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Accountancy interviews can differ from other sectors, and as a result we are very aware that generic advice is not always suitable. We asked our expert Finance & Accountancy Consultants to give us their thoughts on how you can prepare for your next accountancy interview and explain what employers are looking for when hiring qualified chartered accountants.
Whether you are a newly qualified accountant or an experienced candidate looking for a new opportunity, preparing for an interview can be difficult. To help you prepare for your next accountancy interview we have asked our Finance & Accountancy recruitment team for their expert tips and advice to assist you with your job search.
Get your CV right
In the finance & accountancy sector your CV is vitally important, so make sure it tells a story about you, your experience and your career to date. Do not go into too much detail on your CV. Make sure you include and briefly describe any promotions, key skills you have learnt and qualifications you have gained to give the employer a real understanding of your past history.
Remember to always include the sector you have worked in previously and the turnover of the business if possible. This will give the interviewer a good understanding of your suitability for the role and will also help them formulate questions to ask you about your experience. Specialist Finance & Accountancy recruiter Sam explained that this is an area candidates often fall down on.
“I often find that candidates don’t detail their positions or explain gaps in their CV, which can be off putting to a potential employer. When looking for qualified candidates employers like to have as much information as possible to help them gauge how suitable you are for the role, so it is hugely important to ensure your CV is a true reflection of you and your employment/qualification history.”
Showcase your knowledge and skillset
Employers are looking for candidates that can hit the ground running, so it is important to showcase your skillset and experience from the offset. The detail you go into will be totally dependent on your level and seniority. For example, a newly qualified ACA or ICAS candidate should think about what they have learnt whilst studying and how this will help them succeed in the role. You may have performed particularly well in a certain exam or have had some experience whilst training that you feel is beneficial. If you are an experienced chartered accountant however you will be expected to think about specific examples where you have added value in a previous role. Manager Jonathan Moss offered his advice.
“Our clients expect candidates to be able to tailor their experience and skills to the role they are interviewing for. This is the same for candidates at all levels. My advice is to study the job description and prepare this ahead of time as this is something every employer will be looking for. It might be easier to print off a copy of your CV and the job specification and make sure you cover each pint during your interview.”
Do your research on the company
We advise candidates to look at a prospective employers when researching prior to an interview. Look at blogs they have recently written, awards they have won and anything else that you might be able to use throughout your interview to show that you have done your research. As a finance & accountancy candidate you may also want to consider researching their financial health, and use that information when in your interview. Manager Martin Parr explained why.
“Before your interview you should look at a prospective employer’s end of year accounts on Companies House and do a simple Google search for any recent news. This gives you ammunition and topical things to discuss during the interview, and may give you some ideas on what value you can add should you secure the vacancy. You should also ensure your knowledge of the sector you are applying for is up-to-date. This will help when discussing the market and also allow you to discuss any challenges or opportunities the sector may be facing in more detail.”
Think about personal achievements rather than team goals
Interestingly, our clients have said that they look for qualified candidates that are able to confidently explain achievements that they have personally achieved, rather than a team effort, Sam explained.
“Most of us work in team environments and talk about ‘us’ and ‘the team’ as a collective. We are all comfortable giving credit to the team and the group, however when talking to a prospective employer about yourself you need to talk about your personal achievements.”
If you are newly qualified, talk about your professional qualifications and any extracurricular activities you have excelled in. For senior candidates it is important to think about projects and key strategies that you lead in your previous role, and what impact these had on the business.
Prepare in advance for common interview questions
Candidates need to be prepared to answer technical competency based questions when applying for roles within the finance & accountancy sector. If you have previously held an accountancy role, the employer will want to test your knowledge and work out how you would respond to certain situations. For example, all accountants should be able to reduce costs so a common question our clients often ask is to describe a time when you reduced costs. Manager Jonathan Moss explained how to deal with technical questions at interview.
“It is always good to have specific examples of success that you can tailor to different questions in your interview. You may have to think on your feet a bit, but having some specific examples of where you added value and saved costs are always useful. For junior candidates that may not have this experience, think about your training and what you might be able to do to assist.”
If you want further help on securing your next finance & accountancy job, please get in touch or view our current live jobs here.
Alternatively, check out our dedicated resources section for Qualified ACA/ICAS candidates here.