Make first impressions count
The sixth "Global Opportunities - Career Market Day", organised by CPA Australia, shows every sign of being the biggest and best yet. The annual event, taking place today at the Conrad Hotel, will give recent graduates, final-year students and more experienced job seekers the chance to meet top employers with accounting and management trainee positions to fill.
"Last year was very successful with well over 1,000 participants," says Theresa Chan, FCPA (Aust), president of the CPA Australia Hong Kong China Division.
"This year, we are delighted that Phil Ingram, senior trade commissioner, Australian Trade Commission, Hong Kong and Macau, will be our guest of honour. His presence indicates the strong importance that the Australian government has placed in the education sector. The exhibitors will include leading accountancy firms, multinationals and banks, all brought together under one roof."
Chan says the event's basic format is similar to previous years. The primary aim is to let potential candidates learn as much as possible about the type of work and career prospects in the accounting profession. The employers taking part are there to discuss openings and standard job requirements, and to talk about training programmes and on-the-job experience that leads to a professional qualification. During the day, there will be a series of seminars and discussion forums to address different aspects of the business environment and consider the outlook for this year.
"It is a great chance for employers to promote the sector," Chan says. "They will talk about things like recruitment trends, the impact of the economic crisis, and how to attract quality recruits, while also being able to focus on the hiring needs of their own firms."
This means that, for visitors, there is the opportunity to learn about career options on offer and put questions directly to employers. For the exhibiting companies, it is an ideal platform to exchange ideas with high-quality candidates keen to build careers in finance.
"We see the event as a service to members, employers and the business community," says Chan, who is also a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers. "And candidates can find out everything they need to know about how firms train, when they are hiring, their market niches, and the key differences between them."
In previous years, she notes, the "Global Opportunities - Career Market Day" had attracted a good mix of local students and graduates recently returned from studies overseas. They are from a range of academic disciplines, reflecting the fact that most accounting firms look for recruits with diverse backgrounds and all-round skills, not just accounting majors. Usually, the event draws plenty of people with a few years' professional experience who are after a new challenge or considering a switch from another field.
Chan says the successful candidates last year were those who prepared well and, even, came dressed as if it was a business appointment or formal interview. First impressions do count, and there will be many senior human resources directors and partners on hand to impress.
"Employers will be on the lookout for the best candidates, so that means being presentable and ready to show your skills set," she says. "Come prepared to ask questions and remember that, while it might be difficult to do a sit-down interview on the day, a good initial interaction can quickly lead on to the next stage of applications and formal interviews."
From personal observation, she hints that some visitors still tend to be unprepared on such occasions, compared with their counterparts on the mainland. It is always important to think carefully about what prospective employers expect to see and what will convince them to offer a job. Chan says she believes prospects for the accounting sector are very bright. Whatever the state of the global economy, there is a need for accountants, and the combination of technical and strategic skills they offer. Indeed, the fallout from the financial crisis serves to emphasise this point, with so many companies requiring expert advice on every aspect from tax planning and corporate restructuring to liquidations and acquisitions.
The increased focus on corporate governance issues is boosting demand for internal auditors across Asia, while areas such as forensic accounting and risk management are very much to the fore.
"And there will definitely be more opportunities for Hong Kong-trained accountants in China, particularly those with an internationally recognised qualification," Chan says.