Competency Based Interview Questions – What are they and how to ace them

As a specialist Accountancy Practice recruiter, it is our job to consult candidates throughout their career and during the job searching process which can be for many, a stressful time. There is a lot to consider in the early stages of a search to ensure we can identify together what is the best next step but further down the line and one of the key parts, is of course the interview stage as it is the first and potentially only opportunity for a candidate to sell themselves to the potential employer.

The general objective when interviewing someone for a specific role is to identify if that person has the right skills, experience, personality and attitude for the role they are applying for. Different firms and interviewers have different approaches of how best to discover if someone is the right candidate. Some will ask a few questions that are relevant to what they are looking for but without any specific aim in mind other than getting an overall impression of you as an individual. Most of these questions are generally quite ‘open questions’ and often will not test any specific skill or competency leaving the decision to determine if someone is right to be quite subjective.

Within this article, we are going to concentrate on what competency-based questions are, why they are used and how best to answer them during an interview. For some of the people reading this, it may not be anything new, but having prepared over 500 accountancy professionals throughout my career for interviews, we are confident that there will be many that have never faced a competency-based question and some that haven’t even heard of them or have no understanding what they are.

What is a Competency-Based Interview Question?

Competency-based interviews (also known as structured or behavioural based questions) are a series of questions relating to an individual’s behaviour in specific circumstances. The interviewer will generally decide what they feel are the most important competencies required within the role and they will expect specific examples of how you have managed and dealt with situations you have faced previously either inside or outside of the workplace.

It use to be the case that competency-based questions were generally only utilised by HR recruiters in the larger Big 4 and Top 10 firms. This was mainly because their recruitment processes were more refined due to the number of staff they employ each year and to ensure they are identifying the best professionals in the market.   As time has progressed and Mid-Tier and smaller firms have developed their processes, we have noticed that they are becoming increasingly popular and something that candidates should be aware of when preparing for an interview

Whilst competency-based questions can be challenging and put you on the back foot if you haven’t prepared for them, they should be seen as a great opportunity for professionals to demonstrate their skills and accomplishments and ultimately, a great chance to show potential employees why you are the right person for the role.

Preparation

The majority of interviewers will ask you to provide specific examples of previous work or situations you have faced whilst others may throw specific scenarios at you and then expect you to follow up with previous examples or if you have none to offer, how would you approach the situation to reach your objective.

Prior to the interview, it is important for candidates to think about what competencies are important for the role they have applied for. These competencies can often be uncovered within a job specification in the key skills section but it is also important for you to think about what other skills they may wish to uncover and what skills you are keen to get across during the interview.

Typical Competencies

It can be difficult to prepare for every question that an interviewer may ask as each person will have their own style and technique. The same goes for guaranteeing the competencies they will explore but we have set out below some of the key ones to consider:

Accountability – They will be looking for evidence that you are self-motivated and take responsibility for the decisions you make and the tasks you need to manage. Typically, they will ask you to tell them about a recent time when you took personal responsibility for delivering a project or assignment.

Business focus – The challenge here is to demonstrate your ability to identify business opportunities and successfully manage commercial risks. They will usually ask you about some of your recent client work and look for evidence of how you have helped grow the relationship and identify new business opportunities.

Building relationships – Much of your work will be in teams, so they will be looking for evidence of how well you work with others. They will ask you about times you may have helped a colleague or recognised the need to change your style to get the best out of others.

Making an impact – Clients expect you to be a confident professional who is capable of making an impact and building strong business relationships. They will therefore be judging how strong an impact you make on them during the interview, and are likely to talk to you about times when you had to persuade a client to follow your advice or successfully negotiate a difficult issue.

Developing people – It is important as you progress your career as an accountant that you can support the development of colleagues. Sharing knowledge, giving constructive feedback and coaching or mentoring others are important people management skills. The questions here will focus on times when you might have supported the development of others or coached a colleague through a difficult problem.

Delivering quality service – It’s essential that you can deliver a high quality of service to clients (both internal and external). They might well ask you to describe a time where you have had to manage multiple tasks and they will need you to tell them about your ability to prioritise and delegate to make sure you deliver the service clients expect.

Problem-solving – They will question you about how you approach a problem and look for evidence of your ability to analyse complex data and reach an appropriate solution.

Professionalism – It goes without saying that acting with integrity and being professional at all times are business-critical requirements. The questions might ask you about a time when you received great client feedback for the quality of work you delivered.

