This specialistinterview advice, specifically for temporary candidates, contractors and interims in the accountancy & risk space, is designed to help you prepare for the tougher interview processes in place now - even though the recession has eased.
On the back of your CV application, your interviewer will quiz you to assess if you have the right knowledge, skills and experience needed for the position. Your interviewer will also want to make sure that you’re the right personality and cultural fit for the company and team, while determining if you’ll be a valued and productive addition. Therefore, you need to sell yourself according to the requirements of your potential employer – and meet what they’re looking for in a successful applicant. Concentrate your answers towards their needs, rather then focusing on your own.
Don’t worry if you’re nervous, just try to remain calm and confident – remember your CV was short listed for interview so you have a very good chance of being offered the job. In the days before the interview familiarise yourself with the job spec and read over your CV a few times, as your interviewer will centre their questions around this.
Typically, as the interview closes, you’ll be asked a few questions on the company and the position in question. Research the company and be prepared, the more you know about the company, the greater your interest and enthusiasm for working there will seem. Be aware of their products, services, reputation, business principles, mission statement, competitors, culture and history. Look up the countries that they operate in, their divisions and news on deals they’ve recently closed.
Before your interview, make sure to have a briefing with your consultant. Come in to our office and your consultant will talk you through the job specification and the interview process and will be able to give you practical advice for the day. We’ve worked with many of our clients for a number of years, so we’re best placed to give you specific guidance and information.
Some example questions for temporary accountancy and risk management jobs
Depending on who’s interviewing you, the type of questions asked may differ.
HR – If you interview with HR, your interviewer will want to assess you, your personality and qualities. They will be more likely to ask you competency based questions rather than technical. They will also ask you behavioural questions to test how you think and how you would react in certain situations - like the steps you would take to work effectively under pressure, to meet deadlines and to overcome and resolve issues and problems. They will also want to make sure that you’re not likely to display disruptive or negative behaviour, or cause any potential ethical problems.
Questions you may be asked include
• Tell me about a time that you had to work under pressure. How did you deal with the pressure and get the job finished?
• What is the biggest mistake that you’ve ever made professionally? How have you learnt from it?
• Describe a time when you’ve been met with a problem that you couldn’t solve. How was the problem resolved?
• Describe a time when you’ve been in a situation of conflict. How was this settled?
• Describe a problem that you’ve faced as part of a team. How did you work together to solve the issue?
• Describe a problem that you’ve encountered involving an employee who reported in to you. How did you resolve the issue?
• Why have you chosen to apply for this position?
• What qualities do you have that you think will help you to perform in this position?
• How has your previous experience prepared you to take on this role?
• What are your strengths?
• What are your weaknesses?
• Can you explain the gap/career break in your CV?
• How do you prioritise your day/week to work effectively and meet deadlines?
• Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?
• Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years time?
• Are you success or money led?
Line manager – If you interview with a line manager, the focus of the interview will shift slightly to concentrate more on what you can do. Your potential employer will want to find out if you’re technically competent and able to perform within the position, how you’ll be of benefit to them and the team. Most of these questions will revolve around the job spec and your experience as you’ve described it on your CV, focusing on products, processes and systems that you’ve used and your level of experience with that particular software. The line manager will also want to see if you’re a good personality fit.
Other questions that you may be asked include
• Have you ever improved a process or implemented a new process in any of your previous positions? Does the company still use this process now?
• Tell me about a decision that you’ve made that has affected processes and your colleagues? What was the benefit to your colleagues and your company?
• Have you ever used your initiative to improve or change a process?
• What concerns do you have about this role and/or the company?
• What are your thoughts on the current market situation?
• Give an example of a company that you think is performing well/badly. Why do you think so?
Always make sure that you understand the question that you’re being asked. If not, there’s nothing wrong with asking your interviewer to clarify what they’re asking you. Don’t rush to reply. Take a few moments to think over the question and formulate your answer.
When responding, always use examples. Examples will answer your interviewer’s questions, while also proving that you can do the job and have the skills, knowledge and experience to do so, highlighting your suitability for the position. When using an example to highlight your answer, explain the situation and what needed to be done. Let your interviewer know what actions you took and conclude with the end result and what was achieved.
Use specific work related examples that are relevant to the question being asked. Have at least 5 or 6 examples ready to use and pick these examples from a variety of jobs that you’ve worked in. Try to keep your examples as recent as possible and talk about them from your point of view – what your involvement was and what you did.
When using your examples, don’t forget to tell your interviewer what the end result was. Use situations where the result was measurable – explain how this affected you/your team/the company. For example, “in conclusion, I saved the company X amount of money/time.” Try to remember dates and stats to back these up.
Tailor every answer to every question to the finance job that you’re interviewing for. Take, for example, the question “Tell me about yourself” – your answer should relate back to the position – your experience, responsibilities held and projects that you’ve worked on that will qualify you for this position. Finish off by briefly talking about your goals.
If you’re asked a negative question, always try to answer with a positive response. For example if your contract was terminated in your last position, say that this has given you the opportunity to look for a new and challenging position, with the prospect of expanding your experience while learning different skills and meeting new people. If the question is concerning any weaknesses that you might have, respond with a weakness that you’ve overcome and explain how you did this.
Sometimes an interview can become quite conversational. Always try to stay on track, still relating everything you say back to the position that you’re interviewing for. An interview is never just a general chat, you’re always being assessed. Never discuss controversial subjects like politics or religion, if you feel the conversation could be heading down this route, try to steer it back on course.
While it’s tempting, don’t talk about pay. Save these conversations to have with your recruitment consultant. Your consultant will work hard on your behalf to negotiate the most competitive rate possible.
Towards the end of the interview, you’ll usually have the option to ask your interviewer a question. You can use this opportunity to address any concerns that the interviewer might have about your suitability for the position. “Do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?”. This will give you the chance to tackle their concerns and sell your skills and experience more. Here you could also mention any achievements that you wanted to mention during the interview but didn’t have the chance to.
Other questions that you could ask your interviewer include
• What are the short/long term goals for this position/department?
• How is success measured? On an individual or team/department basis
• If I was successful and was offered the position, what would be my main objective?
• What is a typical day within this position?
• What do you enjoy about working for this company?
After your interview
Make sure to ring your consultant as soon as possible to let them know how you found the interview, if you’re interested in the position and if you’d like to work at the company. Let your consultant know how this finance job ranks against other positions that you’ve interviewed for, if there was anything about this job that you wouldn’t want to do and if there was anything that you wanted to ask your interviewer, but didn’t get the chance to.
Your interviewer will often call your recruitment consultant after the interview to find out your feedback. With your feedback your consultant will be able to reinforce your interest in the position and keenness to start. Your consultant will also be able to answer any queries that your interviewer might have that were possibly not addressed fully during the interview.
Try to tell your consultant your feedback as soon as possible – any delay might be looked upon negatively by your potential employer.
Finally, good luck!