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The 2 tips you need to succeed in your next accounting or finance interview

By Elio Recchia,  Area Vice President - Accounting and Finance, Hays U.S. on November 7th, 2019

There are many candidates who wrongly assume that interview success is achieved by putting on a great performance. That helps of course, but the key to interview success lies in the planning.

1. TAKE THE TIME TO THOROUGHLY PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW

Preparing for an interview is essential. It is arguably the most important element of the entire process of securing a new role. You should plan different scenarios of how the conversation could play out, so that you are more confident when speaking. By not preparing in advance, you are setting yourself up to do poorly. You cannot simply go in and assume that you understand the business, its culture and know the profile of the interviewer. Making these assumptions will make you look uninformed and diminish your chances when compared to a candidate who has spent several hours researching the company and its senior management, the board etc. Additionally, you should research what they’re known for and their reputation in the market. Coming in prepared will allow you to make an informed opinion when asked “Why do you want to join the company?”

Candidates should also give some thought to the type of questions that could arise such as: “Why should we hire you?”, “what can you offer us that other candidates can’t?” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses? There also may be technical questioning – specifically in accounting and finance, ensure that you are up to date with the latest news in your area of expertise. Before the interview you should take time to conduct a self-analysis by thinking about what you are good at, why would it be relevant to the role in question and areas you may need to improve. In the interview you will need to be able to demonstrate your skills by giving practical examples of some of the below:

  • Communication – the ability to get on with a wide range of people
  • Team working – the ability to be an effective team leader or team member
  • IT skills – most roles need some IT skills
  • Good attitude – hard worker, honest, polite, cooperative
  • Problem solving – using your initiative to identify solutions
  • Enthusiasm – employers like someone positive
  • Quick learner – so you can take on new tasks
  • Determination – shows you are focused on achieving goals
  • Flexibility – doing a variety of tasks to achieve a common goal

2. DEMONSTRATE THAT YOU’RE THE RIGHT FIT

Once you have done your research about the organization you want to work for and the person you are meeting, another challenge awaits: making a positive first impression. Unsurprisingly, research shows that early opinions are formed very quickly. Those initial opinions can be difficult to shift and could impact a candidate’s chance of landing a role.

In a job interview you want to develop a rapport with the interviewer quickly. Think in advanced about how you will present yourself; in terms of your clothing, grooming, the way you engage with people and your body language. These are all elements that your potential employer will look at the minuet you walk through the door.

In terms of how to dress for an interview, a certain level of appropriateness is required. No matter the role or the employer, candidates should always look professional. Even if the company you are interviewing for is more informal you will still want to dress polished. You may not want to wear a tie but perhaps a blazer is more suitable. Arriving in jeans and a t-shirt may give the impress that you are not taking the interview and role seriously.

Keep in mind that the interviewer will be assessing and asking you to elaborate on your strengths and may even ask you to about your weaknesses, so be prepared to discuss how you are working on improving them. Typically, this is done through a series of competency-based questions or an investigation of your experience. Be prepared with your pitch as this is your opportunity to sell yourself. Highlight your experience and if a tough question is thrown at you, remain calm. Showing composure when you are put on the spot and asked difficult questions is a key part of making a good impression.
 

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