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How to write a winning CV and cover letter as an accounting graduate

Team GradAustralia

Here's an easy guide to writing a winning CV and cover letter for a graduate accounting program, complete with a cover letter template!

Your CV and cover letter are your first introduction to a prospective employer. What kind of impression do you want to make? Will you send through the equivalent of a ‘wet noodle’ handshake? A generic document that shows you’re unengaged and haven’t done your research? Or will you create a digital version of yourself that conveys your enthusiasm for the role and your strength as a candidate?

In such a competitive market you need to prove your dedication to understanding the finer details of the company and how much you look forward to communicating them further in an interview scenario. If you want to smash that first barrier to getting a job, employers need to see that you’ve put effort into your CV and cover letter.

Crafting a killer cover letter

A cover letter details why you’re the best candidate for the job you’re applying for. For accounting grads, it’s an opportunity to outline your unique experience or area of interest (management accounting, forensics etc).

Assuming everyone else applying is equally qualified with the same or similar degree, your cover letter is your chance to argue your case about why you’re a strong match with a company’s values and behavioural expectations i.e. why you’re an accounting rockstar who will be an asset to any team they join.

For this reason, a great cover letter talks as much about the company you’re applying for as it does about yourself. This is your first chance to show that you have read and understood the job description and considered how you might be able to fulfil the role.

What to include in your cover letter:

  1. The name of the company, the hiring manager (if you know it), and the specific role (or graduate program) to which you’re applying.
  2. A personal introduction to you and your suitability for the role. A cover letter shouldn’t just be a copy of your CV. It needs to specifically address the requirements of the job and give a small indication of how you intend to fulfil them (both with your professional skills and your personal charm).
  3. The reasons for your interest in the job and/or company to which you’re applying. This is a good time to show that you’ve done your research. Talk about what specifically interests you about accounting and perhaps link it back to work the organisation is doing. If insolvency is your thing, discuss mock cases you did at uni and talk about how you drew on Company A or B for inspiration.
  4. List your skills and experience and explain how they fulfil the requirements of the job.

Sample cover letter:

Company name

Date

Dear (name of hiring manager e.g. Mrs Shingle, Mr Johnston),

It is with great enthusiasm that I am applying for the position of GRADUATE - AUDIT AND ASSURANCES (SYDNEY). I believe that my education, skills and overall character make me a wonderful candidate for this role.

I am a highly organised and team-focused person, passionate about beginning my career in the Accounting sector with COMPANY NAME.

I am drawn to COMPANY NAME both because of the strong interest I have in this particular role, but also because of a wider belief in the behavioural benchmarks ingrained within your corporate culture. I feel that I would gain a lot from working within a team, and your company credo regarding collaboration and inclusion greatly appeals to me.

My key competencies include an ability to work well with others, a willingness to listen to instruction, and a deadline-focused approach to my work. I am a highly motivated individual with a keen eye for detail, as evidenced by my top-level academic record. My lifestyle, too, is a testament to my drive as a young person, with teamwork and responsibility underpinning my jobs and sporting achievements.

Proactive, naturally curious, and a skilled communicator, I am seeking a challenging position that I can dedicate myself to. It is for this reason and many others that I was naturally drawn to this exciting opportunity.

Best regards,

Name

Address/email

Phone number

Tips for crafting a winning CV

The purpose of a CV is to give hiring managers an easily scannable summary of your education and achievements so that they can decide whether or not to progress your application to the next stage of the hiring process.

With so much competition for top accountancy jobs, tailoring your CV to really address the requirements for each role can give you an edge over your competition. Now now, we’re not suggesting you write a personalised CV for every application, but making a few tweaks can result in some big success.

You might not have pages’ worth of experience, but the key here is to tailor your career objective or personal statement (the awesome two or three sentences at the top of your CV) to each position or company.

Example one:

Hard-working economics graduate with proven organisational skills seeks to find a home for her passion and experience in the kind of company that makes all the other companies jealous.

Example two:

Highly organised finance graduate with a love of numbers is seeking to leverage her four years of knowledge and training to help [Company A] prosper.

What to include:

  1. A clear font in a reasonable size. Format your CV with logical headings and well-structured bullet points.
  2. Acknowledge your academic credentials early on. Mention any majors or specialties that are relevant to the job.
  3. Include work experience, but not too much. If you’ve worked in five retail stores and eight cafes since you were fourteen, choose two or three of the meatiest roles and include those. A job that lasted less than three months might act as a red flag for employers. Plus, you were unlikely to gain any skills in such a short period of time.
  4. If you have any accounting or finance experience, include it. Even if it was unpaid. Turn it into a work experience gig and list the skills you gained from it, especially if they correspond to the job requirements.

The contents

An accounting CV should include the following in this order:

  • Your contact details, including your phone number and email. Address is optional.
  • Your residency status.
  • A career statement or overview (remember, this isn’t your goals, but what you can do for a prospective employer).
  • A summary of your education and training.
  • A list of any professional accreditations you already have (begin with industry-specific qualifications but also mention things like trained language teacher or dance instructor).
  • Your work experience, including accounting-related skills and similar qualities that can be linked to the requirements of the job. For example, this is a good chance to talk about how you led your team at Maccas or acted as bookkeeper for your mother’s pottery business).
  • Details of your referees or character references (or an explicit statement to provide them on request).

The most common CV format is a reverse chronological approach (most recent jobs listed first then working back from there). Make sure your chronology is clear and simple and that there are no gaps that might act as red flags for employers. For example, if you took a year off after graduating to travel the world, include that as an entry and explain the skills/learnings you took from the experience.

Extra tips for a winning cover letter and CV

Strike the right tone

Accounting is still a largely conservative corporate culture. This might change in the future but for now, assume an air of formality in all of your communications, even your CV and cover letter. We’re not suggesting you craft a document so punctilious that you seem like a fifteenth-century time traveller, but bear in mind your audience when choosing to use conjunctions and colloquialisms like ‘I’m’ instead of ‘I am’ or ‘Rockstar with the books’ rather than ‘highly proficient accounting graduate’.

A word on spelling and grammar

We know you’re probably a numbers person so the finer details around apostrophes don’t carry much weight in your intellectual psyche. However, a hiring manager reading your cover letter and CV most definitely appreciates polished grammar. A misspelled word or poorly chosen pronoun is like wearing a creased shirt to an interview or chewing gum during a response — it doesn’t technically change what you’re saying, but it can greatly impact the vibe you’re giving off.

Top tips for getting the words right:

  • Keep your tone professional and polite. Err on the side of formal.
  • Use spell check. For the love of all things correct. Use spell check.
  • Read what you’ve written out loud. You might feel stupid but you’ll pick up on so many errors of syntax that way.
  • Leave what you’ve written overnight then check it again the following day with a clear head.
  • Ask someone else to check your work. It might feel juvenile, but even professional writers have editors.

Want to make sure you’re on the right track? Check out our top five essential steps before you apply for an accountancy job.