Drive and Resilience – We’ve all faced times when we’ve had to overcome challenges or setbacks to achieve a goal. They will ask you about times when you’ve needed to overcome obstacles or worked under pressure with enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

Feedback and Learning – Most businesses encourage everyone to continuously learn from their experiences and seek out their own development opportunities. The questions here will focus on both your own recent learning experiences and how you’ve encouraged others to learn and develop.

Interpersonal Skills Having the ability to build rapport and relationships with colleagues and clients is a key part of most roles within accountancy. The questions will focus on how you have managed to do this across different levels and they may also focus on when you have struggled to do this and how you have overcome the issue.

Organisation – It is key for you to be organised as an accountant, especially one that works within practice where you are managing a range of different clients and working on multiple projects at any one time. These questions will not just focus on how you manage your own workload but also potential projects and how you may have acquired people and other resources to accomplish a goal.

How to answer a competency-based Interview Question

If you were to type ‘How to answer competency-based questions’ online then you will find 1000s of results from HR and recruitment professionals. Whilst, not every opinion is the same, you will find the majority will advise you to use the ‘STAR’ approach.

S.T.A.R stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.

  • The ‘Situation and Task’ form the introduction: Here you will describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when did this happen, where were you at the time and who else was involved in the plan?
  • Action: How did you achieve what you needed to? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did and this makes it difficult for the interviewer to extrapolate your involvement. Make sure you refer to your contribution with statements such as ‘I did this’
  • Result: What results did you achieve? What was the benefit of your involvement? What did you learn from the experience, what may you do differently next time?

By using this structure, you will be able to provide a comprehensive answer and demonstrate to the interview that you can take a considered approach to situations before finding a solution or reaching your objective.

Practice and rehearse your answers 

It is important that any question you answer in an interview is delivered in an articulate manner but it is also important with competency-based answers to ensure that they are detailed and structured in the right way. Try to think of a few examples you can give for each competency and practice them over and over to ensure your delivery is effective

How is the interviewer responding?

As you explain your examples, it is important that you can assess the interviewer’s body language and that you are generating a positive response. If this isn’t the case then be confident enough to ask if the interviewer would like any further examples.

If you are generally struggling to think of an example then make the interviewer aware that you may not have ever faced a certain scenario but if you were faced with a certain situation then explain what you would do so that they are aware you will be able to take action and you have the ability to manage a situation.

Working with Levitate

We appreciate that many of the professionals we work with are experienced in client meetings and can present themselves well. Whilst this is the case, searching for a new job and being interviewed to talk about yourself is a completely different scenario and can be for some, one of the most stressful situations they have faced. Not preparing properly can lead to a lack of confidence and the potential of not being offered the position or perhaps an offer but with a lower salary.

Everyone at Levitate Recruitment has been trained in Interview preparation and will work closely with the professionals we represent to ensure that they have thought about the questions that will be asked and how best they can demonstrate to the interviewer that they should be the preferred applicant and ultimately offered the job.

If you have any questions about the accountancy job market or interview techniques then we would welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation and provide educated advice to make your next step, a well thought out and success assured career move.

For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.

 

Does size matter? How long should a CV be?

The first step in working with someone looking for a new job is to find out about their experience, what they are looking for in their next role and understand their longer-term career aspirations. Following this, I will then review their CV and offer advice as to how they could improve it.

Some already have a CV, some need to update one and for others it is their first time of writing a CV.  The one question I always get asked is, how long should their CV be.

Nine times out of ten I get told that they have heard that their CV shouldn’t be any longer than 2 pages. They have usually read this somewhere or have previously been told this.

If you do a quick internet search, you’ll be amazed how many articles/posts on CV writing advise of a 2-page limit.

I believe that this one bit of advice can be severely detrimental to an individual’s job search.

Can your CV be too long? Yes, it can, but I don’t believe that there is a set page limit which if your CV does not conform to you will not be selected for an interview.

Having recruited for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals for over 11 years, I have received tens of thousands of CVs from those with no working experience through to those with over 30 years of professional experience.

It’s been my experience that some job seekers are actually doing themselves a massive disservice because they badly present their experience or omit relevant information that could potentially be the decision breaker as to whether they are invited for an interview or not.

I believe the misconception of having a CV no longer than 2 pages is partly to blame.

What is the purpose of your CV? 

  • The simplest objective of your CV is to secure you the opportunity to interview for the role you are applying for.
  • It’s an advert of who you are.
  • It’s your opportunity to demonstrate to the reader your career experience.
  • It’s also an opportunity to highlight that you are the right potential hire for them.

