With the increasing pressure of university fees and living costs, many students have to work over the summer period. Securing an internship that is relevant to your career goals and life aspirations can give insight into your desired career – to ‘try before you buy’ – and could also lead to gaining a graduate role. In this article, we look at how to secure a tax internship.
So, where to begin?
There are a number of tax internships available in the market every year which usually last 6-10 weeks. If you want a career in tax then securing one of these roles will give you real insight into what a career would entail. No matter how much you read or talk to people, actual experience is the most valuable asset in helping you to make that enormous, daunting decision.
By completing an internship, not only are you gaining valuable insight into making the right career decision, you will also be:
- Gaining valuable work experience.
- Gaining experience of both interviews and assessment days.
- Possibly securing a graduate position.
- Getting paid! Win-win!
Now that you have decided to secure an internship, you will need to start thinking about the places you want to work and experiences you want to gain.
The best piece of advice at this point is to research, research and research! Most employers will open their internship opportunities in the September prior to the internship starting. You will therefore need to begin your research a year before the internship starts. To help kick-start your search:
- Speak to your careers service – they will hold valuable information as well as personal insights into companies you may wish to apply to.
- Look on the internet – Accountancy Careers is one of several graduate jobs boards that posts internship opportunities. You should also check the websites of your desired employers for vacancies.
- Speak to second and third year students at your university – they may have experience of completing an internship and can steer you in the right direction.
- Attend careers fairs and events – many graduate recruiters also offer internships.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to contact employers directly for information, as they may hold insight days.
What an internship might involve
A tax internship will enable you to gain a general understanding of tax, develop new skills and build your commercial awareness, plus you will get excellent networking opportunities with recent graduates, managers and partners.
You could be working with colleagues in other business lines to provide the support and advice required by clients. Your role would be to assist the team with their day-to-day client work, and this could include:
- Preparation of company and personal tax returns.
- Provision of advice to current client base.
- Preparation of engagement letters and fee proposals.
- Attendance at client and internal meetings.
- Gaining a better understanding of the firm’s processes (e.g. winning work, the subsequent engagement, working with the client and finally billing).
- On-the-job training and attending courses.
Application form tips
- Plan your answers – when applying online, write your answers in a Word document first. Your answers will be easier to check in this format and you can copy and paste them when you are ready.
- Get to the point – instant impact is best. Decide what information is most relevant to the job you are applying for and put it at the top of your application.
- Don’t make it up – interviews could be based on the answers you’ve given to application questions. Don’t exaggerate; you don’t have to have saved the world to impress!
- Give examples – you need to show examples, however small, of where you’ve had a positive impact on a situation.
Before the interview
Preparation is key. List all the skills and behaviours required for the role. This will highlight the job’s duties and responsibilities. Use this to identify the skills and behaviours that are required for the role and are therefore likely to be assessed. For each competency, skill and behaviour think of specific examples of situations in which you have demonstrated these attributes. Have these examples in your mind during the interview, so that you are able to refer to them when the situation arises. However, avoid preparing ‘model’ answers as this may cause you to provide responses that do not completely answer the specific question being asked.
Use techniques such as the STAR model in preparing for your interview. It is also useful to keep in mind when responding to questions, as it provides a logical structure to your answer. The STAR model describes the following:
- Situation: the context of your example
- Task: what you had to do
- Action: what you did; how and why you did it
- Result: the outcome.
During the interview
Interviewers are looking for certain skills for a particular job, but personality is also important, so be yourself. Unless specifically told otherwise, wear a suit/business attire. It’s much better to be overdressed than underdressed and it shows you’re serious about the job.
Ensure that you listen carefully and fully understand the question and what is required before responding. Do not feel that you have to immediately jump in to responding to a question. The interviewer is interested in you and your suitability for the role. When providing an example it is therefore important to demonstrate what you personally did in that situation. Use genuine examples and be prepared to have your examples explored in more depth. Be specific in your responses by providing clear, concise and informative responses.