August 2017

    Trainee-in-waiting: Miranda Lee

  • Posted on August 28, 2017 by

    Newc office

    Miranda, why did you apply to the NAO?

    After I left university I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to, I just knew that I wanted a job that made a difference but also would set me up for a structured career. The NAO was the perfect fit for me, combining working with the public sector and charities and whilst gaining a world respected qualification in the ACA.

    At the NAO, there is such a large range of clients and areas and I think it’s cool to be able to say I could be working on everything from farming to the MOD to the British Museum. I was also very attracted by the NAO’s impressive stats on their pass rate, higher than any of the Big Four, which seems indicative of the supportive work environment that the NAO prides itself on.

    How did you find the NAO’s recruitment process (compared to others)?

    When I applied the online tests were very similar to other accountancy firms and the NAO’s section on skills and experiences was very structured and clear on which competencies they were looking for so you could really tailor your answers.

    The assessment day really stood out for me at the NAO. It was quite a full-on day but was much more relaxed than I was expecting. I had heard rumours that some firms continue to access you during breaks at assessment days but this was not the case at the NAO so meant as applicants we could relax. I think this really helped me keep calm and do my best in all the tasks as well as get to know quite a few people who I will be working with come September.

    What do you wish you knew about us before you applied?

    During lunchtime at the assessment day we received a powerpoint about the NAO where we could ask questions informally to a member of staff who had already completed the grad scheme. It was interesting to find out that there are plenty of opportunities to travel both around the UK and even do secondments abroad.

    Any tips for next year’s applicants?

    My tips would be to look closely at the NAO’s core competencies and think about times where you’ve demonstrated those. Make sure your examples are as clear as possible.

    I would also highly recommended researching the ACA exams – they are tough exams and at the NAO you will do six exams in your first 4 months so you start studying straight away. Just make sure you’re ready to study alongside work for at least another three years.

    I would also recommend looking at the NAO reports and in the news for stories on public spending, unsurprisingly there are quite a lot at the moment. It will give you a good chance to see how reports are written as well as inform you on the areas that the NAO audits.

    What are you looking forward to when joining us in September?

    I am going to be working in the Newcastle office so that means a moving to a new city for me which I am very excited about.

    I am looking forward to meeting the rest of the grads in my intake and also everyone else already on the grad scheme as well as getting involved with as much stuff as I can, both in and outside of work.

    I am also really looking forward to finding out my cluster and in which sector I will working on first. I am also quite excited to start learning again after having a year off after university but I am a bit nervous for the exams…

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  • Trainee-in-waiting: Stuart Costello

  • Posted on August 23, 2017 by

    trainees at lunch

    Stuart, why did you apply to the NAO?

    My first interaction with the NAO was at a final year careers fair at my university. I came away with a clear impression of the NAO’s purpose and vision and interested to find out more. Whilst at university and post graduation, my employment background was in publicly funded bodies and I found that a recurring issue under discussion was how to make the most effective use of our funding. Realising the importance of this issue within public funded bodies, I found myself drawn to applying to the NAO because I felt a career with the NAO would allow me to contribute to having a larger impact in this matter.

    How did you find the NAO’s recruitment process (compared to others)?

    From my experience of graduate application processes, the initial stages were fairly similar to other roles I had applied for. One massive difference was the turnaround period of my application: with the NAO the entire process took me from October to January, while with other applications I had filled in at the same time I was still waiting for them to reply to my initial application.

    Going to assessment centre was also different from other organisations. Firstly, the staff you met were people you would be interacting and working with if successful, so to me if felt much more like there was a community within the NAO. Secondly, the assessment centre had a really friendly atmosphere so it made aspects of the day, such as the interview, feel more enjoyable and less nerve-wracking. I felt like I was having a conversation rather than an interview.

    What do you wish you knew about us before you applied?

    As I mentioned earlier, it was a really nice surprise discovering the community vibe of the NAO at the assessment centre. Having seen other organisations at assessment centres, the NAO was the only organisation (for me) that had a personable atmosphere the second you walked through the door. This was further reinforced by meeting members of staff and current graduates, as well as the explanation of the cluster hierarchy and their scope of work.

    At the assessment centre, the current graduates also discussed the opportunity to express a preference of cluster allocation during your time at the NAO. Again, this was a pleasant discovery as it reiterated to me the supportive nature of the NAO.

    Any tips for next year’s applicants?

    Know your competencies. Many of my interview questions were centred around them and how I demonstrated them in my life so having a good understanding of them with real examples is key. During my interview I was also asked several questions relating to public services. I felt more confident with these answers when I gave my honest answer (there was probably no single ‘right answer’) while still looking objectively at the question.

    Finally, I’d advise you to get to know your fellow applicants on the day of the assessment centre. You’re all in the same boat so it can be quite reassuring to have company. Moreover, it makes group elements of the day easier if you already have a rapport, hopefully allowing an overall better group performance.

    What are you looking forward to when joining us in September?

    Since getting my offer I’ve been working in a school and have had plenty of time to prepare for this position. With September nearly here, I really can’t wait to meet my new colleagues, join my cluster and really get stuck into the role!

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  • Trainee-in-waiting: Nora Natova

  • Posted on August 18, 2017 by

    Newcastle Office

    Nora, why did you apply to the NAO?

    As an Accounting graduate and someone who has always had an interest in public affairs, I thought that the NAO would be the perfect place for me to pursue a career in Accounting. I have always wanted to be able to make a positive impact on society, which is why I initially appreciated the work of the NAO, as it is both impactful and influential. I felt that I could potentially make a real difference by working with government bodies to help the improvement of public services and how taxpayers’ money is spent.

