, dresses or skirts for women. This may only be allowed on ‘dress down Friday’s’ in some companies or every day in others, but either way, ‘business casual’ has become the new norm. This in turn has made dressing for work much more difficult rather than easier. Here’s what you need to know and how to create a functional working wardrobe.

Company culture and you

A working wardrobe has to suit the demands of the job. As an employee, you are part of the identity of the organisation that employs you. If your company represents professionalism, integrity, dedication and other similar values, then you will be expected to dress professionally and to reflect these values in your work clothes. Smart dressing and an appropriate work style can also strengthen your presence in the office as it can help project professionalism and authority to others – whether they are your colleagues, your boss or clients. You should aim to dress comfortably but try not to appear stuffy or old beyond your years. You’ll need to be prepared for unexpected client visits and last-minute meetings where a more formal style is required (jacket and tie, smart suit etc).

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

It’s no secret that the clothes you wear affect your attitude and confidence levels, and people who dress for success feel good about themselves. Put simply: dress as you want to be seen – whether this is to look serious, professional, confident or ready to meet clients etc. How you dress at work will make a statement to others about your self-identification, your confidence and your ambitions for your career.

Don't wear a uniform

Every role is different and there is no universal 'career uniform'. Of course, different people will wear different things according to their occupation, location and personal taste. However, you should always consider the corporate culture, company values and the physical work environment. It goes without saying that some items for an office job are simply wrong (eg, football shirts and bermuda shorts for men or mini-skirts and an exposed mid-riff is all definite no-nos). You shouldn’t dilute your personal style or buy a wardrobe full of work clothes you hate, but for professional and managerial positions you really should have a smart suit or a smart style. In an advertising agency or creative environment however, a more eclectic or individual dress style is likely to be more acceptable.

The importance of grooming and accessories

Don’t believe for one moment that it’s only about the clothes you wear. Poor grooming or bad accessories can easily let down a great work wardrobe. I was recently on an interview panel where a candidate turned up appropriately dressed in a business suit, but he looked as though he had come straight to the interview from a night out on the town. His suit was covered in really dirty marks, he hadn’t shaved and his hair wasn’t brushed and looked dirty. We didn’t ask him back for a second interview. It sounds obvious, but always make sure you wear clean clothes, brush your hair, shave/put on your make-up and always have one final look in a full-length mirror before you leave the house! If in doubt, go smarter rather than more casual.

Use your common sense and good taste – well-fitting clothes with neat and crisp lines will get you noticed for the right reasons as will smart, stylish and polished shoes. Keep accessories simple to compliment your overall look and avoid loud, garish colours. You want your interviewer or employer to focus on your skills, not on your eccentric clothes style and flamboyance.

Dress as fashionably as your wardrobe budget and clothing options allow

Even if you are on a small budget, there shouldn’t be any excuse for looking dull or old-fashioned no matter how formal your company or role may be. You should dress for work and not for a catwalk show or a night out at a club. You don’t have to sacrifice your style or break the bank to dress for success.

And finally…

By spending a little extra time and thought on your wardrobe and professional appearance, you’ll find that employers and colleagues will take more notice of your capabilities, career drive and skills and will be more respectful towards your position.

Quality not quantity

When you apply for jobs, make sure you tailor your application to the role you are applying for. Each job or organisation you apply for will probably require you (through their job advert) to demonstrate (through your job application) a slightly different set of skills, knowledge and personal behaviours.

Think about when you were at school or university and your teacher told you that to get the best marks in an essay you need to answer the question that is being asked, rather than write down everything you know about that particular essay topic. Well, it’s no different when you are filling in a job application form. You need to tailor your application so it will stand out from the others and get you top marks.

As one employer puts it ‘We get dozens of applications for each job we advertise, so I want to see an applicant has understood the specific requirements of the role and is interested in the job we are offering rather than just any job they might have seen advertised.’

Remember that recruitment and selection of employees is an expensive process for employers and there are usually many people applying for each advertised vacancy, so it’s vital that your application is well written, complete and demonstrates your suitability for the role that is on offer. Those that do, will be the ones that shine through, so invest the time in creating a great CV and make sure you apply for each job with a considered, well written quality application.

Social media and your job

Social media – can it hurt your job prospects?

It's understandable to think what you post online is part of your personal life and not something an employer should, or would, concern themselves with. However, more and more employers are using social media to see what job candidates and current employees are doing or saying. What they find out about you and what you’ve said could be damaging your job hunting or career prospects. Some things to keep in mind when it comes to social media use:

Don’t stop using social media

If used wisely, it can be hugely helpful to your career. However, there is no firewall between your personal and professional life, so what you write online is there for any employer to find. So always ask yourself: Is this something you'd mind a future (or existing) employer seeing?

“Written words remain”

The internet is open for all to see. Don't be fooled by 'privacy settings' because they're not infallible. What you post on social media platforms is not private, and it leaves a trail. Photos, status updates, tweets, blog posts, and comments on other people's blogs are all trackable. You may think that some of your information is hidden or no longer exists because you deleted it but the reality is that everything can be retrieved and seen as they still live on inside search engines.

Think twice before posting

If you’re not prepared to say it to your boss (or say it in an interview) then don't say it online. If your online profiles include inappropriate photos or comments, offensive jokes, political rantings or even comments about being drunk or taking another sick day off work, these will all act as big warning signs for employers.

Respect your company’s social media policy

Most employers now have social media policies governing what employees are permitted to post on social networks. Make sure you know your company's policy so you don't inadvertently violate it.

Can it help your career?

Until now, we have looked at how damaging social media can be if used incorrectly. However, when used properly, it can significantly boost your career. There is only so much you can put on your CV, but considering that the majority of employers do their candidate research online, you can use social media as an extension of your resume. How, then, can you use that to your advantage?

Increase your knowledge 

Look at websites and participate regularly in blogs or networks in a field that you are interested in. You'll learn a lot and will become aware of new business trends long before others do. You may even have the chance to network with well-known experts in your industry! 

Build your credibility

If you blog or contribute regularly on Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms, you'll start building credibility as someone who, at the very least, has a real interest and passion for the field. Think about it from an employers’ perspective – would you rather hire someone who you can see is passionate and interested in a particular subject, or someone who shows no involvement at all? 

Expand your network 

This kind of online participation means that you'll start building dozens of professional contacts—people who you can refer to when job searching or seeking professional advice. Keep in mind, of course, that an expanded network is a two-way street. Your network should in turn be able to come to you for advice or assistance as well.