Why is it important to get your CV right?

For every job advert, I put out I receive over 20 applications per opportunity. This is also the case for companies who advertise their own roles.

Many applications will not be viable at all, some will instantly stand out as suitable whilst others will not best represent the applicant’s experience, potentially resulting in them missing out on the chance to interview.

With so many applications per role, it is important that you are putting your strongest advert (CV) forward.

How I believe the misguided 2-page limit impacts a CV negatively

Having reviewed thousands of CV’s over the years, I have seen candidates do the following to stick to the 2-page guideline;

  • Not including a personal statement. This is your chance to give the hiring manager a short synopsis of who you are and what you are looking for.
  • Not including enough information about their current/relevant roles. Your current role is one of the most important parts of your CV. Hiring managers after a quick scan of your CV will then study your current role in more detail as it is a significant indicator of your suitability for the role you have applied for. It is key to ensure that you list your most important responsibilities. There may be some role-specific responsivities that you feel are less important or obvious, you should still include these as a hiring manager may assume incorrectly that you don’t do certain things in your role if they are not listed. I’m by no means suggesting that you list ‘Making coffee on an ad hoc basis’ but you should cover the key elements of your role.
  • Leaving previous jobs off their CV. There is an argument that jobs that are not relevant to your current career or next role have little importance. However, I advise that you should include the dates, company and position for all the jobs you have had. You don’t need to add any further information under these roles as to your responsibilities, however, the dates of previous employment will show the reader your career timeline from start to present.
  • Not addressing unexplained gaps in the CV. It’s important to cover any employment gaps in your career history. You may have been travelling, taken a sabbatical, had an illness, had children or even cared for a relative. Unexplained gaps could give the impression to a hiring manager that you did nothing during that time period.
  • Changing the font to a ridiculously small size to condense the CV down. It is pointless investing your time writing your CV to put yourself across in the best possible way if it is difficult to read. I typically suggest a font size between 10-12 dependent upon the font.
  • Not listing software/I.T. skills. There are so many different software packages that are used by different companies. Highlighting the specific software you have experience with can set you apart from other applicants if you have listed a software package that the hiring company uses.
  • Not including work achievements. If you have received any special recognition, awards or have worked on a high-profile assignment then they are definitely worth highlighting to a potential employer.
  • Leaving off personal interests/hobbies. You are not going to be invited to interview based on what you like doing in your spare time, however, I’ve had clients comment on people not having any interests in their CV. They felt that they wanted to see some personality and get a feel for someone from their CV.

Forget the 2-page limit!

CV’s come in all shapes and sizes. Some people like to display the information in a paragraph/essay format and some use bullet points (which is what I recommend). In reality, there is no one size fits all format for CV’s.

I’ve assisted hundreds of professionals to write and amend 1-page CV’s through to 6-page CV’s. The one thing that they all have in common is that the information included has accurately portrayed their experience.

The length of a CV can be dependent upon different factors like the font, font size, formatting and content. The level of content will also differ greatly from someone with 12 months of experience to someone with 15 years.

So, what’s important?

  • The information in your CV needs to be relevant and accurately describe what you currently do and have done in previous related jobs.
  • It should be displayed in a way that makes it easy to read. This includes, how the information is broken down as well as the font size and type used.
  • You should highlight your relevant experience for the types of opportunities you are looking to move into.
  • Don’t be scared to add extra information if you feel it is relevant.

 Do not miss the opportunity to sell yourself.

If you are worried that your CV is too long.

  • Read through your CV and ask yourself if all the information is relevant.
  • Check whether you have duplicated any information.
  • Unless relevant to your current career/role you are applying for there is no need to list what you did in your roles before starting your professional career. Just list the dates, the company and your position.

To conclude; it doesn’t matter if your CV is more than 2-pages. Your CV can be as long as is necessary for you to portray your career experience and suitability for the opportunities you are looking for.

My opinion on CV length is based on my 12 years+ of recruiting for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals. The length of a CV may be more important within other industries.

For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.

 

The ‘Weakness’ Question

I recently read a post that said the weakness question in an interview is not relevant. The premise of the article was that it is a pointless question and that it is none of the interviewer’s business to ask about someone’s weaknesses. The article even suggested that if you get asked this question in an interview you would be well within your rights to walk out of the meeting at that point.

