Why recruiters value AAT-qualified candidates

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The AAT qualification signals a higher quality of candidate, with technical knowledge and experience.

In a competitive market for talent, the importance of qualifications and experience can’t be underestimated. For that reason, a growing number of recruiters are embracing candidates with AAT qualifications.

AAT develops sound technical skills from the ground up, and helps candidates acquire real-world experience in practice and business as candidates combine learning and working.

Serving as a foundation for further study and experience, AAT gives people at the beginning of their careers an ideal grounding in all aspects of accounting and finance, making them attractive candidates for recruiters looking to fill positions in both business and practice.

Employers like candidates committed to the career

Jamie Caulfield, Regional Director, Sharp Consultancy

Anyone who has committed to and completed their AAT qualification is focused on a career in accounting and finance. It’s a clear signal from that individual that they’re dedicated to growing and developing in accountancy, whether that’s in a firm of accountants or in business like manufacturing, retail or construction.

We find that the AAT gives a fantastic grounding for those that perhaps don’t want to go to university, and allows them to get vocational experience as well as a practical qualification that puts them on an equal footing with their graduate counterparts when they begin studying that further full qualification to be a qualified accountant.

And it’s certainly true that AAT qualified can command a slightly higher salary versus a non-qualified AAT person with the same experience. You would expect that their salary could be between 20-30% higher.

AAT candidates have work experience invaluable to the job

Harriet Busby, Associate Director, Axon Moore

A big part of AAT is learning good technical accounting and bookkeeping knowledge. I have clients who’ve asked technical questions in the interview, going right back to basics and asking about processing debit or credit on an invoice, and quite often candidates get stuck. If they’re not able to demonstrate good technical knowledge, they won’t get the job – but AAT candidates just have much better knowledge in this area.

Beyond nailing the interview, AAT is a great way to get experience. Somebody might do Level 2 in college at age 16, Level 3 at age 17, then come out of college aged 18 with those qualifications and get a job. So by the time they’re 21, they’ve got three years of experience, they’ve probably done the level 4 and have started CIMA or ACCA. Granted, they’ll be behind on some of the graduates who’ve got their own exemptions, but they’ll be miles ahead with three years’ worth of experience, whereas a graduate will have none.

I understand that degrees are a huge commitment as well and they are difficult, but I don’t have a bias towards graduates. In fact, I probably have more of a preference for AAT qualified candidates because there’s a hell of a lot more exams, and it takes a lot more commitment to do while trying to work as well.

AAT qualifieds are ambitious people who want to study

Charlotte Greenwood, Senior Community Manager, Harmonic Finance

We find that AAT qualifieds become experts in transactional and day-to-day finance duties. That’s really important for their long-term career as they will likely manage transactional finance teams in the future. Throughout their AAT, they can build the basic skills they use in their role on a day-to-day basis.

We see this in action a lot. Earlier this year, we were working with a food and beverage start-up in their search for a Finance Assistant. The aim was to find an ambitious and committed individual with some financial knowledge, who was keen to grow and develop with the company. Given the financial parameters and the company’s growth stage, we focused on identifying candidates who possessed fundamental finance and accounting skills and also demonstrated a strong commitment to long-term career development within finance.

The concern with candidates who were advanced in their ACCA or CIMA studies is that they’d qualify in the next two years and want a Financial Controller job title. Due to the growth stage of the company, such a salary increase just wouldn’t be possible. To address these concerns relating to budget and potential future role transitions, we strategically targeted individuals actively pursuing their AAT qualification.

By engaging with such candidates, we managed to secure dedicated individuals who brought a combination of financial acumen and a genuine enthusiasm for self-development. This profile both aligns with the company’s budget issues and also ensures a workforce positioned to develop alongside the company’s growth trajectory.

We also find AAT attracts ambitious people who want to study but who are not at the point where they need to be qualified within the next few years. It also appeals to those looking to make a quicker entry into industry from practice. We find the qualification allows access to talent from a more diverse background, for example opening up the role to school leavers.

Christian Doherty is a business journalist and freelance writer for AAT.

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