We spoke to a range of employers at our Accounting, Finance and Economics event on 21st February to find out what skills and experiences they look for in a graduate and to get some top tips for getting a career in this industry.

What skills and experience do you look for in a graduate who is looking to work in Accounting, Finance or Economics?

Marks and Spencer – “For our graduate roles, we expect students to have some entry level experience. Knowledge in Excel and all the other Microsoft packages is essential. We also look for individuals who know how to use formulas, understand calculations and are able to manage a high volume of data. In addition to that, having a knowledge of commercial and brand awareness is definitely a bonus. We want to see that you are passionate about our brand.”

Sage UK- “Students should demonstrate their enthusiasm for the role and their willingness to learn. It’s really important to give some strong examples of when you have worked in a team.”

CIPFA – “Good numeracy and decision making skills is essential. The accounting industry is challenging so if you can gain experience in Audit or Taxation by volunteering or on a short placement then this would really help you to stand out. Also, make sure you research the company and show that you are interested in this area through your extracurricular activities and interests.”

People and Business Independent Financial Advisers – “We look for candidates who are confident and can demonstrate good communication skills. We offer part-time internships for students so that they can develop their skills whilst they finish their final year. Although we provide all necessary training, students should be able to demonstrate their transferrable skills from previous employment.”

Browns Shipley – “We want innovative students who have lots of ideas and can help to implement these in the workplace. Our candidates should demonstrate their willingness to contribute to the development of our business.”

McGarvey Jones Financial Planning Ltd – “We mainly look for students with advisory experience but, failing this, we welcome students with no experience if they are able to demonstrate their enthusiasm in working for us. We will teach graduates in all aspects of finance in our business.”

What can students do to prepare themselves for a career in Accounting, Finance and Economics?

Marks and Spencer – “Learn as much as possible whilst you are at university. Try to gain practical experience in an office environment through volunteering or part-time work and show that you are proficient in all Microsoft Office packages.”

Sage UK – “Students should try to meet accountants at networking events to gain an insight into the industry. Placements are a great way to gain experience in a real working environment. Students thinking about joining us need to be aware of the importance of customer service so they should demonstrate the ability to interact with customers effectively in their application and at interview.”

CIPFA – “Volunteering in a similar industry would definitely help. Try to work part-time, preferably for a large amount of time, as that will show that you are disciplined and will have an understanding about the world of work. Being professional is a very important skill for us so try to evidence this in your application.”

People and Business Independent Financial Advisers – “We always advise students to take on a sandwich course if possible as this will help you to develop your skills.”

Browns Shipley – “Invest in gaining work experience over the summer and make sure that you evidence your transferable skills such as communications and corporate social responsibility in your application and on your CV.”

McGarvey Jones Financial Planning Ltd – “Try to gain work experience, either paid or on a voluntary basis, to enhance your skillset to evidence in your application.”

Any top tips for finding work experience.

Marks and Spencer – “Timing is very important when it comes to finding work experience. Being at the right place at the right time sometimes is the key into gaining work experience; also remember to be persistent in your search. If one company says no, there are always lots more out there to contact.

Sage UK – “Remember to be resilient whilst searching for work experience. Sometimes being daring on social media pays off, get in touch via LinkedIn and Twitter and show your interest.”

CIPFA – “Network on LinkedIn, register on specific accounting and job search sites and always keep your CV up-to-date.”

People and Business Independent Financial Advisers – “Prepare by researching the different types of roles that you could go into and research the company before the interview to show your interest and demonstrate your passion in working for them.”

Browns Shipley – “When searching for work experience, try smaller companies first. Even if you are offered an administration role, take it! You never know, you might be able to shadow other areas of the business to gain experience.”

McGarvey Jones Financial Planning Ltd – “When e-mailing out to ask for work experience, make sure you’ve asked someone else to check it first. Personalise the e-mail to each employer you contact. Don’t just tell us that you want a job, tell us about your goals and skills too.”

Find out more about these employers below:

Marks and Spencer – careers.marksandspencer.com

Our Business Service Centre (BSC) in Manchester is where our financial experts make sure our accounts remain in great shape. As part of the Finance Group, it’s the job of the BSC to support us on all our transactional activities, such as paying for the products and services that enable us to trade on a day-to-day basis.

Sage UK – sage.co.uk

Sage is the market leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems, supporting the ambition of the world’s entrepreneurs. Like many of the businesses we serve, Sage began as a small business and has grown beyond what seemed imaginable.

CIPFA – cipfa.org/tv

CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. Our 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed.

 People and Business independent Financial Advisers – pandbifa.co.uk

Boutique, independent advisory firm providing a full range of services to private and corporate clients. Based in Knowsley, Merseyside. Passionate about providing clients with financial peace of mind.

Browns Shipley – brownshipley.com

We are a UK authorised private bank with a strong balance sheet and favourable capital adequacy ratios. The bank’s business has and continues to be operated in a measured and conservative manner. An essential strategy in today’s volatile and challenging markets.

McGarvey Jones Financial Planning Ltd – mcgarveyjones.co.uk

McGarvey Jones Financial Planning is a Partner Practice of St. James’s Place Wealth Management, a FTSE 100 company, which means that our clients are able to benefit from in depth professional expertise.

How can your Careers and Employability Service help you to prepare?