ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Tips on accountancy and audit job interviews

How often do you leave a job interview and wonder if you did enough to get the job? Unsuccessful candidates are usually left in the dark as to what let them down. Simon Wright, managing director at global job board CareersinAudit.com, sheds some light on what interviewers are looking for

Accountants and auditors, we know, are numbers people and as such can speak in facts, figures and technical terms that sound like a foreign language to others in the business. So how can you improve your chances at the next interview? Good communication is crucial – make sure you are clear, concise and structured with your answers, and talk to them in a language they can relate to – keeping the jargon to a minimum.

Be aware of how you are coming across during the interview, not just in what you say but also through body language. Maintain eye contact, don’t slouch, be open but not aggressively so and mirror them to show you’re engaged. Demonstrating strong communication skills is key to interview success. How you answer your interviewer’s questions tells them how you will fare when put in front of the business or key stakeholders.

Do your homework. Candidates who don’t do it typically get rejected. Insufficient research into the company will hurt you at interview stage so be prepared to dig deeper than just the ‘about us’ page on the company website. Have a read of their executive summary or annual report so you have a good understanding of their financials, the areas of potential risk and their potential growth areas. Put their name into a Google News search to educate yourself of any recent developments with the company or related events that could be important to the future of the company. Similarly, cast your net wider to the industry at large and find out whether any changes are afoot that would affect the company.

Get familiar with who their competitors are and what they’re doing. Abigail Stevens of Think Global Recruitment says, “In the 20-plus years I have been working in accountancy recruitment, the most cited reason why candidates are rejected is for not being able to articulate why they want to join the company. They want to know why you are specifically motivated to join their business. Most people think it is about their technical skills, but it is about so much more.’’

Speaking of industry, a lot of clients want people to hit the ground running, flush with industry knowledge that will enable them to do just that. On that note, finding ways to link your industry experience with the job you’re applying for will impress your interviewer. If you don’t have prior industry-specific experience, then researching into it is still useful to enable you to enter a topical discussion around it should it arise.

When it comes to questions you don’t know how to answer, be honest. One of the main things that candidates fall down on is assuming they’re expected to know everything and fluffing out a response. Interviewers are looking for transparency when it comes to your abilities so they can know where you’ll fit into the business.

To that end, don’t include anything on your CV that you can’t later back up with real life examples or evidence.

People like it when you show initiative, so if you come up against a question that is not straightforward to answer but you’ve dealt with something similar in a previous role or you know how to find the answer, then tell them. It will demonstrate your ability to think creatively when it comes to problem solving. Stevens told us, ‘’Many employers are now using competency-based interview questions to see how you have handled certain situations. It is important to think which competencies they might be looking for and what examples you can use prior to the interview. Also Google how to answer these questions, it is important to get the technique right. Questions that start with ‘can you give me an example of’ or ‘please tell me about a time’ require you talk through about a specific experience you have. What was the situation, what did you do and what was the outcome.’’

Last but not least is being prepared with questions for your interviewer. Part of an auditor’s role is to ask questions in order to glean information for the reports you’ll write up on the job. If you can show intelligence and thought via the questions you put forward to your interviewer, you are giving them a good indication of how well you’ll conduct your audits.


Originally published in Economia on 16 May 2019.