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As a newly-graduated accountant, landing the right job will set you on a path to success. So, when you’re interviewing for the perfect role to kickstart your career, it’s important to put your best foot forward and make a great first impression.

In specialised fields such as chartered accounting, the interview process is very in-depth. As well as the usual favoured personality traits, the interviewer will be looking at your qualifications and your ability to apply your knowledge in real-life situations. After all, your potential employer wants to know if you’re able to hit the ground running should you be the successful candidate.

Needless to say, the job interview process can be highly nerve-wracking for accountants entering the workforce. Keep reading for all the secrets that will help you ace your accounting job interview.

Learn about the company

First things first, you’ve got to know who’s interviewing you. If there’s one thing a potential employer appreciates, it’s interviewees who take the time to research the company. You already know it’s an accounting firm, but not all accounting firms are created equal.

  • What made you want to apply for this position?
  • What company values do you most align with?
  • What would make you proud to be an employee of this firm?

Take a good look around their website, paying particular attention to the About Us page. Check out their social media pages, read reviews and learn the company’s history. The more you know about your potential employer, the better you can contextualise your interview answers.

At Ingham Mora in New Zealand, for example, “It’s not just about the numbers, although we ‘count the beans’ well and make sure you’re compliant year round…”. The Accountancy Partnership is committed to “…changing the profile of modern-day tax and accounting services…”. While Anchin is “…dedicated to delivering the highest level of technical expertise combined with the personal attention that our clients need and deserve…”.

As you can see, everyone has a different reason for getting out of bed in the morning!

Explain why you chose a career in accounting

There’s no doubt that your interviewer will ask why you decided to become an accountant. This is an expected question for recently graduated accountants looking for their first job. But it’s also a question that often trips interviewees up. You need to communicate why you’re excited to be an accountant.

Accounting’s not for everyone. It requires a high level of attention to detail, motivation and mathematical confidence. Unmemorable answers such as “I thought it would be a stable career” or “I’m good with numbers” won’t highlight your passion to succeed.

Accounting is analytical, strategic, highly specialised and helpful. So why is it you want to do what you want to do?! Find your ‘why’ and practise explaining it to the interview panel.

Set career goals

Before your interview, take some time to write down your career goals. What do you hope to achieve in one year, five years and ten years, and what is your plan for achieving them?

Setting goals show that you have ambition and you’re in the accounting arena for the long haul. Knowing your goals before you go in will prevent you from stumbling over what should be a very easy question to answer.

Study the job description

Job descriptions are loaded with clues about what might come up in an interview. Practise applying your knowledge and personality traits to the responsibilities and expectations outlined in the description. This is the best way to prepare for company-specific questions in your interview.

If you’ve reached the stage where you’re ready for your first accounting job, you’ll have all the right qualifications. Now you need to show that you don’t just look good on paper. Use the information in the job description to practise explaining why you’re the person they’re looking for and why you’ll be an asset to the firm.

Practise standard interview questions

Like any interview, you will be asked a series of standard questions unrelated to the position. These questions are designed to highlight aspects of your personality and work ethic that may or may not fit with the rest of the team. Hiring new employees is an investment, so the employer needs to know that they’re making a good long-term decision.

Finding standard interview questions is easy with a quick internet search. The challenging part is to make your answers relevant to the position, the company and your skills and experience.

Prepare some questions for the employer

At the end of a job interview, the panel may ask “Do you have any questions for us?

Preparing some questions gives you an opportunity to broaden your understanding of the position and shows that you’re serious about being the successful candidate. Asking your potential employer some questions also shows that you’re enjoying the conversation and quite happy for the interview to continue a little longer.

So, what can you ask? Prepare open-ended questions to promote free-flowing, casual conversations. Questions such as:

  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What traits are you looking for in a candidate?
  • Could you describe a typical day for an employee in this role?

Don’t bolt out of the interview room as soon as the questions have run out. Ask your own questions to leave the impression that you were fully engaged in the process.

Don’t forget the little details

When it comes to acing a job interview, every little thing counts. These small details will go a long way in making a great impression.

  • Show up five minutes early
  • Dress in office attire
  • Show interest in what your interviewer says
  • Make eye contact
  • Have a positive attitude

Be prepared, be confident, and get hired. Good luck!

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