In assisting a significant number of individuals preparing for interviews and speaking with hiring managers over the last 10 years, the weakness question is one that many interviewees are unsure of how to approach.

I believe that it is a blinkered view that the question is irrelevant, as it can be one of the most important questions you can answer.

What is the weakness question?

The weakness question, like “what are your strengths?” is an awareness-based question. If you can identify where your abilities are strong, equally you should be able to identify where they are not an awareness-based question.

Why do interviewers ask it?

Admittedly, there are interviewers that do ask the question just because they see it as a standard interview question.

However, the more astute interviewers ask it because they want to see how someone handles/answers being challenged on a weakness. They are not so much interested in the actual weakness itself but whether the individual is aware of their weakness and what they do/have done about it.

If you are aware of your weaknesses, what are you doing about improving it?

How someone answers this allows the interviewer to assess how the individual will handle criticism/feedback in the role. Those that have identified their weakness and don’t do anything to improve it or make excuses for it demonstrate a different mentality to those that have actively sought to improve their weakness.

Think about it another way

I have assisted hundreds of candidates over the years in preparing for interviews, and once we get to the weakness question circa 90% are unsure as to what they should say. Where they have had an answer almost immediately to all the other questions we have covered, they suddenly start to second guess what they should say.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve changed the way I ask the question from using the word weakness to asking if they have any areas or attributes they could improve.

It seems that people don’t like the word weakness and feel it is a personal attack on them. I noticed a significant difference when I changed the way I asked the question.

If we rank our strengths out of 10, you may rate them at 7, 8 or 9. So if we rank the areas that we need to improve, they may be anywhere from 1-6.

A weakness/area of improvement is never completely solved, all we can do is improve it and it is this that a potential new employer is looking for.

How to answer the question

Choose a weakness where you can demonstrate an improvement.

  • Explain what your weakness is.
  • Explain the negative effect it has.
  • Explain what you have done to improve it.
  • Explain how it has improved.

Tips

  • As with all potential interviews tips, be prepared.
  • Avoid a weakness that is a requirement for the role.
  • Avoid the stereotypical answers i.e. turn a weakness into a strength.
  • Avoid funny answers, i.e. Chocolate is your weakness.

I have never known for someone to be offered a job based on their answer to the weakness question. However, I have had a few experiences of instances where the way someone has responded to the question has cost them the opportunity.

My views are based on my 14 years+ of recruiting for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals.

For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.

 

 

Don’t judge a book by its cover – are you letting a Job Title hold back your career?

How many times have you heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?

As a recruiter, it’s my role to speak with individuals to understand their requirements and learn about their career aspirations. When discussing what they are looking for, one of the most common requirements specified is that of the ‘job title’.

Many people can work their whole career just to attain a certain job title. Many can feel that a certain job title is holding them back and is either ruining their chance for future progression or is offering an unfair indication of what they actually do within their role.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. It has been my experience that too many job seekers focus too much on a job title.

For example, someone recently got “promoted”. They received new responsibilities and a pay rise. However, they were not given a new job title. This individual feels that they deserve a new title for their new responsibilities – but does it truly matter?

Job titles can seem like a very big deal, but for the majority of the time, they do not actually mean a great deal. Sure, they can make someone feel important but for the majority of examples, a job title merely allows for a sense of hierarchy in a certain organisation.

I have worked on behalf of countless clients and businesses over my 12+ years in recruitment and if I were to look at the same job title across varying sectors and businesses each correlating job title will have a whole different set of job descriptions to the next.

One thing to take into consideration is that not only does a job title keep employees happy at times, but they can also have a positive impact on clients. For example, let’s say you are negotiating a deal for a new supplier. You ask three different companies for a quote. One company sends in a Sales Representative, the other sends in a Sales Executive, and the final one sends in their Area Sales Manager. On paper, all three of these people have exactly the same salary and same job role.

Just based on their title, which of these people would you assume would be more superior?

In reality, it could be the Sales Representative who has 3 more years experience than the others, has greater knowledge of the products and has the autonomy to make a decision regarding discounts.

I believe that a job title should never hold you back, nor should you focus solely on them.

If you are looking to progress your career either within your current employer or by exploring external opportunities, I advise you to never allow a job title to limit you on what you set out to achieve. If your responsibilities have the potential to help your company to grow and for you to develop your experience, then you should do it – never mind what your job title states.

I have also known people to hit their desired job title and then stagnate as they stopped pushing themselves to keep developing their experience as they felt their job title described what they are. Securing a promotion or finding a new job in a higher role is a great achievement, but that does not mean you should rest on your laurels if you have grander aspirations. Regardless of your job title, you should always assess whether what you do on a day to day basis is providing you with professional development.

