NAO experience (Initial application to Job offer) – Assistant Auditor
UK, Commonwealth, EEA, Swiss national, 2:1 degree in any discipline, 300 UCAS points
It was quite a standard application form with some competency questions and why you wanted to join the National Audit Office. Make sure you answer the question and your answers are as specific as possible and of course check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
1st Assessment (about 2 hours in duration)
This will comprise of a maths test and an interview
They will send you a booklet of practice questions to do. There will be quite a lot of questions in the booklet. However, if you have time to do them all beforehand then you won’t have a problem with the test. You will need to get 23 out of 30 to pass the maths test.
The interview will usually be with a HR manager or in my case an audit manager. The questions were fairly standard, why accountancy/auditing/NAO, what you understand about the ACA qualification, some competency questions (they were different from the ones on the application). I didn’t have any questions that required commercial awareness but I would recommend to at least having some knowledge about what’s going on in the economy/business world. The interview was fairly relaxed and lasted about 50 minutes for mine. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions at the end.
2nd Assessment (about 7 hours in duration)
This is essentially an assessment centre. This will comprise of an interview, a presentation, a group exercise and a written exercise. An important thing to note is that you are not in competition with other candidates, if you meet the minimum requirement standard, then you can all be offered a job. NAO intends to recruit around 70-80 graduates. As of 17 February 2010, they have only made about 20 offers, so there are still a large number of jobs to go round.
During the day you will have a brief presentation by someone from HR to talk about the training about the ACA qualification. You will also have lunch and the opportunity to meet some graduates and ask any questions that you might have.
In terms of the presentation, they will send the topic to you beforehand to prepare for. The presentation is intended to last 10 minutes with 5 minutes for the assessors to ask questions. Please note that another candidate will also listen to your presentation and can also ask you questions at the end. Each candidate will be given a different presentation topic. So don’t worry about the other candidate stealing your ideas. The topics for the presentation will not have a definitive answer to. It is looking for you to analyse the any information that you can gather and present both sides of the argument and coming up with a recommendation.
You will have an hour for the written exercise. It was fairly straight forward. You were not presented with a lot of information and you had to answer 4 questions. One of them was mathematically-based. The other 3 required some thought before you could answer them. Just make sure that you manage you time then you will not have a problem. I split the time evenly and managed to finish all the questions before the hour. So it’s not that difficult, they are looking whether you have good written communication and also you creativity in your answers.
The group exercise lasted 30 minutes. I think it will vary depending on the size of the group. My group consisted of 6 people including myself, but I think you could have groups up to 8 people. Again, this task looks at verbal communication but also the ability to work in a team and reach a group decision. The task was not too difficult, the only thing is time. Make sure someone keeps an eye on time and have a group decision before the time is up.
The interview is expected to last 30 minutes. It will be with a director usually, but if the directors are busy then you might get a HR manager. I had a director for my interview. She was very friendly and made the interview quite relaxed. However, there were quite a look of questions to get through, so don’t talk/waffle for too long on one particular question. At the end, she said she was afraid that we had run out of time, so I am not sure if that meant she still had more questions. So just bear that in mind. Again, some competency questions, why NAO specifically, make sure you are commercially aware and know in some detail about their VFM audits. Although I didn’t have any questions asked specifically about the VFM or the economy, when I mentioned it, my interviewer was impressed. There will be 2 sets of interviews going on at the same time, so you could get any one of the 2 interviewers. I was also aware that the other interviewer asked about the economy in some detail and previous candidates were asked about VFM. So make sure you are prepared for it.
I got a phone call the next day and was told that I was successful. NAO will send you the offer in writing as well as the conditions of the offer. You will usually be given 2 weeks to make the decision. However, because I mentioned to her that I have a few other assessments in the near future, she extended the amount of time that I have to consider the offer. The NAO intends to finish the whole recruitment process by April.