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    Trainee-in-waiting: Keval Shah

  • Posted on August 14, 2017 by

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    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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  • My Journey So Far…

  • Posted on June 29, 2017 by


    I have officially now been with the NAO for 9 months, however my experience has been a little different to most graduates…

    Having taken a good couple months to myself to recharge and recuperate after a tough final year at uni, I was ready and raring to go at the beginning of my journey at the NAO. The first week was induction week, jam packed with a lot of fun activities and quite a lot of information to take in. I found this a great opportunity to get acquainted with the rest of the intake as pretty much everyone is in the same boat. It was really interesting to see the variety of different backgrounds, ranging from music, to history, to computer science and so on and so forth. I kind of expected there to be more people from the same background as myself, accounting, but the variety was a pleasant surprise!

    For the following 2 weeks, college was the plan in order to study for 2 of the certificate level exams, Accounting and Assurance. College is exactly like uni except turning up is not optional! Our college days would start at 9am and finish around 4.30pm. The tuition centre provide plenty of material at the beginning of the course and the tutors are extremely helpful with any queries and questions. Classes are quite small, providing a better opportunity to ask questions on anything you’re unsure about. Once you get home from college, there are online video tutorials available to go over if you need to recap and plenty of questions to go through. Outside of class, fellow members of the intake are 99.9% of the time happy to help with course questions which is always nice!

    Unfortunately for me, after one week of college, I got really unwell and I was off work for around 6 months. Long story short, I now have a stoma. It was a tough period for me personally as I had just started my professional career and it was a shame to be out for so long. The NAO supported me really well throughout this period, not rushing me but instead making sure I recovered 100% before even discussing my return. The “get well” card I received from my team was a small gesture but for me it was a really nice touch which came at the right time! When I finally had got cleared to work, plans and adjustments were made for me based on the recommendations of my occupational health reports. I was on a phased return to help me ease into the swing of things; so I first started on two days a week, then 3 days and so on till I became full time. College dates have been adjusted for me but I am lucky in that sense as I have 7 exemptions from uni!

    In my first 2/3 months back so far, everyone has been extremely helpful and understanding! We are currently in the midst of busy season so a great time to return with lots of interesting work to be done. I am presently working on Network Rail, one of the larger audits in the department. It has been such a big learning curve so far, there are so many things to take in and learn! I am constantly asking questions to improve my understanding and, to the credit of my team, their patience has been incredible. My colleagues have always been on deck to provide assistance when needed. I’ve really enjoyed the early exposure to client meetings and client sites. Next month I will be in Edinburgh for a week on the General Lighthouse Fund audit so I’m looking forward to that!

    Although my first 9 months haven’t gone quite as I envisaged, I have enjoyed my time so far at the NAO. I look forward to cracking on and completing a few exams before the year end!


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  • The social side of being a trainee – it’s not all work!

  • Posted on June 14, 2017 by


    When people ask what the best thing about the NAO is, my usual response is to say that it’s the people. For me in particular, it’s the 70+ new trainees that start with you when you start the scheme in September.

    I graduated in July 2016 and like most of my university friends started a new life in London. I have noticed for some of my friends it has been difficult starting a new job when there are either no or few people your age working there. This is not a problem at the NAO.

    The majority of trainees are twenty-somethings and the 2016 intake is a keen bunch. When we’re not scattered across the country at our clients, we usually spend Friday evening in the pub, drinking a few lemonades or cocktails, chilling out and playing a few games of darts (potentially the worst group of darts players you’ll ever see).

    At lunchtime in the office, there’s always someone to sit with in the office canteen. There’s a big group that will be there everyday. At the same time, there are those that may eat with their smaller teams, or in peaceful tranquillity. Everyone is catered for.

    College is a time to make friends. In your first three months, you’ll spend six weeks going to college with your intake. We were split into two groups of 30 and I won’t lie, it was hard work and there were days I was completely clueless. We were in it together though. You’ll bond over debits and credits and other accounting jargon thrown at you. No matter how badly the morning goes, you can go out for an unwinding lunch together. I’ve made some great friends at college.

    Of course, being part of a big social group is not for everyone. Smaller groups form and some trainees are happy to turn up for the job, or college, and have a life completely outside of NAO colleagues. The scheme is a great opportunity to meet new people, no matter how introverted or extroverted you are. In your audit teams, there will be people of varying ages. You’re likely to find friends no matter where you are in your life.

    Outside the working week, a number of us have arranged fun activities. A big group of us went to the CASSL ball together and almost all of us went to the office Christmas party, where we filled the dancefloor and packed out a karaoke booth. I arranged white water rafting for my birthday and put a team together for a mixed netball tournament and a colour run. Earlier in the year, I played in the tag rugby team. In the netball and rugby, we didn’t win much – but it was so much fun regardless!

    It’s been great to meet so many new people and we’re always looking for new, exciting events and activities to do. I’m currently trying to do every Olympic sport before Tokyo 2020 so if you do join the NAO – get in touch if there’s something you’ve always wanted to try. 

    I hope this gives a flavour of how you can make the most of your time at the NAO and in London. Use the comment boxes to ask any questions.

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  • The First Ten Weeks

  • Posted on November 21, 2016 by


    My first ten weeks at the NAO have flown by. It only feels like yesterday when I stumbled in to the office on my first day all in a fluster due to a transport mishap!

    To give you a snapshot of my fledgling NAO career to date, here is a list of things I’ve done since starting with the Newcastle office back in September, in no particular order. I’ve studied, sat and passed four computer-based exams contributing to the Certificate Level of the ACA, (namely Accounting, Assurance, Tax and Law) with two more (Management Information and Business and Finance) to come before Christmas. I’ve taken two week-long trips to London as part of my trainee induction, where I’ve had ample opportunity to meet colleagues from across the organisation. I’ve also been on a two-night audit-planning visit to the sunny seaside resort of Blackpool, home to one of the many Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) offices, where I’ve assisted in interviewing clients.

    When not in college, London or Blackpool I’ve been settling in to life in the NAO’s Newcastle office. As a newbie to the North East, this has meant learning my way around Toon talk; including learning to refer to my lunch as dinner, embracing the regional culinary delicacy known as a “Parmo” and debating whether to pronounce Primark “Preemark”. I’ve also attended the Newcastle office’s 10th birthday party, experienced the office’s much-hyped Pop Quiz and signed up for both the annual Christmas Cup (football competition) and the Christmas lunch. Fun galore.

    All in all, it has been a very enjoyable and exciting start to life with the NAO. I wonder what the next ten weeks will bring!

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  • One night on Audit… Followed by another 364.

  • Posted on November 11, 2016 by

    SkylineMy first year is over as a trainee and my transition from an AA1 to AA2 complete. I managed to fit quite a lot into a single 12 month period; 6 exams, interim and final audit, one Christmas party, 2 office quizzes, 2 cluster lunches, numerous socials, 9 weeks away from home and a year older. As I write this I have just passed my next 3 exams and have a month to go until my final 3 of this year. The pace hasn’t let up since I arrived but it certainly hasn’t been boring. more… One night on Audit… Followed by another 364.


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