Accountancy interviews can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. If you’re applying for an amazing new job opportunity, the pressure to present yourself as a reputable, trustworthy, skilled and reliable individual can quickly get on top of you, no matter how confident you usually feel.
While most interviewers expect to see a few signs of nerves in candidates, making certain mistakes during this crucial conversation could mean you miss out on a fantastic role.
Whether you’re meeting with an employer through a video conference or participating in a face-to-face interview, it is key to be prepared.
So here are some of the most common interview mistakes you should always avoid.
1. Not Being Prepared
Perhaps the biggest cardinal sin any accountant candidate can commit is failing to prepare fully for the interview. Before you go into your interview, you should always research the company thoroughly.
Take a closer look at the job description and ensure you know exactly what your employer is looking for, so you can prepare answers to interview questions that showcase the right competencies and characteristics. Examining the job description carefully will also help you determine whether the role is right for you.
Study the company’s website to get a feel for its culture, vision, and values, and try to incorporate these factors into your answers too. Check the company’s social media channels, and ask your accountancy and finance recruitment company for advice.
2. Dressing Inappropriately
Times have changed, though not that much, that dressing appropriately for an interview no longer matters. Most interviewers won’t give you a specific dress code to follow before you turn up for the conversation, so it’s up to you to use your common sense. If you’re unsure whether the company is generally more “laid back” about dress codes, dress professionally.
You don’t necessarily need to wear a suit for every interview, but you should focus on professional dress. This applies not just to face-to-face interviews but video interviews too. Hiring managers still expect to see professionally-presented candidates when they’re interacting over video.
Dressing properly will show your interviewer that you’re taking this accountancy interview seriously.
3. Talking About the Wrong Things
For a hiring manager in the accountancy and finance sector, an interview is a chance to get to know candidates better, evaluate their competency for the role, and determine whether they will fit the company’s existing culture well. The things you discuss in your interview should highlight why you’re a good fit for the position and business.
With this in mind, make sure you don’t start talking about the wrong things. Don’t immediately jump into a discussion about salary (you can ask about this later), and try not to get too caught up in small talk at the beginning of the interview, either.
Most importantly, never criticise former employers or colleagues. Talking negatively about a previous place of employment will make you look petty.
If you’re asked questions like “Tell me about a time that you didn’t work well with your manager”, don’t try to pin the issue entirely on them. Focus on the communication issues or other problems which contributed to the situation.
4. Not Being Punctual
A well-known quote says, ‘the way you do anything is the way you do everything.’
Therefore, an interview is the first opportunity to demonstrate how you ‘do’ things and what kind of employee you will be to your potential employer. Arriving late is never a good sign, as it shows you’re not well-organised, punctual, or good at time management – even if you have a valid excuse.
Ensure you’re going to arrive on time or early for your interview by planning your route and setting off early if you’re concerned you will be affected by traffic. If you’re taking part in a pre-screening interview over video or your interview is a video conference, make sure you check all of your software and hardware is working in advance.
When the interview begins, don’t rush off to grab your CV and other resources before you can start talking. Show you’re well-prepared by having everything you need in front of you. If you can’t avoid being late, call your accountancy hiring manager to let them know what’s happening as soon as you’re aware you’re not going to arrive on time.
5. Poor Body Language
Communication is up to 55% non-verbal. It’s not just what you say that your hiring manager will be paying attention to in an interview, but how you present yourself too. Slouching in your seat, constantly checking the time, or fidgeting all show your potential employer you’re distracted or uninterested in the role.
Before an interview, take a few deep breaths to focus. Concentrate on regularly making eye contact with the people you’re talking to, sitting straight, and maintaining confidence. Keep your hands in front of you on the table or in your lap, and never check your phone during a meeting.
If you’re worried about what your body language might be saying about you, it could be helpful to practice some “interview scenarios” with friends before you go for the actual meeting.
6. Not Listening Properly
Employers want their accountancy and finance employees to be passionate, engaged, and attentive. With this in mind, you should always show your hiring manager that you’re listening carefully to every word they say. If you feel your attention slipping during a particularly long interview, make an extra effort to stay engaged. Lean forward slightly, make eye contact, and focus.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve understood a question correctly, ask your hiring manager about it. It’s okay to double-check that you know what they’re looking for when they query something. Just try not to ask your hiring manager to repeat themselves constantly.
A good way to show you’re actively listening is to rework the question into your answer. For instance, if someone asks you to “tell them about a situation where you acted as a leader”, you could say, “I think I showed my leadership qualities best during…”
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