Zoe Galang: Graduate Resourcing Specialist – ​National Audit Office

What are the upcoming applications openings and opportunities that students should be aware of post results week?

Applications for our ACA Graduate Accountancy Training Scheme opens in early September 2023. This is for students that have already graduated and can start work in January 2024, or for students in their final year at university and want to start in September 2024. Applications for our ACA Apprenticeship Accountancy Training Scheme will open in December 2023. This is for students that have decided they don’t want to go to university and want to enter the workforce straight out of school/college.

Could you share some information on the types of opportunities available?

Our highly successful ACA professional training scheme for graduates and apprentices will equip them with the Chartered Accountancy qualification and membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. They will have the opportunity to make a real difference to our huge range of clients and to the nation and its citizens. They will develop the skills to equip them for a fantastic career.

How do students apply for the opportunities and how should they prepare?

Students can apply for our training scheme on our website.

Students should focus on why they want to work for the NAO and why they want to study for the ACA qualification. Each of our recruitment processes explores the competencies that the NAO look for and information on these can be found on our website.

We also look for the following:

  • Commercial Awareness – Research the NAO, what are we currently working on.
  • Communication – This includes verbal, written and listening. 
  • Teamwork – Everything we do at the NAO involves team work.  Think of examples that demonstrate how you’ve worked in a team and taken on responsibility. Also consider how you might have delegated responsibilities to others in the team.
  • Motivation – As we mentioned above. We want to know why you want to work for us and study for the ACA.  We also want to know what motivates you? What are you interested in?
  • Problem Solving – We look for students that can take an analytical and logical approach to solving problems.

What advice would you give students to help them stand out in their applications?

Do your research! Understand what we do and what we offer. Emphasise why you want to work for us. Read the hints and tips we provide so you can prepare and showcase your skills and abilities. If you get to the final assessment centre stage, there will be a group exercise – contribute, collaborate, invite quieter group members to contribute, ask opinions and build upon other suggestions.

What advice would you give to students starting out on their early career journey and exploring opportunities?

Don’t spray and pray with your applications. Applying for every opportunity you see will not benefit you. Focus on sectors you are interested in, and opportunities that align with your interests.

Join LinkedIn and start following companies you are interested in and connect with people that work there.

What is your number one tip for a young person when preparing for an assessment centre/interview?

You’ve reached the assessment centre which is an amazing achievement given the number of applications that organisations receive. But don’t rest on your laurels and think you can do the bare minimum. This is your chance to really show the organisation your skills and abilities and your motivation and commitment.

What advice would you give to a young person to overcome nerves on the day of an assessment centre/interview?

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous. Take a deep breath and take each exercise as it comes. Once you’ve finished an exercise, move on and concentrate on the next one. Don’t dwell and start thinking about what you could have done differently. If in doubt, ask questions. The facilitator is there to help and support you throughout the assessment.

What differentiates a strong candidate from their peers?

Someone that can demonstrate their skills and abilities as well as talk about their achievements. Someone that can show initiative and leadership. We also want to see passion and enthusiasm and someone that is committed to continuing professional development.

What is your top tip for a group assessment?

Work together as a team. Bring in quieter members of the group. Ask opinions of others and don’t dominate the conversation.

What are the different entry routes students could take to get into a career in accountancy?

Most students think that they have to go to university to get into an accountancy career, but that is not the case anymore. There are many apprenticeships out there that offer the same route to an accountancy qualification. Earn while you learn!

What advice would you give students who are unsure of the entry pathway that is best for them? E.g. whether they want to take an apprenticeship or go to university

Make full use of resources out there to help you with your decision making.  Go to career fairs, attend presentations, reach out to people on LinkedIn.  University is not the right path for everyone, so apprenticeships are a wonderful alternative.

What kind of support/mentoring do companies typically offer to students completing their exams depending on which early careers programme they are on?

Our trainees have an amazing support network. They have performance coaches that oversee their day-to-day work and development. Our Professional Training Team are there to support our trainees with college, study leave and exams. Our Learning and Development Team are involved in internal training that is designed to support the professional training the trainees undertake.

A student success story – Francesca, Audit Associate

What made you apply to the National Audit Office?

“I really enjoy applied maths, so when I was looking for a job, I knew that the finance sector would be the right place for me.  But the constant nagging in the back of my head was that I wanted my work to have a bit of an impact and to help other people.  The National Audit Office holds the government accountable for their spending and so therefore is working for the public to scrutinise our government.  This sounded like the perfect mix of maths and helping others and so I applied there almost immediately.”

Francesca, Audit Associate