As mentioned earlier; many individuals believe that job titles are easily transferrable and yet they are not. The roles of a general manager in one sector can be completely different from that of a general manager in a different one.

Another example is based on what we deal with a lot at Levitate Recruitment; the insolvency sector. There is not a uniform title across the sector that you can hang your hat on; an Insolvency Administrator in one company could have 12 months experience, whereas in other firms, Insolvency Administrators could have 4 years experience, and in another 7 years experience – and yet all hold that exact same job title.

Using the same example; an Insolvency Administrator with 2 years of experience dealing with corporate insolvency cases in one company could also be called an Insolvency Associate, Insolvency Executive, Restructuring Analyst or Insolvency Case Manager in others.

The big problem that occurs here is that a job title deemed as ‘inferior’ could actually be a step up. So never allow a job title from putting you off applying for a certain role. That ‘inferior’ job title could quite possibly be the step up in your career ladder that you have been looking for! The role may give you access to more complex clients, larger clients or a more in-depth role in client assignments.

So, going back to my initial statement.

When it comes to job titles, don’t judge a book by its cover. Do not over-rely on job titles and allow them to hold you back in the quest for a new role, a new career, and a new challenge. What should be important to you is the job role that you will have to work on a day to day basis – and perhaps the salary if you are this way inclined. A job title is just that; a title, and at the end of the day only separates a certain company’s hierarchy and in no way defines what you are, who you are, and how you do it.

I’m not saying that Job Titles hold no value at all, just that there is much more to a new career opportunity than what it states on your business card.

Dig deeper than just the job title and you could find yourself achieving quicker and better career development than you ever hoped for.

My opinion on Job Titles is based on my 12 years+ of recruiting for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals. Job titles may have greater importance within other industries.

 For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.

 

 

Relocating from the UK to the Channel Islands – This is one audit professional’s experience

Making any career move is an important decision, one that is only intensified by the possibility of relocation.

We have reached out to a number of individuals we have assisted over the years who have successfully made a career move overseas.

We spoke to Andrew who we assisted make a move from a mid-tier practice in the UK to join a Big 4 Practice in the Channel Islands.

Nationality: British

Location from and to: UK to the Channel Islands

Experience background: Audit Supervisor with a mid-tier practice in London. ACA Qualified.

Role secured: Audit Senior with a Big 4 practice focussing on financial services clients.


  • Why did you first consider making a move overseas? To expand on my professional experience, and gain exposure to overseas work and gain experience in the Financial Services Industry.
  • What locations were you interested in and why? Initially Australia and the Caribbean, but decided on the Channel Islands given the Covid Restrictions that were started to come into force around the world at the time I was looking to move jobs.
  • What were your personal circumstances at the time of the move – single/married/homeowner? Single person, non-homeowner.
  • How did you find out about opportunities and start to apply for roles? I heard of the opportunities in the Channel Islands from Scott Lowes from Levitate Recruitment, and a former colleague who used to work at a top 10 firm in Jersey.
  • What useful information was provided to you by the recruiter? Yes, I was given a good insight into the types of roles available in the Channel Islands and the recruitment process.
  • How did the Interview process work? There were two interviews, the first one was over the telephone with someone from the HR Department. The second interview happened a few days later, being an online video call with a Manager and Senior Manager from the Audit Department. I received my offer a day after my second interview.
  • How long did it take to secure a Visa or work permit and what was required from you? The work visa took several weeks I believe to get sorted out. I believe I was only required to show a copy of my passport for this being a UK Citizen. I also had to undertake a vetting process which is conducted by a third party, who conduct reference checks and checks over qualifications etc. This took about 4-5 weeks.
  • Please can you walk us through your first 3 months in the new location/job and how you managed to settle into your new life? When I first arrived I had to spend about a week quarantining in a hotel that was paid for by the company, due to Guernsey’s Covid restrictions in place at the time. Part-way through this, I was able to start my work where I did compliance training and other admin. Once I was able to go to the office I was shown around and introduced to the majority of people who were present. For the first three months there was a lot of learning of the systems and processes in place at KPMG, but there were plenty of people on hand to offer assistance when needed. Guernsey is a rather small place, and so it was relatively easy getting to know the local area. The people at work were great at recommending were the main things nearby were, shops, gym, restaurants etc. There are usually a few people heading out to town on Fridays, which is often a good opportunity to get to know people and the local area when you’re relatively new to the island. I was able to go out a few times when I first joined, and also took part in several activities organised by work in the first few weeks of me joining, which allowed me to get to know more people faster.
  • How do you feel it benefitted your personal development? The move has allowed me to gain exposure to new country, at a time when worldwide travel became severely limited.
  • How do you feel an international move benefitted you professionally? The move has given me a great exposure into the world of Financial Services, where I previously didn’t have any experience in. Working in a top 4 firm has meant that I often have to work with teams in different parts of the world, and work in much larger teams. This has been one of the biggest changes from my previous role and has greatly improved my teamwork and leadership skills.
  • How long was the process from you speaking with your consultant to you actually making the move? I initially touched base with my consultant about a year before I actually made the move. However, the initial discussions were about what potential options there were for as I had recently qualified, at that stage I wasn’t 100% sure whether I wanted to move overseas. From the point of focussing purely on discussing roles in the Channel Islands, to me moving over there, it was about 3-4 months.
  • What value do you think working with a recruiter had in securing an opportunity overseas? Enabling me to gain a greater insight into the opportunities over there, and the recruitment process. Working with a recruiter also gave greater access to contacts of those working in the HR Departments of the firms in the Channel Islands.
  • What was the hardest part of making an international move? Deciding whether leaving the firm that I trained with was the right move, as I really enjoyed working where I was previously.
  • What advice would you offer someone thinking of making a move overseas? Do as much research as you can on the places you’re thinking of moving to, in order to determine as much as possible whether you think you’ll be happy living there. Research on the firms who work in those areas and the type of work that you’ll be doing.

