Interview Advice for Accounting

interview advice for accounting

Your resume has impressed and you now have a face-to-face job interview. Here Emma Charnock, Regional Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance in Hong Kong provides her job interview advice for accounting positions.

Be Prepared

Preparation is critical to job interview success, so it pays to do your homework! You should research the organisation concerned by visiting their website. The “About Us” or “Media” sections, as well as professional bodies, annual reports and your recruitment consultant can provide a wealth of information about the company that allow you to gain a better understanding of their business and how your experience and skills match. For example, if you are interviewing for a specific group, Audit, Tax, or Advisory, it is best to research the firm you are interviewing with and determine the position they hold in the market. Are there clients listed? Do they have PRC coverage?

Next prepare a list of questions you want to ask about the organisation and the position in the interview – and think ahead! Such questions could include:

    What level would they consider you for?
    What type of clients do they have?
    Will the role involve frequent travel to PRC?
    If you are still completing your qualification, do they offer study leave?
    Why should you join the first over other CPA firms?
    What career opportunities do they offer?

It is important to look professional, act professionally and dress professionally for your job interview. As a rule, you should expect the environment to be conservative and corporate, so dress conservatively rather than casually or radically. For example, a dark suit and tie, or a skirt and jacket. Memorise the names and titles of the people you will be meeting with and have a spare copy of your resume to take with you.
The interview

First impressions are critical. Research has shown that an interviewer has made an impression within the first eight seconds of meeting the person. The remainder of the interview is spent confirming this opinion, or turning this opinion around. So to be on the safe side, arrive at least ten minutes early, walk tall and offer a smile and firm handshake when being introduced to the interviewer. Maintain good eye contact throughout the interview.

Treat the interview as a two-way discussion and answer questions honestly, directly and keep to the point. Everyone present will be focusing their attention on you, so clouding your answer with jargon or evading the issue will be more obvious than you think. If you are not certain about a particular question, do not be afraid to ask if it can be rephrased. Listen, never interrupt and answer only what is asked.

Some of the common subject areas that are likely to come up during the interview include:

General Background
    Often the first question is a request for a summary of your background. People applying for their first job should focus on extra curricular activities, education, and qualifications. It is quite acceptable to repeat major points you have outlined in your resume or letter of application.
    A specific question often asked is “Why do you think you are qualified for this position?” Qualifications, in this context, mean all qualifications which could make you suitable for the position including educational, employment-related and personal. In most cases, this may be the question that will win or lose you the job, so your answer needs to be clear and memorable.
    Here is where your research pays off. Your answer should include details about relevant employment, community or educational experience and how this relates to the nature of the industry, the organisation and the position itself. You should always include any Intern placements that you had whilst completing your accounting studies.
Reasons for Applying
    If you are applying for your first, or one of your first jobs, your answer should describe what you find appealing about the position, how you prepared yourself for a career in the organisation and how you believe your present job equips you for the position in question.
Career Objectives
    Be ready to discuss your long-term aspirations. Your best approach is one that indicates you have thought about your career in these terms and have taken some action towards realising your ambitions.
Crisis Management
    In some organisations, employers give candidates questions designed to test their ability in situations or crises. You should try to find out the most common type of dilemma for employees in the job you are seeking and formulate an intelligent response. One of the main crisis questions asked at interview is “are you prepared to travel to the PRC”. This is very important for the employer to know as with the expanding client base in the PRC it could be a critical factor for the accounting firm.

Towards the end of the interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions of your own. Be confident when asking your questions and use them as another way to impress. For instance, you could ask about the company’s plans for the future and the place this role could have in that future.

At the end of your interview, smile and thank the people involved for their time. While decisions and job offers are usually made some time after the interview(s), should an offer of employment be made at the conclusion of any interview you attend, ask whether the offer will be confirmed in writing. Also, it is not unreasonable to request a short period of time to consider the offer before formally accepting.

Source: Hays Hong Kong
Edited by: jobsDB HK