How to land your first finance role

These are tough times for graduates hoping to get hired in the finance sector, but don’t despair – there are jobs available. The secret to landing your first job in finance is knowing who is recruiting, in which sectors, and what employers are looking for.

Recruiters agree that this is one of the toughest years on record for getting a first job in finance, so it is important to focus on which sectors are still hiring.

Who is hiring?

At Yorkshire-based recruiter Pratap Partnership, director Karen Caswell says employers in construction, manufacturing, and logistics are hiring, and more employers are embracing candidates with AAT qualifications as well as relevant degrees.

Karen points out that some employers have used Covid-19 and the competition for jobs it has generated to reduce starting salaries slightly, although the job titles and the roles, such as finance and accounts assistant, have not changed.

The types of roles currently available

In recent weeks Octopus Energy was hiring an accounts payable assistant for its London finance team. This was a graduate role reporting to the accounts payable manager, involving processing invoices and data entry.

Also in London, computer software company Beamery was hiring a junior accountant to reconcile bank accounts, manage accounts payable/receivable, prepare VAT returns and work on UK and US payroll. If you had experience with accounting software and Excel, that would have increased your chances of getting the job.

Big four consultancy PwC was hiring a graduate for its specialist digital audit team to provide the link between finance and IT, while the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) was advertising for a graduate trainee accountant based in Corby to support the financial control department. The successful applicant would have had a 2:1 degree and needed to demonstrate they are proactive, self-motivated and have good management skills.

Elsewhere, homeware retailer Dunelm was hiring for its finance graduate programme to discover future finance leaders for its business. Successful applicants would work within the group and commercial finance teams and gain experience in financial accounts, management information, group tax, and treasury, as well as accounts payable/receivable.

Tips to stand out to employers

Pratap Partnership works closely with Sheffield Hallam University, and Karen says one graduate job in construction requiring a 2:1 or a first recently attracted around 150 applicants.

“The people who stood out for the employer had completed a placement year. Some workplace experience can make a big difference in the current climate,” she says. “We are also seeing more companies looking at AAT qualifications as an alternative to higher education.”

Pratap Partnership partner Nicola Worrow has some valuable advice for anyone looking for that first job in finance:

  • Be bold and go and deliver your CV to local companies.
  • Find out which businesses are moving into the area or expanding.
  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and remember to upload a professional picture.
  • If you get an interview, find out something about the person who will be interviewing you. What university did they go to? Did they do the AAT qualification?

Key takeaways

  • Even in the current climate, there are jobs available in the finance sector.
  • Be aware of what industries are recruiting and what they are looking for in new employees, including what they will expect you to do.
  • Having some work experience can make you stand out to employers.
  • Make sure your CV and LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and professional.

Further reading:

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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