Interview skills: Job interview day
In the first article in this interview series Simon Wright shared some key advice ahead of the interview. Here he talks interview etiquette.
Before the interview
From the moment you walk into the building you must assume interview mode, who knows, your interviewer may be next to you in the lift.
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Be early, but not too early and if you need to make a bathroom stop, try and do that before you reach the building where your interview is taking place.
Wardrobe and make up
Interviewing for a job in accounting requires a candidate to dress the part, which typically means a suit and tie for the gentlemen and a smart jacket and skirt for ladies.
Make sure shirts are tucked in, hands are clean, and for the women, don’t over-do the jewellery as jingling bangles will be as unwelcome as a ringing phone in the interview room.
Keep make up simple and aim for minimal perfume or aftershave; let your experience impress them rather than your cosmetic routine.
The simplest of tips to smooth your interview experience from the get go; a smile will make you appear confident, even when you’re not feeling it and at the most fundamental level, a smile tells your interviewer that you are someone who can easily fit into the team, endear the boss and create successful client relationships.
First impressions are everything
Your opening gambit may set the tone for the entire interview so you want to leave a positive taste in their mouths from the start.
Largely, the best course of action is to appear open and approachable and greet your interviewer with a firm full-handed handshake.
Props and portfolios
It is perfectly acceptable to place your portfolio or notepad and pen beside you. However, having your phone or your half-drunk Starbucks beverage out on the table is a big no-no, and besides the former should be off and the latter disposed of.
If your interviewer offers you a glass of water, my advice is to take it even if you’re not thirsty. It’s polite and it may buy you a few seconds of thinking time if you find yourself struggling over a particular question.
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In an interview scenario, your potential employer is actively looking to find out more about you, and the things you leave unspoken are a useful pointer for them to see how you cope in a pressurised situation.
Sit up straight, maintain eye contact and remember once again to smile. Don’t tap your foot, repeatedly touch your hair, overdo hand gestures, slump or yawn because all those things will distract the interviewer from your responses to their questions about your accounting experience and skill set and not in a good way.
You might be nervous but resist the urge to sit on your hands, and equally don’t leave them in your lap for the duration. Crossing your arms and legs also sends the wrong message, so maintain an open posture.
Employers are not just interested about the applicant’s technical expertise but their personality too. Some candidates may feel that the questions they have been asked in the past are strange and not appropriate.
Yet today’s accountants need a much broader set of skills so employers are naturally keen to see how much of a lateral thinker interviewees are and how they might react in a number of different and unexpected situations with a client.
From our research we know that real life questions that have actually cropped up in interviews (and the candidate thought were strange) include: “Sell me a pen”, “What is your greatest weakness?”, “What would your ex-boss say about you to us?” and “When was the last time you visited an art museum or gallery?”
Ahead of your interview think about your interests outside work, perhaps what causes you are passionate about, what has been your biggest or proudest achievement to date and even an anecdote which shows how you overcame a personal challenge.
Anticipate you may get some off-piste questions
Do also anticipate that you may get some left-field questions which you could not have anticipated or prepared for.
Real life examples include: “Did you dream last night?”, “Sing me a song”, “How many oranges are eaten in the US each day?” and “Tell me something no-one knows about you.”
While you may not be able to prepare for these questions, the employer will be looking to see how you respond and how you handle yourself. If you really want to take control of more light hearted questions such as “Sing me a song” then consider asking the person/people interviewing you to join in!
Handling un-PC questions
Our poll revealed that even in the age of being politically correct, some candidates have been asked questions such as “How many boyfriends have you had in your life?”, “Why have you not been married?” or “When are you going to have children?”
While I’d like to think these are very much the exception to the rule, should you find yourself being asked these questions or the like, do not be afraid to say calmly that you do not feel this is an appropriate question. Taking control in a collected manner also indicates to an employer how you are likely handle a situation should you find yourself put in a difficult position/asked a difficult question by a potential client.
The end of the interview offers you the chance to thank your interviewer(s) by name, shaking hands again and to reiterate your interest in the role. Keep smiling and leave your phone in your bag or pocket until you are well out of the building.
A job in accounting may be all about the numbers and paperwork but when it comes to interviewing for the role never underestimate the power of people skills.
What’s the most challenging or unusual question you’ve been asked in an interview?