What is Accounting?
Accounting is the act of managing money and financial transactions such as summarising a company’s operations, financial position, and cash flows. Accountancy has become more popular than ever before, as it is a career that is always needed; no matter the business or sector. Plus, it can be a rewarding way to grow and build skills for a full time career. On an average day, you may be asked to complete tasks such as:
- Answering and referring phone calls
- Completing general administrative duties e.g. filing, photocopying
- Timesheet chasing, invoicing, expense inputting and a wide range of payroll administration
- Raise invoices to clients when advised, considering how different clients have invoices raised
- Assist the Payroll team and other colleagues with various projects and be prepared to take on additional responsibilities
- Completing compliance documents
Accountancy requires a great deal of problem solving and numeracy, so having a great understanding of maths is integral. Accounting Apprenticeships can be completed anywhere, whether it be a firm or within a financial department. This type of apprenticeship can be quite demanding and may involve some admin duties, so being able to manage time effectively and have great communication skills is a must.
Where can Accounting Lead?
Want to open your own accountancy firm in the future? Do you see yourself managing the accounts for a high end business? An apprenticeship can get you there! The route is not for everyone, so being sure is vital to knowing if you will be a right fit for the position.
When employers are looking for an apprentice to join an accountancy firm/accounting team, they are looking for someone who has good analytical, mathematic and problem solving skills, excellent transferable skills and a great work ethic. So before attending any Accounting Apprenticeship interview, you must be prepared. Below are some tips which will help you in having a successful interview.
Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself when asked. Talk about your hobbies and interests, what you like to do on weekends etc. Mention awards and achievements you have gained over the years, whether they are from school or clubs. Make sure that you don’t overshare, but don’t give too short an answer.
Give an overview of the company and what they specialise in. Mention some facts that you learned about them whether this be awards they have won, when they were established etc. By doing this it will show the employer that you were willing to go out of your way to understand the business.
This is where your research on the company is important as you can implement this in your answer. Mention a success story of theirs and what you like about their processes and the way they work compared to their competitors. It is also important to have ideas of things you feel you could bring and incorporate into the business.
AAT roles may require recording data and displaying your results in order to evidence your findings. Discussing an experience where you have had to do this and have had positive feedback is a good way to show confidence in this area
Reflecting on an example of prioritising tasks during a heavy workload is a positive way to show competency in a role. This will help demonstrate your organisational skills and problem solving. Explain how and why you made the decision and why it was the right one.
Talk about any relevant software packages you have used, for example Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Any technical office systems that you have had previous use or an overview of would also be advantageous.
In accountancy and finance it is important to be precise. Mentioning an experience where you came across mistakes and had these corrected. Explain how you ensured this didn’t happen again is beneficial. Without an example you can also discuss how proof reading and establishing thorough checking takes place within a team is essential.
Strengths – Mention two or three strengths (for example, communicating effectively, time management and organisational skills) and give an example of one of them.
Weaknesses – This is where you can show you are honest, can self-evaluate and are keen to improve. Choose a positive aspect of your personality and mention how this can be slightly detrimental.
Think about the business as a whole and positions you could progress to within, taking into account your wider ambitions. Most employers want to hire someone with drive and determination so don’t be afraid to set your goals high.
Before the interview be aware of how much the role offers on the job description and research salary expectations in this sector based on those in positions that have similar experience to yourself.
Although this is slightly personal this gives the employer an insight into yourself as a person as well as the roles you may wish to progress to. For example, motivation to build a successful career or provide more for your family etc are both acceptable answers.
Be honest about your reasons for leaving your last role. But if you are leaving a position that you were not happy in, don’t slander the business. Mention how you want a career with more opportunities for progression or how the role you are interviewing for is a much better fit.
Use this time to ask questions about the business, daily operations or their expectations of you as an employee in this role. Do not ask questions about the company that could have been answered previously with an online search. Aim to ask open ended questions that won’t result in the employer just giving a yes or no answer.
Always Be Prepared
Before attending any interview you must prepare! You should never arrive to an interview without doing any research into the business or job description. Attending without any prior research will damper you chances of being accepted.
One way to help you prepare is to look at practice questions ( You can view some example questions above with hints and tips on how to answer ), as this will help you understand what the employer may ask.
Other ways to prepare can include:
- Writing notes about the business, apprenticeship duties etc.
- Print off your CV – can use this to help you for answers
- Find what to wear the night before
- ALWAYS plan your journey – check travel times, traffic etc.
The more you prepare, the higher the chance that the interview will be successful be on your way to start the business administration apprenticeship.
An essential part of making a good impression in an interview is dressing smart. Dressing formally shows that you are serious about the role, ambitious and respectful of the business itself. Even if the interview is informal you still need to make a good impression; so always research the type of company you are applying for.
For example, when attending an interview for a corporate business (e.g. Law Firm, Recruitment Agency) you should wear attire such as:
- Men – smart shirt (ironed) and trousers, smart business shoes, clean and styled hair (shave if needed)
- Women – smart trousers/shirt, dress or skirt, smart shoes/boots, clean and styled hair
(or any smart business attire that you feel comfortable in)
If you are attending a more informal interview you don’t need to look as corporate, so you can choose attire that is a bit more comfortable and casual. However, you still need to look smart so avoid jeans, trainers and casual t-shirts. No matter what role you apply/attend interview for, dressing appropriately will increase your chances of securing the perfect apprenticeship and give you the confidence to have a successful interview.
Make an Impact
First impressions are key when it comes to an interview; if you arrive looking unpresentable, late and with an attitude the employer will automatically decide that you are unsuccessful. Arriving in suitable attire (as stated above) and at least 10 – 15 minutes earlier will already increase your chances. Other ways to make an impact include:
- Having a bubbly and optimistic personality – always have a smile and say hello
- Give a firm handshake – shows confidence and professionalism
- Always go into detail when answering questions – avoid one word answers
- Sit upright – never slouch when sitting down
- Ensure you don’t fidget or mess with objects – looks like you’re bored or nervous
- Always say ‘thank you’ when the interview is finished
Interview Preparation Tasks
1. Read the Interview Confirmation email thoroughly – Familiarise yourself with the location that your interview will take place at. Check transport times. Read through any extra details or helpful advice in the email ton help you prepare.
2. Research the company – Look at their website and social media accounts. Find out who founded the company and when, what the company does, who their clients or customers are. The employer will ask what you know about the company, so find out as much as possible.
3. Have 2 open questions prepared to ask the employer – After you have researched the company prepare at least two questions to ask the employer about the company. Make sure you aren’t asking questions that are already answered on the website.
4. Study the Job Description and think about what your transferrable skills are – Consider what would be expected of you in the role on a day to day basis. Work out which skills you have that would benefit the company and keep these in mind when you are talking about how you are the perfect candidate.
5. Research the company’s competitors if they have any – Being able to give suggestions and ideas for improvement at the company is a great way to show you are informed and proactive.