Boost Your Employability with a Master of Professional Accounting

In recent years, the job market has become increasingly fierce, and standing out amongst your peers may be tough. This is why for our Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) students, we put great emphasis on our career services.

Today, we speak to Eunice Loke, a Career Coach at the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC). She shares with us some tips and tricks on nailing interviews, what employers look out for, and how an internship can get you one foot into a career that you love.  

Hi Eunice, could you start by sharing what is the role of the SMU career centre?

The SMU career centre has been serving the student community and collaborating with leading business organisations for hiring success since SMU’s inception in 2000.  Many SMU Alumni have made significant impact in their career and have shaped themselves as leaders of the future, and these are testimonies of our commitment.

As a certified Career Coach, I work with students to provide them with information in the industry landscape and hiring practices to prepare them to be “job-market ready”.  I will critic resumes, cover letters, facilitate job search strategies, hone interview skills through one-to-one or even group interview sessions.        

What do you feel is the most important for students to prepare prior to any interview?

Research, research and research.  I cannot emphasize the importance of doing research on the organisation and the role.  Many fresh graduates do not read up enough before their interviews. The preparation should focus on

  • The organisation – familiarise with the background, its products and services, and (if possible) the management team;
  • The role- match your experience and qualities to the job responsibilities
  • Questions – ask relevant questions.  This is an indication of your level of interest in the firm and excitement in the role

What do interviewers look out for, especially for Master’s students?

The following soft skills are the top traits that interviewers look for.  It is in the acronym “CLIPS”: 

C: Communication

L: Leadership

I: Interpersonal

P: Problem-Solving

S: Strategic Thinking

Communication refers to both written and verbal presentation.  A good communicator gets the message across clearly and unambiguously and is highly valued across all industries that employers tend to cite as an important factor in their hiring decision. 

Similarly, employers in the finance & accounting sector (in this case) would like to see (potential) leadership skills in their candidates as they are grooming future CFOs, Accountants, and Partners.  Leadership can be nurtured through training over time. 

Interpersonal skills are life skills where we used not only at work but in our daily lives too.  In today’s work environment, having the technical skills is not sufficient, one needs to go beyond the call of duty to show that one has what it takes to fit the organisation’s culture.   

Problems are at the center of what people do at work – be it a client’s problem, an internal issue, major or small, complex or simple, you are hired to solve it. It is very common that interviewers will pose problem-solving questions to determine if the candidates are able to think on their feet.

Lastly, analytical and strategic thinking are the skills employers find most attractive in candidates. Most interviewees come technically prepared; this however was not a differentiator but an expectation. Often, students try to provide the “right” answers instead of critically analyzing, thinking through a discussion. 

     Do you have any words of advice for students looking to pursue a Master of Professional Accounting?

The SMU MPA programme is not just an educational experience; it is a means of preparing for the future and the challenges of the job market. 

People pursue an MPA for different reasons – to seek knowledge in the Accounting field, to avoid a career plateau, for career transition, for their first career.  Be it whatever reason; ask yourself “Is this something that you like to do?”  It is important to know what you want to do and where your passion is.  You will excel academically if you are interested in the course; similarly, you will also progress in career when you are passionate in the role.   

Find out more about SMU’s MPA programme at or sign up for an info session at

The online application starts on 26 Aug 2016 and closes on: 

28 February 2017 for May 2017 intake – to join this intake, applicants are required to choose 2017-18 Term 1 on the application form. 

15 May 2017 for August 2017 intake – to join this intake, applicants are required to choose 2017-18 Term 2 on the application form. 

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