Our last #offeraccepted profile of the week (but possibly not the series, watch this space…) comes from Dan Williams who recently accepted a job in the Birmingham Audit team. As a result of increased workload and Dan’s availability, Dan joined the team not long afterwards and has been working on audits and learning on the job for the past month.
As with the other #offeraccepted blogs, Dan talks us through his application and thought processes on joining the firm.
What was your approach when searching for jobs?
I consciously cherry-picked firms that I bought into for whatever reason, whether it was the culture, the approach to audit or the profile of clientele. And I found myself getting further and further into each recruitment process doing things this way as opposed to just applying to any firm that was advertising for a graduate role.
My advice is don’t just scour job-sites then apply for anything that seems to be along the right lines of what you’re looking for. It’s tough to, but try to be selective: get a feel for each company and what they’re offering. Then, I found, you’ll start to make some headway into getting the job that’s right for you.
Did you consider taking any time out (e.g. a gap year) and why?
I didn’t, actually. Most people weigh up the pros and cons of different paths, and I decided to jump straight into work in a finance department with an SME. Trading the sun-drenched beaches of Thailand for an extra year in an office isn’t for everyone, but, for me, garnering that solid work experience was invaluable.
Don’t worry about feeling like a gap year or time out shows a lack of direction though. It’s much better to take your time than to fly into a something that you’re not sure you want to do because you’ll be doing it for years to come.
Why did you apply to Grant Thornton?
When I applied, audit had the potential to be blown wide-open by the competition commission’s study of the audit market, and Grant Thornton was the firm that looked to be at the forefront of this injection of competition in the market..
I’d like to think I’ve already been proven right: FTSE 350 company Interserve have recently appointed Grant Thornton as their auditor – a role previously occupied by a member of the ‘Big Four’.
I also wanted to cut my teeth in the best place possible. From my research I knew that Grant Thornton was the Global Accountancy Firm of the Year for 2013 and I knew that it had higher ACA pass rates than any other firm in the UK. The quality of on-the-job training at Grant Thornton just seemed to carry more clout than it did anywhere else.
Who else did you apply to and why?
I applied to a few national firms – Mazars, KPMG, BDO and Baker Tilly – and a couple of regional ones – Bloomer Heaven and Clement Keys. I really wanted to get a feel across the board for what kind of environment would suit me, whether it was Big Four, mid-tier or regional.
I also applied to graduate schemes Marston’s PLC and Mitchells & Butlers. This comes back to what I said about really spending some time thinking about where you’d like to work – I didn’t know whether I’d prefer pursuing a finance-based career in industry or with a firm, and I love my beer so this just felt like a natural step! I was always looking for one detail, no matter how small, that made a company appealing to me.
What was your experience of our application process compared to others?
I’ve been lucky enough to go through some incredibly personable application processes, and that’s exactly what I wanted: feeling like my application is really wanted alleviated a lot of the usual pressure.
What I would say about the process for applying to Grant Thornton is that I really felt like it was as much about them proving that they were the right fit for me as it was the other way around. This was the only process where I got to meet a whole range of characters, from upcoming graduates like myself to managers and partners. They all gave their own unique perspective of what it was like to work at the firm minus any jargon – they all told me what everyday life would be like straight down the line, and that built up some trust from the word ‘go’.
Why did you accept a job at Grant Thornton?
There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wanted to work at Grant Thornton, but the reason for that is a bit of an odd one.
I actually originally applied for a place in Birmingham’s Audit team, made it to the assessment centre stage and was then told that all the audit vacancies had filled up at this office. The recruitment team were very understanding of my situation. They let me apply for a Corporate Tax role instead – of course, having to research a wholly different service line from scratch wasn’t ideal just a few days before an assessment centre, but life doesn’t always go according to plan (and I really wanted to work for Grant Thornton)!
At the assessment centre, the other two candidates in on my group task were going for the Summer internship in audit so although I didn’t get to interview with either of the present audit partners, I had the pleasure of meeting them both there and then.
A few days later I got a call from HR saying that I hadn’t got into the tax role, but (on a brighter note) both the tax partner I had been interviewed by as well as the two audit partners thought I’d be an ideal fit for audit anyway! Everyone involved went the extra mile to fit me into the department that I had originally applied to work in and that, for me, was when I knew I didn’t want to work anywhere else.
Any tips for next year’s applicants?
Research – but don’t overdo it. This doesn’t have to be a heavy slog approach that soaks up your free-time; just research for an hour or two each day for a couple of weeks.
From experience, the worst thing you can do is reel off everything you know as quickly as possible, so don’t revise notes. If you just scan the Grant Thornton sites each day, you’ll be surprised how quickly you become confident talking about the organisation – and believe me: if you feel confident talking about the organisation, that will come across at interview.
What do you wish you knew about Grant Thornton before you applied?
Just how much time will be invested into your personal development if you invest time into the application process. I have a whole orientation pathway set out for me so I can get to where I want to be, but it’s completely up to me where my path diverts away from everyone else’s. If I want certain opportunities and I work hard enough, I know I’ll be given them.
Oh, and how swish the Birmingham office is. You get pretty much a full panoramic of the city and there’s also a few great pubs just around the corner to hit after work. Perks of the job, I suppose.
If there’s anything more you’d like to find out, whether it’s about the firm, the Birmingham office or the graduate role, you’re more than welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And good luck with your application!