There is currently a soaring global demand for qualified accountants and insolvency professionals. With our extensive network of relationships with large international accounting firms and insolvency specialists, Levitate Recruitment are well-versed in placing talented professionals in overseas roles.

If you are interested in making your career a journey and are considering a move overseas, do not hesitate to contact us.

There is currently a soaring global demand for qualified accountants and insolvency professionals. With our extensive network of relationships with large international accounting firms and insolvency specialists, Levitate Recruitment are well-versed in placing talented professionals in overseas roles.

 

Relocating from the UK to Australia – This is one Insolvency professional’s experience

Making any career move is an important decision, one that is only intensified by the possibility of relocation.

We have reached out to a number of individuals we have assisted over the years who have successfully made a career move overseas.

We spoke to Karlien who we assisted make a move from a Big 4 practice in the UK to join an Insolvency specialist in Perth, Australia.

Nationality:  Originally from South Africa but has dual British / South African nationality.

Location to and from: Moved from the UK to Perth, Australia

Experience Background: Senior Insolvency Administrator with a Big 4 practice. No professional qualifications at the time but had 13 years of insolvency experience.

Role secured: Senior Insolvency Administrator with a leading Insolvency Specialist.


  • Why did you first consider making a move overseas? My partner is an Australian and was keen to go back home to Perth.
  • What locations were you interested in and why? Perth as that was where his family and friends were located.
  • What were your personal circumstances at the time of the move – single/married/homeowner? De-facto Relationship, renting.
  • How did you find out about opportunities and start to apply for roles? Through Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment after applying for an advert I saw online.
  • What useful information was provided to you by the recruiter? Scott had excellent knowledge of the Australian market and knew of the local firms in Perth that would be suitable. He had several contacts so was able to assist my needs and secure an interview at a firm that was a good fit.
  • How did the interview process work? I was already in Australia so was able to attend interviews in person.
  • How long did it take to secure a Visa or work permit and what was required from you? I went in on a De-facto partner visa which I had applied for circa 6 months prior to the visa being granted.
  • Please can you walk us through your first 3 months in the new location/job and how you managed to settle into your new life? The biggest hurdle was finding rental accommodation as a very high percentage of people own their own properties.  Fortunately, we were able to stay with friends.  Getting bank account, driving license, Medicare etc. sorted took less than 2 weeks to sort out. The Australians are very laidback easy-going people, however very driven and hard-working. I joined the social club at work, which helped to get to know my colleagues out of the office and make friends.   Taking part in networking events also broadened my social circle as well as joining study groups for when I was doing some exams.
  • How do you feel it benefitted your personal development? Moving from London to Perth was a big adjustment, however a good one. There is more focus on the importance of family life here.  People tend to start early and only work past 5:30 pm if necessary. I’ve learned to slow down a bit and not to rush around everywhere!
  • How do you feel an international move benefitted you professionally? I’ve had to do some Insolvency Law exams and almost had to start again in respect of the different types of Insolvency here compared to the UK. There was a steep learning curve, but it has definitely been beneficial especially with the increase in cross-border insolvency matters.
  • How long was the process from you speaking with Levitate to you actually making the move? I left London in March to go travelling and arrived in Australia in November. In this period, I was in touch with Scott and I had an interview lined up within a couple of weeks of arriving in Perth and secured the job a week after my 2nd
  • What value do you think working with Levitate Recruitment had on you securing an opportunity overseas? Arriving in a new country is stressful enough without having to try and find a job as well. So, I could concentrate on getting accommodation, and improving my surfing skills whilst Scott was doing all the hard work of finding me job opportunities!

