Graduate Update and Mid-Tier Firms

Our graduate recruitment day was a great success as we managed to fill five of our ACA trainee places.  Three started at the beginning of August and two will be joining us in January.  However, there are still spaces available for our January intake, so if you would like to apply for one of these, please visit the SWAT website soon as we’ll be holding our next graduate assessment day around the end of October.  I’m always happy to give advice on applying for our roles, so feel free to contact me beforehand.

So as I mentioned, three of our graduates started with us a month ago.  After the traditional first day welcome, they were off to Kaplan and SWAT to get started on their training.  Kaplan provide training for their exams and SWAT for their office work.  We find that this combination works really well, because it can be difficult to put the Kaplan technical knowledge learnt into context for office work.  I’ve now seen the three of them back in the office prior to taking their first e-assessments which of course I know they will all pass because they were so carefully selected :)

While I think of it, I actually have an apology to make to our newbies… I completely forgot to tell them that Fridays in the office are dress-down days.  They turned up on their first day looking very smart while the rest of us were in jeans.  There’s not much better than waking up on a Friday morning and throwing on a pair of jeans before heading off to the office.  Anyway, I digress!

In this post I thought that I would say a bit about the benefits of training with a mid-tier firm of accountants rather than going down the Big Four route.  At a firm our size, from early on you are entrusted with a variety of real client assignments and responsibilities.  This gives you a much better grounding, not only for your professional exams, but for your future career.  With the Big Four you can get stuck working on the same audit for a year (yawn!), whereas with us, you get to work on a variety of clients as well as meeting a variety of people.  Not only does this increase your technical skills, but your interpersonal skills which means that this also benefits the firm because we end up with qualified Audit Seniors who we know we can trust with our clients.


Excited about our ACA Graduate Assessment Day tomorrow!

We are ready for the big day tomorrow!  There’s always lots to do in preparation for graduate assessment days; select candidates to attend, prepare the paperwork, organise who is doing what and most importantly… arrange breakfast and lunch.

The assessment starts as soon as our candidates walk in the door.  We involve our Receptionists in the process by asking their thoughts on how the candidates introduced themselves and how well they interacted with each other.

The day starts with a presentation about Shipleys and discussing the ACA qualification, so it’s a good opportunity for candidates to ask questions.  We then split the candidates into two groups to work on the case study.

When we observe the candidates we are looking for their ability to facilitate discussion, generate sensible ideas, their communication skills, problem-solving approach, ability to work well in a team, their commercial awareness, ability to cope under pressure and their presentation skills.

After the group task, the candidates have lunch with some of our audit team, ranging from new trainees through to audit seniors.  They can ask the team as many silly questions as they like without worrying that it will form part of our decision.

The audit team do a tour around our office, with the most popular room being our basement which holds a pool table, table tennis, table football, sofas, huge TV and tuck shop.  We are a sociable bunch!

Whilst the candidates are busy with the audit team, the team of observers discuss the candidates’ performance in order to select who will go through to the afternoon interviews.  Once our decision is made, we then have the difficult task of letting the candidates know whether or not they have been successful.

We then spend the afternoon interviewing and aim to make a final decision by the end of the day.  It’s a tiring day, but so incredibly worth it when you can give someone the opportunity to start their career with an excellent firm such as Shipleys (I know – I am biased!).

My biggest bit of advice when you have been rejected, is to always ask for feedback on your performance.  The only way you can improve is to ask and work out how you can make those improvements.

ACAs – what it’s like under our wings

Well, as someone who has been with the firm for 12 years, I’ve seen many graduates arrive and successfully complete their ACA qualification with the firm. Some of them have gone onto become principals of the firm, some into industry, some into other practices… the list goes on. What I do know, is that Shipleys produces excellent chartered accountants (ok, I am biased, but it is true!).

I must admit that I get a bit teary when I hear that one of our trainees has passed their final exams, because there’s nothing better than knowing someone has worked really hard to achieve where they wanted to be, whilst also growing as a person.

It all starts at our graduate assessment day (which I will write about on a separate post… there may be some insider information given!), where the group will be on their best behaviour, albeit slightly nervous.

The first day usually involves more nerves, briefcase in hand, smart suit with a white shirt and stripy tie, or a smart dress and jacket. The tie and jackets come off relatively quickly when they realise that we are pretty relaxed about what people wear in the office.

The audit department are super at looking after their new trainees. It’s the thing that all new employees say to me after their first week – that they can’t believe how friendly everyone is at Shipleys and it is true. There’s a good social scene here and that starts on the first day with welcome drinks in the afternoon.

As the qualification progresses, you can see an increase in confidence. I guess this is down to a combination of passing exams and taking on more responsibility in the office. We also have mentors in place, which means that all trainees have a manager to talk to if they need help with their studies, work or long-term career planning.

Upon qualification, in celebration the partners pay for a very nice lunch for the trainee (who is no longer a trainee of course!) and their mentor. Although we’ve seen hundreds of trainees qualify, we still treat each qualification as if it is our first.