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Accounting Interview Tips

If your application for an accounting graduate scheme is successful, you will be invited to an interview. This is your chance to demonstrate your brilliance to the recruiters.

To help you excel in your interview, we’ve put together a bunch of handy tips that will give you the confidence and know-how to secure a place on your chosen accounting graduate scheme.

1. Research…

Before you sent off your application form, you should have completed some research into the accounting firm. It’s a good idea, however, to refresh your memory before the interview and delve deeper into the intricacies of the specific business stream you are hoping to enter. For instance, if you’re applying for an audit-focused role, you should fully understand the purpose and function of the audit department and what you’ll be expected to do within it.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to develop a better understanding of the accounting firm’s culture and values. Making reference to these at some point during the interview certainly won’t hurt.

2. Know the accounting industry inside out…

To prove that you’re worthy of a place on an accounting graduate scheme, you will need to demonstrate your commercial awareness and up-to-date knowledge of the accounting industry. You might even be asked questions directly about topical business stories during the interview. Consequently, it’s a good idea to regularly read news stories on relevant websites and publications, such as the Financial TimesAccountancy Age and AccountingWEB.co.uk

If you don’t already do this, you should definitely make a conscious effort to do so every day in the weeks running up to the interview.

3. Know your CV & application form inside out…

Without a doubt, you will be asked questions that relate directly to your CV and application form. Review your CV and application form beforehand. However, make sure you don’t just regurgitate what you wrote in your application when you’re answering the interview questions. Use what you wrote on your application form as a basis, but expand on it, provide more information and add extra insights.

4. First impressions count…

This might sound a bit clichéd, but first impressions count; particularly in the accounting industry, where you’ll be engaging with clients on a regular basis as part of your role. Consequently, it’s a good idea to start as you mean to go on. Turn up to the interview well-dressed, confident, happy and enthusiastic.

Greet everyone with a warm handshake and a smile. When we say everyone, we mean your interviewers, any other members of staff you might meet and other interviewees (if you’re invited to a group interview). Your interaction with other people, including your competition, will be scrutinised. After all, accounting is based on relationships, not just number crunching.

5. Be honest & enthusiastic…

You should always be honest. What’s more, you should let your personality shine through. Offer the interviewers genuine reasons why you want to work for their accounting firm and tell them exactly why you want to develop your career as part of the specific business stream you have chosen to apply for.

6. Provide evidence...

When answering questions about your key competencies, you should always provide evidence that reinforces your suitability for the role. Don’t just provide examples from your time at university, though; use other relevant examples from work experience placements, volunteering and other extra-curricular activities.

Try to use convincing anecdotal evidence where possible; provide some context, explain your achievements and reflect on what you learned from the experience.

7. Accountants are communicators, not just number crunchers…

Accounting firms are looking for confident, engaging graduates who can talk to clients and build relationships with them; they’re not just looking for maths nerds. Try your best to build rapport with your interviewers. Be confident, but not arrogant. Make sure you speak clearly and let your personality come to the fore

8. Ask for clarification…

If you don’t fully understand a question, politely ask the interviewer to clarify what they mean. Don’t worry! You won’t get marked down for this. Asking for clarification is much better than rambling on for ages without fully understanding the question.

9. Ask the right questions…

When you’re given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview, it’s a good idea to ask ones that can’t be answered by reading the accounting firm’s graduate website. You can ask all kinds of questions, but here are some ideas:

  • Don’t ask too many general questions about the company. Instead, ask questions about the specific business stream you are looking to enter. If you’re applying for audit, ask audit-related questions. If you’re applying for tax, ask tax-related questions. If you’re applying for assurance…well, you get the idea.
  • Ask about the future career path. This shows ambition and desire to develop within the organisation.
  • Ask about clients and the level of interaction you will have with them during the graduate scheme.