Frontrunners scheme helps Hafsa land role at 'Big Four' accountancy firm

Hafsa Maqsood wanted to secure a placement to help her stand out in a competitive jobs market – and with the help of the Frontrunners scheme, she has done just that.

The 23-year-old joined De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) through Clearing after deciding a joint honours in Accounting and  Economics would best match her career prospects. Having settled at university, she applied for a Frontrunners internship at the end of her first year to put the theoretical skills she was learning on her degree into practice.


Securing a position within DMU as a taxation assistant allowed Hafsa to gain more insight into VAT and compliance, which she could then take into her year-long placement as a finance trainee at NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit.

Having impressed during her placement and gained practical experience through the Frontrunners scheme, Hafsa secured her dream graduate job as an assistant tax advisor at Ernst & Young (EY) – one of the UK’s largest accountancy firms.

“My Frontrunners position was in taxation and was focussed on VAT and compliance,” Hafsa said. As a result, this allowed me to gain an insight into the type of work involved in tax and so when it came to applying for graduate positions, I had a much clearer understanding of what type of roles I would enjoy.

“Initially, I was choosing between an Audit or Tax Graduate route, however, I ended up sticking with the tax route, and now I am working in my dream company within the VAT practice.

“I was usually working eight hours a week, so I could easily juggle my studies around my position.

“Frontrunners came up a lot during my interview for the NHS placement. As employers, they were really impressed that I was already coming to them with office-based skills and an understanding of office etiquette.

“A lot of my early technical skills including Excel - and even the day-to-day office skills like answering calls professionally or drafting emails – I learnt through Frontrunners. Utilising these skills was something I could easily talk about in my placement and EY interviews and made job applications much easier.”

Having run for more than 10 years, the Frontrunners scheme supports up to 100 students a year to gain high-quality work experience alongside their studies, working part-time for up to six months within the professional and academic departments of the university.

Each faculty has a specialist placement team to manage employer partnerships and help students access placements across a wide range of industries and organisations.

Hafsa secured her role with EY before graduating, although admits there was still a little pressure on results day as her job offer was dependent on her grades. She needn’t have worried as she came away from university not only with a first-class degree but also the Faculty of Business and Law Prize for the Highest Achieving Accounting and Economics Student.

Her consistent performance through her A-levels and university studies landed Hafsa a High Flyers Scholarship, which she used to help fund a DMU Global trip to Paris in 2019.

Now working with EY, Hafsa is already sinking her teeth into some big projects within the VAT team, while studying for her pro-accountancy exams.

“I’m really enjoying what I’m doing here. Having studied tax and VAT during my course, I knew it was what I wanted to do for a career and I feel the Frontrunners scheme helped me fulfil that dream.

“At the minute we’re hybrid working, so when I’m in the office, I’m working out of Tower Bridge – I always have to pinch myself because it’s just so surreal.”

Posted on Tuesday 26th April 2022

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