How To Ace Your Accounting Interview
Love them or hate them, interviews can be the golden doorway into the job or career of your dreams. So it’s important you make the right impression and display your full potential all within the relatively brief moments you have with your interviewer.
Don’t overlook the basics. You can get caught up in trying to think of some clever answer to complicated questions and forget the basic stuff you should prepare for no matter what interview you’re having.
With something like accountancy, you’re going to want to come across on the more formal side of the dress code. If you’re unsure, you’re better off dressing smarter than too casual. When you go in you can take a look at what the everyday dress is like should you end up working there.
Eye contact, Body language, and The Handshake
You will need to keep an eye on your body language and come somewhere between looking relaxed and looking like you can’t be bothered. Maintain eye contact but don’t stare. There’s a fine line between too much and too little. Too little and you can look shy or disinterested, too much and you might freak the interviewer out. Don’t overlook the handshake. You can tell a lot from a handshake so practise, as weird as that might feel. Like eye contact, there’s a fine line between being too firm and being too light. You need to show confidence in your handshake, like you’re used to having tons of business meetings.
Be careful with your words. Don’t try to show off by using the longest possible words you can think of. You’re more likely to trip up and make mistakes. It should go without saying but avoid any offensive language and try to stay away from slang that might confuse or put off your interviewers.
Back up your CV
Always make sure you’ve read and reread you CV multiple times so you remember exactly what you’ve put on there. You’ll be asked to expand on what you’ve written and should be able to clarify any questions the interviewers have. The chances are you’ve sent out one or two CVs and have altered them depending on which job you’ve applied for. While it’s good to tailor your CV and covering letter per application, don’t trip yourself up by forgetting what you’ve said on each application.
Why you’re here
At the end of the day, you’re not here to show off your smooth, carefree confidence, that’s simply to sell your skills. You’re there because you believe you can do the job and you have the right skills. So once you’ve got the basics covered, you have to think about how you’re going to prove you’ve got what it takes. They will be looking for certain skills that you need to be able to demonstrate through examples.
You need to be able to show that you can manage big workloads and concentrate on multiple things at once. Good news! You’ve probably got plenty of examples from college or university anyway so the chances are you are already set. The only thing you need to do is come up with a solid example of when you’ve had to do this should the interviewer ask. In this example you should be able to explain the situation, what you were expected to do and how you succeeded.
Analytical with an eye for detail
When going over accounts for a client, you’re going to need to have a keen eye for detail and be able to spot any discrepancies or mistakes so that neither you nor your client are liable for any penalties.You may be asked about a time you spotted an error because this is going to be something you need to get used to in order to minimise risk. The smallest error can lead to huge consequences so having a story about a time you managed to check your work over and spotted an error would be useful to have prepared.
You don’t have to be a coding genius but you do need to know your way around a computer. If you are able to pick up new software fairly easy, then this will come in handy. Some accountancy firms may require you to be able to adapt to the clients’ preference of bookkeeping software for example. With HMRC’s Making Tax Digital scheme and the rise of cloud accounting, this field is moving more towards being tech based. Anyone still grasping reluctantly to traditional accounting will inevitably get left behind so make sure you’re moving forward.
Teamwork and communication
Being hunched over a calculator, alone in a dark room may be the image that comes to mind when thinking about accounting. However, accounting is much more of a team effort these days. Many accountants will begin as juniors who may work as a team performing audits and preparing financial statements for other more senior accountants. This will mean that you’ll need to coordinate with other people in the office in order to help each other out with client work. Have an example ready of a time when you worked as a team and successfully completed a task. Make sure you can show what your responsibilities were and how you contributed.
Brush up on your business knowledge. It’s always good to keep up to date with what’s going on in your industry. This will make you more clued up and ready to tackle any related questions. It will also help to ease any worry because you’ll be going in there well prepared. Besides knowing about your own industry, it’s important to know about the larger world of business. Accounting is an important part of any business so it’s always handy to know where it fits in with your clients’ companies.
Go in armed with information
The job market is more competitive than ever now and one way to sort candidates from one another is to ask them about this job and company specifically. They want to know that it’s not just a job you need, but a career that you want too. Interviewers are looking for people who are actually engaged and eager to work specifically for that company. Research the company, learn about their clients, not just to impress the interviewers but also to give yourself an idea of what it’s like to work there. Going in armed with this kind of information is bound to set you apart from other candidates straight away as well as make you feel better prepared.
Don’t overlook the general questions
There may be a couple of ice breaker questions that the interviewers will use to get to know you. While the purpose is more casual, that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for them too.
Why do you want to be an accountant?
You may have been studying for years and think that the answer is so obvious it’s barely worth thinking about. But make sure you have something prepared just in case this question comes up so you’re not left mumbling something vague. You will have to think back to why you first became interested in it and wanted to study it. Saying you’re interested in it isn’t enough. That answer says nothing about you or what you’re capable of.
Tell us about yourself
This should be an easy one but it’s not. You can get so focused on trying to remember tons of facts to throw at the interviewer, but they’re not just looking for someone who can do the job, they want to know if you can fit into their company. You might be working with these people every day and they need to know that they will be able to do that with ease. This doesn’t mean you should answer this question by telling your life story or going into personal details. However, that doesn’t meant they want you to regurgitate all the information you have just put down on an application form. You need to come in at a happy medium where you’re personable but not too formal. You talk about yourself but you talk about it in the context of this job role and working at the company you’re applying for.
Above all be yourself
Once you have gathered your examples, studied your CV, picked your outfit and researched the company, don’t forget to go in and be yourself. That’s who the interviewer wants to meet after all, so putting on an act or pretending to be someone your not won't do you or your perspective employer any good.
Written by Kara Copple – Online Content Writer for The Accountancy Partnership
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