Highly influential: interviews – the highs and lows


Yet we all have to endure it: whether a butcher, baker or contestant on the
fifth series of The Apprentice – and for those recently qualified, you
are going to have to go through it if you want that job.

Why is it though that so many accountants fail at the first hurdle? Time and
time again, the same mistakes are made: ill-prepared for questions (‘Why do you
want to work here?’ – ‘I live close’); arriving late (‘Who would have thought
Canary Wharf would be so hard to find?’); and no understanding of the company
(‘So Sam, what do you know about us?’ – ‘You’re an accountancy firm’).

Regardless of how technically brilliant you are, you will need to come across
as someone with a whole package of skills to make an impression. Too often
accountants fail to acknowledge that although a good CV and exams play their
part, how you present yourself at interview can mean the difference between
being shown your new desk and being shown the door.

It is often said that at a first meeting, your interviewer will form an
impression of you within 15 seconds – so no second chances. Unfortunately,
nerves often creep in during the interview. Remember to relax and try to engage
in conversation with whoever is interviewing you. The aim should be for a
relaxed, informal dialogue, not a simple question and answer session. They
simply want to find out if they can work with you, so don’t be afraid of showing
a bit of personality.

As you enter, make immediate eye contact with your interviewer(s), smile and
shake hands firmly.

The answers you give should be kept short and to the point, particularly on
the topics on which you are unsure.

A pause before you respond also helps the flow as it gives you the chance to
prepare an answer and prevents you interrupting the interviewer. Don’t be afraid
of silences – up to five seconds is fine. This will stop you rambling on and
keep your flow of answers controlled.

If you don’t know the answer to something, it is more powerful to say ‘I
don’t know’ and then offer a perspective rather than rambling on. Look the
interviewer in the eye and then holding the pause shows honesty and considerable
strength of character.

With all this in hand, you will be in a stronger position to climb the next
rung of the ladder. Good luck.

Jack Downton is MD of
Influence Business

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