They often say that getting an interview is the hardest part of getting a job. It’s true that if you’ve already gotten the interview, it means they’re interested.
However, your resume and cover letter won’t land you a job as an accountant on their own. Just about every candidate will have similar educational qualifications and probably similar experience.
So how to stand out?
Showcase during the interview that you’re a great fit for the job. Use your unique personality to show that you’re more than what you’ve put on your resume. It’s a tall order, but with some smart planning, you can score that dream accounting job.
Here are 8 tips to help you wow the interviewers.
1) Basics First: Be Sure to Practice
It might seem cheesy or unnecessary to practice for an interview, but you won’t be laughing when you’re able to answer the questions you’re asked without hesitating or freezing up. Most people aren’t comfortable with public speaking and that can translate into extreme nervousness during an interview.
Interviews for accountant jobs generally consist of a mix of technical questions that are related to accountancy and finance concepts and personality and work style questions.
The best way to prepare for these questions is to go over your finance experience at previous positions and run through balance sheet examples. Make sure you can point at and explain cash flow, company assets, liabilities and shareholders’ equity.
While you won’t be able to practice your answers to all the questions they’ll ask (and even if you could, you’d come off as a robot!), you will be able to get comfortable with the format of an interview.
Have friends or family role play, and remember to have fun with it! The key is to build up confidence and poise.
2) And Don’t Forget to Show Up (a Little Bit) Early!
Plan for the worst when you’re heading out for an interview. If you leave early, you’ll give yourself a buffer in case you get lost, there’s traffic, or the train gets delayed. Plus, you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the interview location a few minutes early—five to ten is ideal.
If you get to the office earlier than that, consider camping out in a coffee shop for a little while. You want to be early, but showing up too early can also send the wrong message.
It could also be beneficial to practice getting to the interview site the day before. You’ll be able to take stock of the best spots to park, how busy the area is, and how much time you have to give yourself to get there.
3) Oh, and Try to Dress Like a Champ
More and more companies are going more casual when it comes to their dress code, but that doesn’t apply to interview attire.
If you only own one suit, then it’s time to break it out. Dress to impress! There are lots of resources out there if you’re not sure what’s appropriate.
It’s a good idea to think about your interview outfit well in advance. Consider the time of year and the type of accounting job you’re applying for.
If you need to buy something new for the interview, think of it as an investment in creating your first impression.
4) No Need to Get Right to Business – Have a Friendly Chat!
People don’t just look at the skills and experience of a candidate in order to make hiring decisions.
A lot of interviewers make decisions based on the relationships they build during the interview and on how much they like the candidates as people.
You don’t want to come off as a person who likes numbers more than people (even if you sometimes feel that way!).
Even if you’re nervous, start things off with a friendly chat. Take some time to get to know your interviewer and make a human connection.
Ask the interviewer appropriate questions about their work history and educational background.
To get a better sense of the company culture, ask your interviewer what they enjoy the most about working at the company. It can make a big difference.
5) Make Sure You Clearly Highlight Why You’re Perfectly Qualified
Sometimes, we feel the need to downplay what we know or what we can do because we don’t want to seem boastful or create unrealistic expectations. While that makes sense, it’s a poor strategy during an interview for obvious reasons.
You don’t want to claim that you have experience when you don’t, but if you’re an accountant with the right education and skills, you need to highlight that during the interview.
Because there are several different certifications and qualifications accounting professionals can earn, be clear about exactly what you know when you’re talking to interviewers.
Highlight how your certification or degree has served you and makes you the right fit for the position.
6) Craft Your Resume to Reflect Your Potential Position
Let’s get something out of the way: you should never lie on your resume. It’s just not worth it and you won’t be able to keep it a secret for long.
What you should do, however, is tailor your resume for the applications you’re sending out.
When you craft your resume to reflect your potential position, you’re projecting confidence. To get a high-paying accounting job, you need to act like you’re used to taking these kinds of roles—even if you haven’t yet.
Show the company what you could bring to the table from the moment they glance at your resume—not just what you’ve done in the past.
By tailoring your resume to show specific actions and impacts you’ve made in the past, you can help interviewers see how you’ll benefit the company if you were hired.
7) Take the Next Step & Research the Company
Anyone can walk into an interview and answer questions. But the candidates that land great accounting jobs are the ones who take some extra initiative and do their research beforehand.
Carve out some time before your interview—maybe an hour or so—and go over the company’s website. Take a look at what they offer, who the key players are, and who your colleagues might be.
Read their blog posts and press releases to see some of the recent work they’ve been doing. Most company’s have several social media profiles that they use to share company successes and upcoming events, so be sure to check out the company’s social accounts to get a better sense of their company culture.
This kind of basic research is easy to do but will help you stand out from other candidates. Management always finds it impressive when you’ve done your research, and they’ll be able to tell if you’ve come prepared or you’re just winging it.
Plus, if you do your research, you’ll have more to talk about with the interviewers and you’ll be able to highlight how you’ll contribute specifically to the company’s success!
8) Really Looking to Impress? Practice Active Listening
In an interview, it can be tempting to talk—a lot. While you do need to tell the interviewers about yourself, you should also showcase more subtle skills, like active listening.
People want to know that you’re really focused on what they’re saying, rather than just waiting for your next opportunity to talk. As you practice for your interview, add active listening to the list of skills you want to work on.
In addition to really impressing interviewers, active listening will help you really understand what the company is looking for and give you opportunities to showcase why you’re the best fit for the job.
So take a deep breath and get ready—your dream accounting job is waiting for you!