How to handle interview questions

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You’ve done the prep, you’ve ironed the shirt, you’ve memorised your CV. It’s interview time. Sitting across from the person who holds the fate of your career in their hands can cause your mind to run away from you when those all important questions are being fired out. So, here are some things to bear in mind to help you secure your next role in accounting or audit.

The first thing to know is what kind of questions you can expect. Accountancy firms, Big Four and their mid-tier peers alike, are rather partial to questions around competency. So do your homework around the types of competencies the firm you’re interviewing with target, also be prepared to talk in detail about situations that show competencies being targeted.

Arm yourself with examples of when you’ve come up against communication problems, difficult customers or colleagues, time management issues, project management issues, having to adapt to change, issues around client confidentiality, teamwork, problem-solving. Have an answer prepared around all of these questions and more as you explain how you dealt with each scenario and came up with an effective resolution to the conflict.

The art of answering competency questions is exhibiting confidence in your delivery and the ability to provide examples that ultimately demonstrate how you will add value to the firm. Your interviewer wants to understand what skills you bring to the table, so weave those in along with any personal accomplishments you’ve obtained to really sell yourself. They want to know who you are and how you’ll fit in with the corporate culture.

Highlight your strengths in logical and analytical thinking when you strategized how to cut costs in a prior role; demonstrate the innovative approach you took to improve an accounting process; emphasise your commitment to applying attention to detail and your ability to self-regulate in the pursuit of accuracy; and provide clear examples of how well you’re able to work under the pressure of tight deadlines, which is par for the course when working in accounting or audit.

Your interviewer will also want to know why. Why did you choose their firm to work at? Why do you want to work in audit? Why did you handle that situation like you did?

It goes without saying that the specific questions you’ll be asked at interview will be tailored to the accounting job you’re applying for. So have answers ready that align your expertise with the role at hand, whether that’s your knowledge of tax legislation for a tax accounting role or your fluency with managing financial statements if you’re planning to work for a company in-house.

Keep your goals in mind as to why you’re applying for this job. You don’t necessarily have to verbalise that to your interviewer, particularly if your driver is money, but having it firmly in your mind will keep you focused and enthusiastic during the interview process.

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