Route to Partnership – UK Wide Opportunities

We are currently working with a wide range of UK based accountancy practices that are searching for their directors & partners of the future. Clients have asked us to speak with people at management & director level regarding career opportunities that vary from relationship managers where you are responsible for 100% of the services provided within the client portfolio through to 100% audit focused positions within mixed and specialist sectors.

Whilst we work with the Big 4, Top 10 and Top 20 accountancy practices, we are finding that the strong regional firms can offer a more flexible approach to career development and still provide a portfolio consisting of large International clients and strong SMEs. Working for firms of this size provides a more mixed portfolio where you can develop your skills across different specialisms and become more of an all-round business advisor.

Currently, we have roles available across the following locations:

  • Greater London
  • Home Counties
  • South Coast
  • South West
  • Midlands
  • North West
  • Yorkshire

As the market is extremely ‘job rich’ at the moment, it offers professionals a great opportunity to make moves that are not just financially more rewarding but also more aligned to the type of work they want to do. Firms are also providing more flexibility to ensure people are realising a better work/life balance.

Why work with Levitate Recruitment?

As a specialist in this market, we are not just here to drop you into a live position or call you every time a role pops up based on a clients requirements. We are experienced in building an understanding of professional accountants’ career goals and will create a success assured project that will assist you in making that next step forward based on your career desires.

If you are currently considering your options or you are generally just looking for some market knowledge then we would love to hear from you. Even if now is not the right time we can offer experienced and tailored advice that can assist you in working towards your short, medium and long term goals.

Now really is a great time to be speaking with people and even if you decide not to make a move, an exploratory conversation is always a step forward.

Please contact Scott Lowes at the Levitate Recruitment offices or email me so that we can arrange an appropriate time to meet up for a coffee or speak on the telephone.

 

Thinking of relocating?

We are often contacted by professional’s keen to relocate to another part of the UK who need to secure the right job first. They are unsure of the options in their chosen locations so are looking for some advice on the firms and opportunities.

Major cities tend to be the popular locations such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol. However, we do get requests for smaller towns all across the UK.

The large Accountancy Practices typically have offices in or close to all the major cities and towns. We are a preferred supplier for these firms and are well placed to inform you of potential opportunities in your desired location.

As a specialist, as well as the larger practices we are also aware of the local accountancy practices in the different areas of the UK that you may not have heard of. We are able to give you some background information on these practices and advise you why they would be a suitable option for you based on your career aspirations.

We have assisted a significant number of Insolvency and Accountancy Practice professionals to find a new job prior to them relocating. Their reasons for relocating included; to be closer to family and friends, moving to a bigger town/city or smaller town life, moving back ‘home’ or just for a change.

Whatever your motivation for relocating and regardless of where in the UK you are thinking, get in contact with us to understand your potential options.

For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.

 

How to handle a telephone interview

Telephone interviews have always been a big part of the recruitment process for those looking to make an international move, however, we have seen an increase in the number of our clients in the UK requesting an initial telephone interview with prospective employees.  In a competitive market, they see them as an opportunity to speed up the recruitment process. It is often quicker and easier to arrange a telephone call than it is to align diaries to meet face to face.

As well as fast-tracking the recruitment process it also allows the employer the opportunity to assess an individual’s viability for their opportunity before committing to a face to face interview. They are an easy way for companies to cut down the number of applicants.

The questions are usually more general than in a face to face interview and will be a chance for you to really sell yourself. The key is to treat a telephone interview just like any other interview. Below are some suggestions to help you make the most of the opportunity.

Prepare!

One of the biggest advantages of a telephone interview is that you don’t have to be seen. This is particularly useful if you’re nervous because there won’t be any issues with body language.

