How to get rejected in 7 easy steps* May 18, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Careers Advice, Graduate recruitment, Uncategorized, career information, careers help, interviews , 2comments
With more applications than ever from graduates being considered every year you would think the last thing the accountancy profession needs is more brilliant applications but recent figures from High Fliers points out that marketing and teaching remain more popular than accountancy – but the accountancy profession has more jobs to fill
Consequently the title of the talk ‘How to get rejected in 7 easy steps’ by Angus Farr (www.employabilityskills.co.uk) was strictly ironic. Angus was talking as part of an event for careers and academic staff by the ICAEW, one of the professional accountancy bodies.
Incidentally Angus disproves a couple of myths about accountancy. Firstly you don’t have to study accountancy to be an accountant (he studied medieval history) and secondly he was really funny and interesting. I hasten to add I never bought into these myths in the first place – accountants rock as far as I’m concerned.
1 “Don’t bother trying to understand recruitment from an employers’ point of view”. Oh dear, says Angus and points out that employers don’t intend things like assessment centres and application forms to be intimidating and tedious. Essentially they are trying to find out three things about you
Can you do the job?
Will you do the job?
Will you fit in?
Application forms can appear awkward to applicants but employers like them because they know where the information they need is on their own forms. In addition forms aid objectivity in a way cvs can’t. For those of you complaining about the stress on A level grades he pointed out that this form of assessment – sitting in a room on a wooden chair with a wobbly desk exactly mirrors the ICAEW exams in a way that the continuous assessment style of degrees simply doesn’t. Interestingly later on he also pointed out that there may not be an easy correlation between passing the ICAEW exams and being a good accountant. At an ICAEW event this was like letting off a small hand grenade
2. “Don’t try and play the game – its not fair on other candidates”. Rubbish, says Angus. He says DO play the game and make sure you try to beat the other COMPETITORS
He pointed out that candidates don’t make it for distinct reasons
1 Applicants are sometimes not good enough. This doesn’t mean they can’t make themselves good enough but candidates may need to improve or find something they are more suited to. Getting more commercial awareness or buffing up your team work are areas easily improved on. Why so glum?
2 Employers can make mistakes. A tumbleweed moment from those of us to whom this had never occurred before. Angus pointed out though that employers are human and accountants are often human too. Consequently they do things like choosing the wrong selection criteria or often giving a role in graduate recruitment interviews to inexperienced managers as a way of getting practice.
* Show you are good enough. In other words make it obvious. He drew a comparison to taking a driving test – don’t just look in the rear view mirror but make it obvious to the examiner that you are looking in the rear view mirror. The equivalent in assessment centres would be not just being a good time manager but take your watch off as a pointed gesture that you are looking after the time. Admittedly, Angus said, the other candidates will think you’re a ‘git’ but the assessors won’t have missed it either.
* Show your good enough by being ruthless in excavating your experience. Angus cited someone who had worked in a petrol station but had mainly flagged up its customer service element rather than the accountancy skill involved in till reconciliation – auditors like both these skills but the latter gets them really excited.
3 “Don’t waste time proof reading your applications employers will just look at qualifications . . . .won’t they?” Er, no, Angus says. Don’t make it easy to get rejected by following this foolish advice. Chartered accountants use more words than numbers and this is true from the moment you first apply. Numbers of applications for accountancy jobs are going up but fewer people are employed to filter them. Spelling mistakes in this situation are a quick and objective way of filtering. Angus pointed out that as a selector the second spelling mistake in an application meant he could stop reading it – game over.
A great metaphor for this level of carelessness. Consider that candidates haven’t been properly taking instructions from their internal risk departments – if you can’t be trusted to follow simple instructions and count the number of words in an application would you be trusted, for example, to not pile into the Bolivian cocoa butter market when instructed by a risk department not to do so? Angus was able to point to one recruitment round in which one third of applicants broke the word limit.
4 “Don’t bother with mirror checking you look fabulous all the time” On the contrary, says Angus the ‘non verbal’ is important. Many applicants can say the right things these days but how they say things and their body language often betrays them.
* Web to web handshake. This is an uber handshake that goes beyond palm to palm. Get a grip says Angus. And get to the assessment 30 minutes early so when others arrive you are already installed, as it were. Then go greet them with your uber web to web handshake . Unsettle them because they are your competitors! I boldly put it to Angus that you could equally be authentically friendly and see them as future colleagues rather than competition. He wasn’t buying that and in fact went further – make sure you read their names, he said, so you can strategically ‘name check’ them in the group discussion. Angus carries his alpha maleness very lightly.
5 “It’s only the interview that’s important - forget the before and after”. No and a thousand times no, says Angus. Employers inflict heaps of different recruitment tools on applicants because it helps them get a more rounded picture so ….
* Practice numerical and critical reasoning tests. There is a really high failure rate with those whose first attempt at these is at the actual assessment. Work through the practice booklets. There aren’t that many organisations designing these and you may even remember the questions and or even the answers. Incidentally Angus feels students who ‘talk’ well sometimes confuse ‘Verbal reasoning’ with speaking English. They aren’t the same and you need to practice verbal reasoning.
* Having said all that second interviews are VERY important. Often they are conducted by senior people and human resource staff are less likely to contradict them when candidates are being discussed and scored. So don’t blow the second interview folks.
6 “Don’t ask for feedback it’s never useful”. Students says Angus , are aware of the importance of asking for feedback but they don’t actually do it. It is also true that it’s a pain for employers to give and they are nervous about doing it because of potential legal complications. So instead Angus suggests asking a different question – not ‘why didn’t I get the job?’ but ‘what did the successful candidates do or say that helped them get selected?’
7 “Don’t waste time researching sites like ICAEW or talk to careers or tutors – you’re busy applying for jobs”. Oops, says Angus. Another big mistake. It is an expectation that you will know the company. Not just the web site but go beyond the minimum by checking out profiles on LinkedIn for example. Sign up for company emails as well. Companies use these to reach out to clients and this would provide helpful insights and might even make you aware of senior people who might interview you. This isn’t about blagging but brings us back to making sure you can convince employees that you can do the job, will do the job and that you will fit in.
In the same spirit you might also like to read ’5 sure-fire ways to blow your internship’ ‘ at http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2012/04/17/5-sure-fire-ways-to-blow-your-internship/