Top tips for professionals entering the SMSF industry

If you’re a newly graduated professional or are planning to make the move into SMSF services, here are seven important factors firms look for when shortlisting candidates.

1. Cover letter

We search for candidates who really look at the job post carefully and write a well-crafted cover letter and CV, rather than those who blast out 100 CVs during the ad break of Master Chef. The more personalised the letter, the better. It is far wiser to send one thoughtfully constructed cover letter and CV a week than launch a dozen CVs into cyberspace in a minute.

2. Attention to detail

As an employer hiring an accountant or SMSF expert, we endeavour to check for attention to detail.

Recently, we have asked the cover letter be addressed to Travis Allen. For one role recently advertised, of the 30 applicants, only nine did this. Some were quite funny, writing “Dear Concern” and “Dear Hillyer Riches Pty Ltd” and my favourite “Dear Mr or Mrs”. Obviously, they did not secure an interview.

You must carefully read the job ad and address each aspect in your cover letter, and check it and re-check it for spelling and grammatical errors.

I was speaking with an executive once and he said he asked candidates about their CD collection. If the answer was they were organised systematically, or the opposite, it would give him an insight into their attention to detail.

3. Location, location, location

We check candidates are in a reasonably close proximity to our firm. If you wish to relocate, then I’d suggest you may need to do this first. Living in Melbourne and applying for jobs in Sydney can be problematic.

4. High level English skills

We also look for candidates who have a reasonable grasp of the English language so they can communicate professionally with clients. An applicant once wrote she was a “god fit for the role”.

For candidates with English as your second language, can I suggest that before you do another masters program, work on your English writing skills. Read as many books etc. as you can because ultimately, most candidates fall over because of their poor communication skills. If a role is really important to you, have a friend with English as their first language check your cover letter before sending it.

5. Relevant work experience.

An SMSF advisor is a specialist role, so having some direct experience advising funds is important. If you are a business services accountant, at least try and prepare a few funds before trying to shift across to a specialist role, and expand on it in your resume.

However, even if you don’t have the experience in super, consider first doing a product course through BGL Simpefund, Class etc. Also, consider doing the SMSF specialist adviser course through the SMSF Association.

6. Stability

You may be a candidate with many high distinctions and awards on your CV, but if you have only been in jobs for 12 months, two years max, will you be overlooked for someone who offers a longer-term solution? Moving around too often causes disruption in the office and is a cause of frustration for employers. It may be better to stay with your current role and gain three to five years of experience than to chop and change too often in this industry.

7. Qualifications

Being either CPA or CA definitely helps candidates secure an interview. As does being a chartered tax advisor or SPAA specialist advisor.

Of note is the increasing number of professionals with a masters degree. Perhaps this is the standard now and not an extra. However, as much as I am impressed by anyone going through the rigours of a postgraduate degree, it doesn’t translate into hitting the ground running, and with most employees staying at a firm for only a few years, being productive from day one is now a must.

Be ready in an interview for on the spot technical questions. Read up on any recent developments in superannuation that are likely to be touched on.

If you have a passion for the industry, and can demonstrate that passion both in your written application and interview, you will no doubt land the SMSF adviser job of your dreams.

Travis Allen, director, Hillyer Riches

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