This week Kara from the Accountancy Partnership talks about the interview process for the accounting sector and gives some useful practical tips on how to ace your interview.
Interviews are no one’s favourite way to spend time but they’re a necessary evil you’ll need to endure. In the increasingly competitive job market, you need to master the basics but also stand out among the competition.
Whether you’re looking for your first job in accounting or have already had some work in this industry in the past, here’s a simple guide on how to prepare for your interview:
Highlight Your Skills
If you’ve been studying accounting or even worked as an accountant before, you’ll have a good idea of what’s required. However, it’s good to remind yourself of the key skills needed to work in this industry.
As an accountant you’ve got to have an analytical mind with good attention to detail. Errors in accounting can lead to penalties for you or your clients. This could end up costing your company in both penalties and lost clients.
The chances are you’re going to be working on accounts for several different clients as well as any other duties you have. This means you’re going to have to be organised and able to manage your time effectively, particularly when there are deadlines to meet.
You may have to have a lot of contact with your clients. If so, you will need to be able to explain complex issues with their accounts in a simple and clear way that they can understand.
With the rise of cloud accounting and HMRC’s Making Tax Digital scheme, accountants have to be prepared. Some accountancy firms require accountants to be familiar with or able to learn how to use several different types of bookkeeping software, depending on what each client uses.
Besides knowing the ins and outs of accounting, it’s also important that you have a clear understanding of how accounting fits into a business. It’s a good idea to keep up to date with what’s going on in your industry but also in the business world as a whole. This will help you when talking with clients or colleagues about the struggles or worries that businesses are facing.
Demonstrate Your Skills
Once you’re confident you have the necessary skills for a career in accounting, you need to think about how best to show the interviewers this. This means being armed with examples of times you demonstrated these skills.
For each skill listed above and any others the firm considers important, try the STAR technique. It’s a handy way of breaking down your answers into more memorable and structured chunks.
This stands for, Situation, Task, Action and Result. For each skill think about this structure:
- Situation – explain the situation you were in
- Task – think of what you had to achieve
- Action – what actions did you take
- Result – what was the end result? What would you have done differently?
Sell Your Skills
While the most important thing is that you can do the job well, it’s important that you can sell them in a presentable, professional package that ties all your positive qualities together.
So make sure you’re dressed smartly. If you’re unsure what to wear, it’s always better to risk dressing too smart than too casual, especially for something like an accountancy firm.
Pay attention to your body language, make sure it’s projecting confidence and openness. People have a tendency to hunch and cross their arms when they’re nervous but this can come across as unconfident or even rude. Similarly, make sure you’re comfortable maintaining eye contact or you’ll look bored or unfocused.
When going in for the handshake, try to make sure it’s not too weak or too firm. Your handshake says a lot about your confidence. Don’t be afraid to practice with friends or family beforehand, as weird as that might sound.
It might be a cliché but it’s still good to remember to try to be yourself. Though it might be difficult to see how you could possibly be yourself with all the advice of what not to do above, it’s important to try to inject a little personality into your interview.
Part of the purpose of an interview is to see whether you’d be a good fit for the company culture, both for yourself and for them. Try too hard to be someone else and the interviewers will spot it’s an act from a mile off.
Need to brush up on your interview skills? Take a look at the Interviews section of our website, and if you need any further help come and talk to us or book a mock interview.
This article was written by Kara Copple, content writer for The Accountancy Partnership