It also means you can have notes prepared to give you a quick reference point. Write down a list of your skills and the answers to any potential questions you might be asked. However, be careful not to sound like you are reading or shuffling papers around.

Practice your telephone manner

We all speak on the phone quite a lot, whether this is in a professional setting or not. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have a good telephone manner. If you have concerns about the way you conduct yourself on the phone, practice with a friend in advance so you can nail the professional phone voice. Alternatively, record yourself speaking and listen for any issues of clarity or pronunciation.

Where you sit for the interview can make a massive difference. It can be tempting to slouch on the sofa, but this has an effect on your breathing, which in turn affects your speech. Sit at a table or desk with your back straight, and speak with a calm, clear voice. If you think you have issues with your pace, speak slower than you think is acceptable. It’s all too common to speed up when you’re nervous.

A tip I was given a long time ago was to smile whilst talking on the phone to clients and candidates. When you smile whilst talking your voice can sound warmer and friendlier.

Be professional

As much in the same way as dressing appropriately for a face to face interview you should ensure that you are all set up and ready for the incoming call.

This might only be the first stage, but showing your professionalism now is a good way to stand out from the crowd. It almost goes without saying, but make sure there are no distracting noises (TV, pets etc) in the background, and that you have a good signal on your phone.

In conclusion

Listen carefully to their questions, and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat something if you missed it. Make sure you don’t become too casual while talking and keep your answers short and sweet. It can be all too easy to forget who you’re talking to during a telephone interview. If appropriate, take notes during the call so you can be ready to ask any questions at the end.

At Levitate Recruitment, we think every stage is important, and so we’ve provided these tips to help you excel. As always, research the company and be prepared with any information that might be relevant. It’s always better to have too much than too little.

My opinion is based on my 14 years+ of recruiting for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals across the UK and Overseas.

For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.

 

 

Tips on handing in your notice

Handing in your notice can be both a great and awful experience. Whether you’re moving on to your dream job or you’ve just had enough of your current role, it can be easy to use your notice period as a time to not adhere to rules and to tell them what you really think. However, it’s always best to remain professional.

Here are a few tips to help you when handing in your notice.

Write a resignation letter

A resignation letter is one of the few documents you should still deliver by hand, rather than email, and this is for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s always best to make sure it’s been received, and it gives you a chance to discuss things further with your boss.

There’s no need to go into too much detail in a resignation letter. In fact, you need little more than to notify them that you intend to leave the business state your notice period.

It’s not necessary to state why you’re leaving, but feel free to include this information if you wish – just keep it professional.

It’s always worth including a thank you for the opportunities they’ve given you, even if you didn’t enjoy the job. After all, you might need a reference from them in the future.

Choose the right time

Picking the right time to hand in your notice makes all the difference to the reaction. Try to avoid busy or stressful periods, as you don’t want an over negative reaction to your news. Try to pick a quiet time of the week that will give you plenty of chance to discuss the matter in detail. The more respectful you are in dealing with the situation, the better the reaction is likely to be.

Prepare what you’re going to say

Knowing what to say when resigning can be difficult, especially if you have a good relationship with your employer. It’s worth practicing in advance or writing down the main points you wish to discuss. Whatever you choose to say, keep your emotions in check and remain professional. If your boss chooses to take your resignation badly, the worst thing you can do is rise to it.

If your reasons for leaving the company are negative, then choose your words very carefully. It’s not unreasonable for a boss to react badly to negative feedback about their company or management style. Consider phrases such as “the role just isn’t for me” or “I think it’s time I explored opportunities elsewhere.” If they ask for more information don’t feel obligated to give it. After all, you’re the one in control of this situation.

Be aware

This is often the time when your employer will tell you that they can resolve all your concerns, increase your salary or offer you the ‘world’ so you will stay.

Remember, you are handing your notice in as you have already gone through the decision-making process to find a new job. You have met with new companies and established that you can advance your career elsewhere.

Don’t let your employer’s reactive response to you leaving stop you from progressing your career. We have seen it time and time again, that those who decide to stay based on promises made when handing their notice in are typically looking to leave again within 6 months.

The main thing to remember when handing in your notice is always to remain professional. It’s much better to leave a job with your head held high than to voice your true feelings. Leaving a good last impression makes all the difference and will work in your favour in the long run.

For advice about your career options, contact Levitate Recruitment. We are specialists in assisting practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals secure new opportunities across the UK and Overseas.

 


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