Starting Your First Job Search? Here's How to Stand Out

By Robert Half May 15, 2015 at 11:20pm

About to dive into the job hunt and not sure where to begin? There’s some good news you should hear first. Between now and 2020, job openings in accounting should increase — by 16 percent if you ask the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But don’t let statistics like this fool you into thinking that landing that coveted position will be a walk in the park. It takes preparation and planning to snag that ideal job, so take some notes on our tips below and get practicing.   

Stay educated

Taking courses in specialized, marketable areas can set you apart from the rest of the candidate pool. If you’re interested in a career in a certain specialty (like forensics, financial analysis, IT, management accounting, etc.), any industry-specific study you can get will give you additional credibility at the interview. And after you get a few years of work experience, the AICPA offers a variety of programs as well as five credentials & designations (more letters after your name = more clout) to help your resume catch the eye of a hiring manager. 

Learn more about the accounting certifications and training you could get for today's jobs.

Network, network, network 

Learn from colleagues, professors and supervisors, as well as every person you know. These professionals can offer valuable insights that you can apply to your own work. If you’re not sure where to begin, there are a slew of groups to boost your network. Keep in mind that most successful analysts are able to develop strong interpersonal relationships with both superiors and peers.

Read and stay informed

Being aware of what’s happening — locally, nationally and globally — will take you far in life. (Watching an hour of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” or skimming over your Twitter feed a few times a day doesn’t count.) Take time every day to read articles about current events, start to finish. And if you haven’t already, get into the habit of staying on top of financial news from publications like The Wall Street Journal, Journal of Accountancy and The Economist. Reputable financial websites and newsletters are also good sources to help you sound like an intelligent, informed young business person at your next interview. 

Prepare to think critically

Many companies have shifted away from a typical interview to asking more behavioral questions, according to an Accountemps survey. The questions are asked in a way to predict your future success based on your past performance. They can be harder to prepare for since they make you think critically, but if you take some time before the interview to reflect on your previous successes, you’ll feel at ease and have concrete examples when others will crack under the pressure.

Think through specific situations, and consider: What have you accomplished? How did you accomplish it? What was the outcome? What might you have done differently? Of course, you’ll want to prepare for the traditional interview questions too, but don’t overlook the influence of behavioral questions on your ability to get the job.

Check out our Accounting Jobs Search page for resources.

More job interview advice

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information. It originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission of the American Institute of CPAs. Accountemps is an alliance partner of the AICPA. Learn more about our partners and alliances.

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