    I strongly believe that working for the NAO will keep me motivated throughout my career, the satisfaction of which I did not believe I could receive in a private sector company. In addition, as a trainee, you will receive the opportunity to study towards the ACA qualification, rather than a more public sector orientated one such as CIPFA. This is something that further intrigued me as an Accounting graduate, because you can find ICAEW charted accountants in all sectors and industries!


    How did you find the NAO’s recruitment process (compared to others)?

    Overall, I was extremely satisfied with the recruitment process. I moved quite fast through the different stages, in comparison to other companies where I found myself stuck in the process for months, which I personally found really discouraging. I would like to outline that right from the start of the process, the NAO makes it quite clear that it looks for eight competencies in every successful candidate. This was evident throughout all three stages of the process, which also made it easier to really think about your strengths and how you can demonstrate those key competencies in practice. The telephone interview was very relaxed and the interviewer made you feel really comfortable, which I think made a really good impression about the organisation as a whole. I also found the assessment centre very enjoyable, as it was nothing compared to the ones I had previously attended. There was no competition! It did not seem to be rushed and we all had the chance to have a lovely lunch with some of the current graduates, which really did make you feel better halfway through the day! I received an offer within a couple of days and I found that the communication was really good throughout the whole process.


    What do you wish you knew about us before you applied?

    As previously mentioned, at the assessment centre all candidates had the opportunity to speak to some of the current trainees. They really seemed to be enjoying their jobs which is something that made me even more motivated to do better during the rest of the day at the assessment centre. I think that the NAO would really allow me to have a good work-life balance which is important to me and I believe that other people would find that valuable to know too.


    Any tips for next year’s applicants?

    I think that all candidates need to make themselves familiar with the NAO’s eight competencies and really think about how they have demonstrated them in the past. This will be useful when completing the four competency based questions, in addition to the telephone interview and the assessment centre itself. I would make sure that I have a few different examples of how I have demonstrated those competencies in practice, but do not panic if you have not got any relevant work experience, as the interviewers know nothing about you! At the assessment centre, the director who interviewed me seemed really interested in what I had to say, which made me more comfortable to go in a little bit more detail, so do not be afraid to tell them everything that you want to say! If you are not an Accounting graduate, I would make myself familiar with what audit is all about and what the job of an auditor briefly involves, as well as the challenges/threats auditors could face. I think that knowing that little bit of extra information (which is in fact not necessary), will make the exercises at the assessment centre more enjoyable for all candidates!

    What are you looking forward to when joining us in September?

    For me in particular, I look forward to meeting everyone at the NAO the most, especially the 70+ trainees who will be all starting their journey at the same time as me! I am very excited for our induction week in London, where all graduates will be attending. This will be an amazing opportunity to meet everyone! I am also looking forward to learning more about the NAO and what everyone does, as well as developing my strengths and acquiring a wide variety of new skills, whilst training to become a qualified charted accountant!

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  • Trainee-in-waiting: Keval Shah

  • Posted on August 14, 2017 by

    Start line

    Keval, why did you apply to the NAO?

    I first came to appreciate how the NAO affects public sector spending and policy, when carrying out a university project that led me to a recently published Value for Money (VFM) report on the government’s energy strategy. I realised that impacting on society in this way would be something that I would find both interesting and satisfying in my future career.

    From conducting more detailed research into the graduate scheme, it became apparent that the NAO was one of the best places to train as a chartered accountant. For me, the excellent work-life balance and the blend of experience provided by both financial auditing and Value for Money reporting, are what differentiate the NAO from private sector companies who also offer the ACA.

    How did you find the NAO’s recruitment process (compared to others)?

    The recruitment process left me with the impression that I was more than just a number, and this further reinforced my decision to join the organisation. My telephone interview was conducted with a member of the internal HR team who was knowledgeable about the work of the NAO, whilst the relatively small assessment centre (eight attendees) gave me the chance to genuinely connect with some of the current graduates and other employees who were present throughout the day. The outcomes at each stage were also communicated in a matter of days, which really helped to relieve some of the pressure from the search for a graduate job!

    What do you wish you knew about us before you applied?

    As a trainee, you are placed into one of six clusters, each of which represent a different area of government. This means that the scope of the work carried out by the NAO is especially broad, the extent of which I was only able to fully comprehend after meeting some of the employees. They possessed a diverse range of backgrounds, having studied or trained in various disciplines, from health to international development.

    Any tips for next year’s applicants?

    The director interviewing you at the assessment centre will not have read your application or know anything about your experiences *, so make sure to be thorough when demonstrating your alignment to the eight key competency areas. Don’t be afraid to explain the situation in detail when giving examples, as the directors are genuinely interested in getting to know you better!

    At the assessment centre, I also found that it helped to interact with as many people as possible outside the different assessed elements that took place. This included the fellow candidates, the trainees who joined us at lunch, the HR staff and even the assessors themselves. Although this can be somewhat daunting, it made the whole day more enjoyable and feel less like a competitive assessment.

    What are you looking forward to when joining us in September?

    Getting to know the rest of my intake will be an exciting prospect. Having a group of people in a similar position, when it comes to attending college and sitting the first professional exams, will no doubt lead to some strong relationships being built.

    Given the ongoing changes in government expenditure, I am also looking forward to being in a fast-paced environment, where I can progress quickly and learn from some of the brightest minds in the field.

    *Note from HR: The NAO have introduced blind recruitment which means the assessors and interviewers will receive first names only and will have no background information on candidates e.g. school attended/work experience. We have confidence in the fairness of our recruitment process but value the opportunity to underline our commitment to eliminating the potential for bias in all its forms.

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