Accounting job interview: If you’re looking to land your next accountancy role, preparing for your next interview can be a daunting process.
To help you make sure the numbers are stacked in your favour, we’ve asked two of our accountancy experts for their advice…
Let your CV tell the story
William Young, senior consultant in Robert Walters’ South Africa office, tells his candidates to make sure their CVs show their career progression. “One key thing candidates forget to include in their CVs is promotions. Instead of just saying ‘financial accountant’ for four years, put ‘junior accountant’ for two years and ‘financial accountant’ for two years. This will show hiring managers that you have succeeded in your previous roles and been rewarded.”
Part of this CV storytelling should include detailing your own personal achievements in every role you’ve had. As he explains, “focusing on any process improvements you’ve implemented —such as reducing tax or introducing a new way of financial reporting — will quickly show hiring managers what you’re capable of and what you’d bring to the role.”
William also reminds his applicants to list out all their credentials and expertise that might be linked to the role. “All relevant experience should be highlighted clearly on your CV,” he says. “Alongside any chartered accountancy qualifications, you should also include the technical knowledge you have, as experience with IT software and systems is increasingly important to hiring managers.”
Do your financial homework
The first thing any accountancy candidate should do is check out the company’s financial health, says Lance Maree, director of commerce finance for Robert Walters South Africa. “It’s important that candidates check press releases and accountancy websites for news on the company they’re applying for — it’s really surprising how many applicants aren’t aware of company takeovers, for example,” he explains.
Hiring managers may also ask questions about the wider accountancy sector, so a more holistic approach to research can also be hugely beneficial for candidates. “Interviewers will often ask about their competitors, so make sure you know who they are and what they’re doing,” says Lance. “Candidates should have an overall view of the industry and be able to discuss the key challenges and risks the sector faces over coming years.”
There are two main types of questioning that candidates can expect in an accountancy interview, explains William: technical competency questions and psychometric behavioural questions.
“When it comes to technical skills, you’ll need to show that you can work with large datasets and do complex reconciliations of the data included,” he says. “Or if, for example, the company is still going through IFRS implementations then you should expect questions on how they would attach costs and revenue to types of contracts or projects affected by the changes.”
On the behavioural side, Lance tells his candidates to prepare for psychometric testing such as personality profiling or verbal reasoning, which is particularly popular with larger, blue-chip companies. “Candidates often take these tests lightly,” warns Lance, “but companies wouldn’t invest in them if they weren’t important. So, take advantage of practice tests online beforehand to familiarise yourself with the format.”
Show off your communication and consultation skills
Being able to communicate is important in any job you apply for but, as William advises his applicants, in an accountancy role a hiring manager will want assurances that you are able to work successfully with people outside your immediate team and communicate with other stakeholders.
“Being able to partner with other areas of the business and talk about accounts using non-financial terms is a key skill that you should look to highlight,” he says. “This ability is highly sought-after and often not seen across all candidates, so draw on any experience and expertise you have in this area.”
“Accountancy has changed quite a bit in recent years,” adds Lance. “It’s not just about adding up the numbers anymore; hiring managers are keen to see how you build partnerships with other areas of the company, such as the commercial team, to help drive the business forward.”
In an interview setting, William reminds his candidates to focus solely on why they want the job. “Discussing the reasons why you want to leave your current position could lead to some red flags for the interviewer. Make sure you stay focused on the pull factors of the job that you are interviewing for instead.”
Asking about the working culture can be a great way of showing enthusiasm for the role, suggests Lance. “For many candidates, this is the most important thing to look for in a new role. Questions focused solely on salary will reflect poorly and make the hiring manager question the candidate’s motives.”