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.