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How to Find A Job In Accounting – The Interview Process

Written by AnonymousJuly 6, 2011
Accounting Job Interview

Whether you’re applying for an internship or a full-time position with an accounting firm, expect some interviews in your future. A strong interview ensures that you’ll be a memorable candidate for the position. The main difference between the recruiting process for internships and full-time positions is their hiring time frame.  Internship interviews are generally conducted at the beginning of each spring semester, typically in February or March, while interviews for full-time positions may be conducted any time of the year but most frequently occur in the fall.

Before you interview for any position, however, you should be familiar with the company. Many firms begin the recruitment process for new college graduates in the fall with a company presentation at a hiring or recruitment event. Aside from describing the various positions available and the locations that are hiring, these presentations provide an invaluable opportunity for you to network with company representatives. Introduce yourself to at least one or two of the recruiters after the presentation so they know you’re interested.  Your discussions with recruiters may be remembered, so be careful about what information you divulge; in later conversations, you want to be sure that you don’t say anything that contradicts your initial interactions. In the months following the presentation, send a thank-you letter to company representatives along with any questions you may have.

Interview preparation

Make sure that you prepare for your interviews. Take several steps to help guarantee that you’re ready for the big day:

  • Research each firm thoroughly. Be sure you know the company inside out. This means you should know exactly what employment opportunities are available and what strengths and weaknesses the company possesses. Being familiar with the company impresses the interviewer by proving that you’re a dedicated candidate with a strong interest in their firm.
  • Utilize career services. Take advantage of your school’s resources as often as you can. Job searches are the career services department’s area of expertise, so they will definitely have some tips about what firms are looking for and which interview strategies are helpful or harmful.
  • Develop your interview strategy. Go into the interview with a firm understanding of which skills and strengths you want to emphasize, and be prepared to showcase these skills. Rehearse your story so you can provide thoughtful explanations for why you chose the university you attended, why you want to get into accounting, and why you’re interested in a particular area  of accounting.
  • Express your interest. At least one month before interviews are scheduled, let the main recruiter know you’re interested by sending him or her a cover letter and resume. Doing so gives you the opportunity to convey interest and request an interview spot.
  • Prepare answers to sample questions. Be sure to practice your responses to some standard interview questions. Internship interviews will likely include general questions about who you are and how well you work with others. Interviewers want to get a sense of whether you possess the qualities they’re looking for, such as well-developed interpersonal skills, a sense of motivation, and an eagerness to learn. Interviews for full-time positions will generally focus more on past work experience and technical knowledge.

The interview

During the interview, you need to present yourself in a professional way. First impressions count, so, to be safe, wear a conservative suit, conservative shoes, and little jewelry. Shy away from strong-smelling perfumes or after shave lotions.

Showing up a few minutes early makes a good impression and will help you feel more relaxed; bringing extra copies of your resume will show recruiters you’re prepared and organized. A firm handshake indicates confidence. Be warned — during the interview, the recruiter may try to throw you off with an unexpected question in order to see how well you function under pressure. Maintain your poise and grace even in these tense situations. Recruiters will want to discuss your academic life, so be prepared to talk about your grades and the extracurricular activities you have participated in. If you have a high GPA, emphasize it.

After the interview

No matter how well or poorly your interview went, sending a thank-you note will give you one final chance to get in the recruiter’s good graces before the waiting period begins. In the note, underscore your continued interest in the firm and reemphasize anything that makes you stand out. Don’t forget to proofread!

This waiting period can provoke some serious anxiety — you may find yourself jumping each time the phone rings, hoping to hear good news from the firm. Don’t let this nervousness consume you. Distract yourself by hanging out with friends and continuing your job search.

Final steps

A few days after your interview, the firm should get in touch with you to either invite you to participate in the next round of interviews, or to let you know that they appreciate your interest but can’t offer you a job at this time. If the latter situation occurs, don’t be discouraged — there are always other positions to interview for. Some good can come out of these phone calls. Don’t hesitate to ask the recruiter for honest feedback on why you were passed over so you can do a better job next time around.   If you don’t hear back after a week, e-mail the firm and inquire into the status.

If you’re asked back for a second interview, don’t celebrate yet. You still have to endure more interviews, which require continued preparation and focus to stay sharp. Make sure your answers are consistent with the information you gave them during previous interviews.

If the next round of interviews is held on campus, expect one or two interviews with senior executives or managers. If the interviews are held at the firm’s offices, expect up to six interviews with seniors, managers, or partners. Part of what the hiring firm is looking for is how well you can stand up under pressure and maintain your poise and confidence. As with the first round, demonstrate your persistent interest in the firm and be sure to send a thank-you note to each interviewer. At this point, depending on the firm, you may indeed receive a job offer, or you may be asked to come back for yet another round of interviews.  The process can be a bit tiring but if you land the job the effort will be worth it.