How to Get Your First Job in Accounting and Finance

Congratulations, you’re about to graduate with your bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting. Now comes the challenge: landing your first job in the financial industry. The good news is the hiring landscape for entry-level professionals is strong. In fact, CFOs responding to an Accountemps survey said the reason they recruit recent graduates is to harness their fresh ideas and innovative spirit.

To land a top job fresh out of university, you need to stand out from the competition. The following seven tips can help you get your foot in the door.

1. Rock an internship.

Learn by doing with an accounting or finance internship during your final years in university. Most programmes last two to six months, though some go as long as nine months or one year. Some internships even offer a stipend or salary. Graduates who have completed an internship have additional advantages:

·      On-the-job mentors

·      Opportunity to learn commonly used financial software

·      More items to include in the Experience section of your CV

·      Active industry professionals to serve as references

2. Learn in-demand technical skills.

Every company uses different industry software and in-house systems, and employers realise most new graduates won’t be experts with accounting or database management platforms. But entry-level candidates do need proficiency in common applications such as Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. So, if you don’t have a strong grasp on pivot tables or are unsure how to create attractive charts, work on acquiring these skills before graduation.

3. Boost your soft skills.

Jobs in finance and accounting require much more than working with numbers and data. It’s relatively simple to teach people the requisite technical abilities to get the job done, but qualities like adaptability, innovation, teamwork and leadership are more innate. As you write your CV or resume and cover letter, be sure to include your strongest interpersonal skills. Proficiency in more than one language is another non-technical ability many global companies want to see in their workforce.

4. Network with the pros.

It’s often all about who you know. The more finance professionals you’re acquainted with, the better your chances are of hearing about vacancies and receiving requests for interviews. Stay in touch with friends who’ve already graduated, attend meet-and-greet sessions sponsored by the career centre, and during internships, make it a point to get to know mid- and senior-level financial analysts and accounting managers.

5. Spread the word.

Don’t be shy about telling your friends, extended family and social network that you’re on a job hunt. Be vocal about your past internships, upcoming degree, what types of positions you’re looking for and which areas of finance you’re interested in. Consider ordering business cards to have ready to hand out. Be sure to include the URL to your LinkedIn profile so interested parties can easily learn more about your skills and career goals.

6. Get a recruiter on the case.

Specialised staffing agencies work closely with hiring managers at firms of all sizes, and recruiters can help make introductions to employers in your area. These professionals can also give you pointers on writing a strong CV and tips to impress potential employers during interviews. Best of all, this service is free to job seekers, as companies are the ones who pay the agency for each successful hire.

7. Consider temporary work.

Not every employee in an accounting or financial firm is a full-time employee. Some employers like to “try out” a financial analyst or accounts assistant for a few months to see how they perform within the team before extending a permanent job offer. Even if the interim role is project-based or to cover a staff member on leave, temporary work is an excellent way to pick up technical skills, grow your network and bolster your CV.

The job market is hot for new graduates with accounting or finance degrees. Hiring managers are eager to tap your enthusiasm, energy and creativity, even if you don’t have years of experience.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. For career and management advice, follow our blog at