While few organisations have recruitment processes as complex and challenging as the likes of household names from Silicon Valley, it’s fair to say that businesses are increasingly putting management accountants through their professional paces during interviews. In an increasingly competitive talent market, organisations are looking to find the best suited candidate who can demonstrate the full extent of their knowledge and experience. So how can you prepare for interviews more effectively?
Before even beginning the application process you need to ensure that you read the job specification thoroughly to establish the kind of candidate a company is looking for, and the responsibilities the role is likely to entail. It’s also crucial that you research the organisation, and spend time a significant amount of time considering how you can amend your CV to demonstrate the required abilities and your relevant experience.
Irrespective of the seniority of the role you are applying for you should be prepared to answer some relatively standard interview questions. Instead of forgoing preparation for this, prepare some insightful and engaging responses which demonstrate specific areas of knowledge or experience. And rather than just citing a list of skills when asked ‘what are your strengths?’ mention one specific area of expertise which is directly relevant to the role you are applying for and, wherever possible, use an example to demonstrate this strength. The same principle applies when asked ‘what are your weaknesses?’ Instead of listing one or two weakness prepare a response which shows you are continually assessing yourself, and are taking proactive steps to improve upon any flaws. Consider picking a skill or area of experience relevant to a slightly more senior role to show you understand the skills required to progress and are eager to upskill yourself. Some companies have a very structured competency based process. A good response to a competency question includes an answer, an example and a tangible result. Think about where you have delivered the things on the job spec, what your part in those tasks was, how you planned and executed and most importantly what the outcome was. This will really emphasise your results focus and your contributions.
Senior finance professionals will want you to demonstrate your experience and relate it to the role on offer, so it’s crucial that you are able to substantiate responses with evidence of how you have applied your knowledge and skills in your current role. For every example make sure you can explain the reasoning behind your course of action, how you delivered the task, and the short and long term outcomes. Given the evolving nature of the finance function, it’s highly likely that you will be asked about your leadership qualities and it is important that you are able to demonstrate your ability to effectively lead others. As the role of the senior finance professional becoming increasingly strategic, professionals need to ensure that they focus on developing their interpersonal skills alongside their technical knowledge, so make sure to show how you have utilised your communication and leadership skills in your current role.
Last, but by no means least, it is important that you have at least two or three insightful and considered questions prepared for your interviewer. As we all know, interviews are just as much of an opportunity for candidates to get to know a business, so asking an interviewer about the long term goals of the firm, or about the organisation’s culture can provide you with a better understanding of the company you are looking to join. Questions that start with “Through my research I noticed that…” or “On your website I read that…” show you have prepared and make the questions really relevant to the business.
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