The larger employers will run various events during the ‘Milkround’ in Michaelmas term and attend our career fairs. Use these to orient yourself and understand more about the companies, the work and the various roles and opportunities so that you can make well targeted applications.
Accountancy and professional service firms may also offer ‘spring weeks’ to students who are 2+ years from graduating (i.e. first year undergraduates, and second-year students taking a four-year degree). These are part of the firm’s ‘early talent identification’ programmes, and successful spring-week will often provide a fast-track option to interviews for a summer internship in the student’s penultimate year, which in turn can lead to a full-time job offer. All students attending spring weeks can expect:
- to learn more about different business streams within the company;
- to meet senior staff and recent hires to learn more about their perspective and experiences; and
- to receive some technical skills development and advice on applications and interview practice.
Even without taking advantage of the spring week route, there are always many positions available for the penultimate year internships and full-time entry positions for final-year students. However, it is important to be aware that applications for full-time positions will open during the summer vacation – possibly as early as the beginning of August – and popular locations and fields of practice can be filled even before Oxford’s Michaelmas Term starts, so an early application is recommended.
Companies’ own recruitment webpages provide a wealth of information about the firms, the different types of roles they are hiring for and the training available in each stream. You will be expected to have researched the different roles in deciding which position to apply for. To help you with your choices, firms often have short videos of graduate trainees talking about their experiences, and they may also offer questionnaires that can help you find which roles best match your personality and preferences. Use these resources to support your choices and seek out other resources to help you write better applications and prepare for the application process, tests and interviews. Also make good use of the Careers Service’s online information and guidance and the chance to meet one-to-one with a. careers adviser on any aspects of the recruitment process, from researching applications to deciding between offers.
Applying early is recommended for popular roles and locations (e.g. London) and so it’s important to be aware of when positions open for applications. In the past some firms have completed their full-time recruitment to popular locations before the Oxford academic year starts. Vacancies can open for applications as early as July or August for full-time graduate roles starting more than a year later, and for internships the following summer. By the time Michaelmas term starts, these positions can have been open for three months – and even those entry programmes that open later (e.g. Financial Services Advisory or consulting roles) will have been open to applications since September.
In addition to having offices in multiple global locations, some of the world’s biggest firms also run UK based programmes for students of specific nationalities aimed, for example, at Chinese nationals or Mandarin speakers, or students with ability in Japanese. Check the companies’ own recruitment websites to find current programmes and opportunities.
Smaller firms traditionally recruit a little later – but again, do make applications as early as possible. Often, such organisations advertise vacancies on the websites of the professional bodies – most notably the ICAEW and ACCA and Association of Practising Accountants (APA) – but some do not advertise outside their locality. If you are interested in working in a particular town/city, make speculative enquiries to accountants based there to identify those that offer trainee positions.
Management accountancy roles are generally advertised, with applications opening in September, and some deadlines as early as November. Look at the various graduate directories, such as the Prospects Directory, Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and TARGETjobs for vacancies. Some management accounting opportunities are advertised later in the year, usually for roles in smaller companies.
Each professional accounting association also has its own, regularly updated vacancy bulletin aimed at students considering accountancy.
Many firms ask you to complete an application form rather than submitting a CV and cover letter. The questions asked tend to relate closely to the skills and attributes mentioned earlier, and can be both competency and strengths based. See our guidance on writing CVs, cover letters and application forms as appropriate, and speaking to a Careers Adviser can help add an extra level of polish.
Companies will want to understand your motivation for applying to accountancy, your interest in finance and business generally, and why you wish to join their organisation in particular. We have had feedback from firms that a surprisingly large number of Oxford students do not get through the initial screen as they fail to demonstrate their motivation and drive sufficiently their application form. To create the right impression each application needs to be well researched and properly targeted to the individual firm, so make sure that you demonstrate not only an understanding of the role and the qualifications you will take, but also the reasons you are attracted to the individual company itself.
Most companies will also use aptitude tests as part of the selection process. See our separate briefing on Psychometric Tests for advice and access to free practice tests to help you brush up your mental maths and test taking technique, and to become more familiar with the range of tests that you may encounter.