Interviews

Potential employers will notice when you walk into interviews for accounting jobs fully prepared. If the door to your interview room is closed, always knock before entering, even though your interviewer is expecting you. Small courtesies like this demonstrate that you are aware of how your actions affect others. Firmly shake hands with everyone who is interviewing you.

Make sure you are dressed properly for the interview, too. Some firms may be less formal than others, but you are better off being overdressed than underdressed. Men should wear suits and ties. Women should wear suits and button-down shirts with understated makeup and minimal jewelry. Bring several hard copies of your résumé with you. Your interviewers may or may not request them, but it is better to come prepared. Also, remember to bring any contact information for references.

Think ahead of time about the questions you are likely to be asked in your interview and how you would like to answer them. Prospective employers may ask you to “walk through your résumé” and essentially summarize your past work experience. Do not merely repeat your résumé. Instead, plan to talk about a few examples of problem solving situations. Describe one of your contributions at a former employer by first explaining your task. Tell your interviewer about the steps you took to complete the task and include any relevant details. Describe the positive outcome of your actions and quantitatively tell how it helped your former employer. Your interviewers may ask follow-up questions, so be prepared to answer.

You may also be asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses. Include examples for these answers as well. Tell about how your strengths contributed to something you accomplished. When describing your weaknesses, emphasize the positive. Tell about steps you have taken to overcome your weaknesses and what you have learned. Also remember to be positive if you are asked to describe a former employment situation that was less than ideal. Do not speak negatively about a former employer, but rather talk about what you learned from your experience and the challenges that you conquered. You can also turn this question into a discussion of new opportunities you are seeking.

Be concise in all of your responses. Try not to repeat information, and present all of your answers in an organized manner. Toward the end of the interview, your interviewers will offer you the opportunity to ask questions. Do your research on the company you are interviewing with. Have a few good questions in mind that will show your knowledge about the company when you ask them. You can also demonstrate your knowledge of current accounting trends if you ask questions about how these will affect your position at the company.

After your interview, you should send a thank-you e-mail to everyone who interviewed you within one day. Reiterate what excites you about working for the company, and reference any good discussions you had during the interview. This confirms your interest in the position, shows your politeness, and reminds the interviewers of the important topics you discussed. A simple thank-you does not take long and helps your interviewers remember what sets you apart from the other candidates.

Your university’s office of career services may offer practice interview sessions for current students and alumni. If you do not have much experience interviewing or have not interviewed in a long time, you may want to participate in a practice session. After the practice interview, your practice interviewer will give you feedback on how you can improve your interview skills.