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Now I’m qualified, what next?

Passing your ATT or CTA exams is a major step in your tax career and will increase your bargaining power in the jobs market. However, as more qualified candidates compete for available jobs, the onus is on the individual to maximise opportunities and boost their employability. Ed Colt, National Director of Hays Taxation, the leading recruiting expert offers insight into the current job market, looks at what skills are in demand and offers advice on how professionals can best market themselves.    

Where are the jobs?
There are a vast number of opportunities across the UK for newly qualified tax professionals in all disciplines at the moment and across a variety of sectors including oil, gas and mining. Employers are also looking for individuals with specialist tax related skills due to changes to legislation and the need to recruit specialist skills from abroad, such as professionals with experience in expatriate tax, transfer pricing and VAT.

Those with a background in corporate tax are likely to either already be working for a job in-house or in a Practice. If you are looking to make this move you may find yourself at an advantage if you also have a more general accounting qualification, such as the ACA, because these organisations like individuals to have a broader understanding of accountancy and the business. Whilst a general accounting qualification, like the ACA, may help you stand out from the competition when going for roles in-house or in a Practice there are lots of other tax jobs where you don’t need this.

If you qualify with personal tax experience there are increasing opportunities as confidence increases among many small organisations, but these jobs tend to be in London and the South East at the moment where business has picked up and employers can afford to commit to recruiting additional heads to their team. However, we hope to see this confidence increase in smaller organisations across other parts of the UK next year and in turn the need for extra headcount increase.

Thinking about your next move
When considering your next move it’s important to think about your long-term career aspirations and doing this will help you make sure you map out a path and that each step in your career helps you get where you want to be.

If you are out of work and deciding on what area you want to specialise in and where you want to work you might be considering trying to get some temporary work.  This job market suffered in the same way as permanent recruitment but the lifting of restrictions on headcount has driven the demand for both permanent and temporary staff. However, we are still finding that organisations prefer to wait until they identify a candidate that has exactly the right skills and experience so making sure you show employers you have what it is they are looking for is a must.

What skills are employers looking for?
In addition to qualifications and job experience, employers are also looking for applicants to demonstrate soft skills, such good communication skills, and this is becoming important across all organisations, regardless of sector. As professionals are required to liaise with other functions across the business there is a real need to present points in articulate manner in a way non-tax professionals can understand. It will help to have examples to show you are a natural at building relationships with key stakeholders and have good commercial acumen.

Many employers are starting to give a great deal of consideration to whether the candidate will fit within their organisation now and in the future, so it is important to think about your career aspirations and how they fit in with the organisation.

How to market yourself?
Employers will expect professionals to be updating their skills as a matter of course so it is important to demonstrate continuing professional development, showing industry knowledge and keeping up-to-date with changes to legislation. Often a candidates first introduction to a potential employer will be via a CV/application form and possibly covering letter, therefore it is important to include relevant experience and link this to all of the competency requirements, as highlighted in the job description and person specification. It is also important to highlight key skills and specific projects, focusing on areas where you are able to show you really added value to the business.

The power of research cannot be underestimated. Many companies have dedicated career portals, complete with online audio and video multimedia describing the work environment and company ethos. There may also be information on news related websites and professional membership bodies will offer information and trends about specific industries – all of this research will help prepare you for an interview and demonstrate your understanding of the challenges an organisation may face and your passion for the business.
 
Most employers now use the competency-based interview format, which takes past performance as being the best measure of future success. So you must arrive at the interview prepared and ready to discuss situations, tasks, actions and results when answering each question. Making it through to this stage means that you have met all the technical requirements, but employers are looking for differentiators, such as leadership, project management, and understanding of the business, enthusiasm and the right attitude. It is therefore important that you go back to the job specification and are sure that you are able to demonstrate how your skills are aligned to the role you are applying for, using examples to show how you have used the skills and the impact they have had on a business.

It is important to emphasise that the current economic conditions should not prevent you looking for a new challenge – there are opportunities out there. However, employers are looking to hire the very best and are prepared to wait therefore it is essential to make sure you have the skills they require and are able to demonstrate how you match what they are looking for and can really add value to the business.

This article first appeared in Taxation 2

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