Date posted: 26/09/2019 6 min read

Advice from an HR manager: How to be a strong candidate

We speak to Teresa De Abreu, HR Manager at accounting and advisory services firm HLB Mann Judd Perth, about what employers look for in an ideal candidate and how becoming a CA student representative could help you stand out from the crowd.

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Did you know the average job opening in Australia attracts approximately 19 applications, and only 3 applicants on average are interviewed . While job seeking can be a challenging task, with the right strategy you could catch the attention of potential employers.

Teresa De Abreu, HR Manager at accounting and advisory services firm HLB Mann Judd Perth, has hired hundreds of professionals. Knowing what recruiters look for, she shares with us the key skills employers look for in a candidate and how being a CA student representative could help you develop them.

Employers want soft skills

Accounting is a profession that requires sound technical expertise, so the first thing employers look for in candidates is the relevant knowledge and skills. However, satisfying a prerequisite qualification alone won’t make you stand out. Teresa looks for other, non-technical skills valuable in the profession.

“On paper, many candidates look the same, so I’m more interested in other qualities. Of course, we first look for technical skills, but now more than ever, accountants need to be able to relate to clients, understand their business, ask important questions, and develop relationships. We look for people with these key soft skills,” Teresa says.

Developing excellent communication skills through face-to-face networking is a core component of the CA student rep role. Teresa has worked with multiple CA student reps and believes they not only stand out as candidates but come well-equipped to become highly effective accountants.

“CA student reps stand out because they’re confident and comfortable talking to anyone. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to them, they’re always good communicators because they’ve developed this skill in the representative role,” Teresa says.

“We highly value extracurricular experience, like the CA student rep program, volunteering or work experience. The reality is that every client is different and real-world experience teaches candidates how to deal with a variety of people.”

Why employers should hire CA student representative

Teresa has seen first-hand the value CA student reps can bring to a business, arguing that their non-technical qualities make a big impact. She highlights the continued value that CA student reps can bring to a role through their natural curiosity and commitment to personal growth.

“My experience with staff who were previously CA student reps is that they are fantastic and have proven to be outstanding performers. They can hold their own, don’t take things at face value, show initiative and question everything. It’s a valuable attitude. They want to grow and learn,” Teresa says.

Looking to the future, Teresa is aware that the role of an accountant is changing to become more human-centric and stronger emphasis is being placed on strategic advisory services. In this context, Teresa believes CA student reps can be a great investment for any financial services firm.

“If you’re looking for someone who’s going to come into your firm, and not just be a technical-only accountant, choose a CA student representative,” she says.

"We first look for technical skills, but now more than ever, accountants need to be able to relate to clients, understand their business, ask important questions, and develop relationships."
Teresa De Abreu, HR Manager at HLB Mann Judd Perth

Make a great in-person impression

Teresa understands job interviews can be daunting but says it’s important to remember interviewers want you to do well. If you’ve made it to the interview stage, they already think you are qualified, so the interview is an opportunity for them to get to know the real you. Teresa’s first piece of advice is to be authentic.

“We want candidates to show us who they really are. What are their interests, motivations and passions? I understand preparing standard answers can calm nerves, but sometimes they can be too scripted,” says Teresa.

Teresa’s second tip is to communicate clearly and confidently. Something easier said than done, Teresa admits, but she recommends asking thoughtful questions as a way to present with confidence.

“Those that ask questions stand out more as good communicators because they articulate their thoughts well. If you can show you’ve researched the company that’s always a plus, too,” she says.

Finally, Teresa reminds candidates that from the moment you walk into the building, you’re on show. This includes how you interact with the receptionist and fellow candidates who may be waiting.

“Occasionally we have candidates whose behaviour in the interview room isn’t consistent with when they are outside. I always ask the receptionist what they thought of each candidate,” says Teresa.