Even though I have only been an interviewer a handful of times, I have been an interviewee many times in the last 10+ years. Like most 16 years old, my first job was at a fast food restaurant and I actually got the job on the spot. I enjoy interviews and have realized in recent years that I am also interviewing the employer at the same time. This realization helped me feel even more at ease at interviews.
However, I understand many of you feel nervous, anxious or intimidated at job interviews. I know people who are more qualified and experienced than I am struggle to convince their future employers exactly how perfect they are for the jobs. Therefore, I am sharing with you how to find the perfect accounting job as a CPA candidate/student. At the end of the day, the perfect job should be more than just a paycheque.
Before You Even Begin Your Search, Ask Yourself What Are Important To You
In a perfect world, you will look for a job only when you want to and feel ready. Sadly, this is not always the case. Factors outside of your company’s and your control could always lead to layoffs. In that case, depending on your severance package and emergency savings, you might not have the freedom to take your time on your job search. However, if you do have the freedom, I highly recommend you ask yourself what are important to you in your next job.
As an example, I listed the following factors that were important to me before I began my most recent job search:
- A Compatible Team With Similar Values
- Financially Strong Company
- Job Description With PERT-Related Experience
- Remote Working Environment
- Salary That Matches The Market & My Expectation
Going through this exercise will help you realize what is non-negotiable (e.g., job description with PERT-related experience) and what is (e.g., industry). This is important because self-awareness can contribute positively to your confidence.
Be Picky About Which Job(s) You Apply To
Unless there are financial or circumstantial reasons for you to find your next job as soon as possible, I would suggest being very picky about which job postings you apply to. In fact, I only applied to 2 to 3 postings the night before I was contacted by my current company for my first interview (there turned out to be 3 interviews for this job at the end). I evaluated job postings using the following criteria:
The Title & Job Description
Depending on where you are in your accounting career, you might want to avoid certain adjectives in the title (e.g., Junior Accountant). I say this because the word ‘Junior’ is often associated with entry-level duties which might not be ideal if you are ready for more complex tasks for growth and for PERT. However, it is crucial to pay attention to the job descriptions as ‘Junior’ could also imply potential upward movement (e.g., promotion to Intermediate Accountant). The last thing you want to is miss an opportunity for a simple oversight.
There are plenty of review channels for job seekers to read about company culture and interview process nowadays. Glassdoor is one of the most popular platforms for former and current employees to review their employers (however, biased reviews are possible as proof of employment is not required). Therefore, I take these reviews with a grain of salt when researching the company. I do, however, try to find out a little bit about what the company does and which industry it is in before applying. This is important for self-evaluating whether you are a good fit for the job and vice versa.
The Working Environment
This criteria never existed for me (and I believe for many of us) before the pandemic. I used to care only about how transit-accessible the office was or how convenient (or inconvenient) it would be for Eric and I carpool. Since the pandemic made working from home arrangement necessary and common, this criteria became one of the most important ones for me. I have been working from home since March and largely enjoyed the extra 3 hours I gain daily from not having to commute.
Ask yourself whether you will be comfortable (during the pandemic) commuting to work five days a week for a new job. It might be less of a problem for people who drive to work but you also need to take into account being back in an office setting for 8 hours+ a day. Everyone’s situation will be different but it is nevertheless critical to ask yourself this question.
The Salary Range
I wish it was more common for job postings to show their salary ranges but less than half of the postings do. But this doesn’t mean it needs to be a guessing game. Do some market pay research by asking your network, referring to salary guides offered by various sources by Googling “finance salary guide (city),” talking to recruiters from recruitment agencies such as Hays and Randstad. After that, take into account the following factors specific to your portfolio:
- related accounting and finance experiences
- relevant industry experience
- proximity to CPA-designation
- special project experiences, e.g., paperless transition, training material creation
Finally, decide on a range (or a minimum amount) that you are comfortable with. I advise against taking your current salary into account as that does not always correlate to what your portfolio is worth. If you are underpaid at your current job, your current salary will not serve as a good reference base for your future job where you will ask to be compensated fairly.
This job search process might take longer than mindlessly applying to all jobs available but I always believe in not wasting your and the recruiter’s precious time. For example, if the salary range stated in the ad is significantly below what you expect, it is very unlikely that an extra $15,000 is available for the perfect candidate (not impossible, but very unlikely). Another example could be applying to an entry-level position when you need Level 2 experiences for PER via EVR. It is unlikely for an entry-level AP position to offer Level 2 experience. You might think you can work your way up but that will take months if not years. It all depends on where you are at with your career and CPA PEP.
Now That You Know What Are Important To You & What To Look For, What’s Next?
After applying to a few or a bunch of job postings, hopefully you will get some interview requests. Depending on the company, you might have your first round of interview with someone from HR or someone from your team. Either way, you will need to prepare to convince your future employers why you are perfect for the job and also interview them at the same time!
Continue reading Part 2 here where I share tips on how to prepare for your interview so you will land your dream job as a CPA Candidate.