The key to being prepared for any interview is preparing a story about yourself that sells your strengths. Firmly address your background and skills and explain how they fit the employer's needs.
You know finance and accounting inside and out. You can prepare Financial Accounting Standards Board reports in your sleep, and a ledger sheet – mere child's play to you.
Going into a job interview you know you're the best candidate. Unfortunately, you don't interview well. Accountants are great with numbers, but they might not be the best at communicating their skills and need to spend time getting ready for a job interview.
Brian Back, co-owner of Ambrion, a Minneapolis staffing service, recommends a three-step approach to preparation:
"It's very easy to do these days, now that we have the Internet," says Back. "It's almost expected."
Tell Your Story
Preparing to tell the interviewer about yourself is the most involved part of getting ready.
"Prepare your own story," advises Amy Langer, partner at SALO, an accounting staffing service in Minneapolis. "Accountants aren't really the best at selling themselves. Get in the mindset of selling yourself."
Pay attention to things that are missing and the interviewer isn't asking about. For example, if the job requires four years of experience and you only have three, but the interviewer isn't asking about it, make it a point to do it yourself.
"If they aren't brought up, then explain why you are still ideal," says Langer.
Back advises accountants to structure their personal stories as one would formulate formal communications - it needs a beginning, middle and an end.
"Tell them what you're going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them," says Back.
Preparing for the questions you'll be asked isn't impossible. Performing a Google search for accounting interview questions will bring up a lot of examples.
"Getting the questions isn't hard," says Back. "Formulating answers is the challenge."
Coming Back For More
If you are brought back for a second interview, then there's more work to be done.
"If you're savvy enough to ask questions in the first interview, find out where they might think you're weak and then bolster those areas," says Back.
Recognize who the second interviewer is and what his or her role is in the organization.
"Be yourself," advises Langer. "Be who you are, but remember that you are in a sales role."
Be sure to follow-up with a handwritten thank you note. Not many people do it and it leaves a lasting impression with the interviewer.
If you have questions that weren't answered in the interview, it's best to follow-up with a telephone call.
"I 100 percent say it's OK to call," says Langer. "You never know how you're being taken in an e-mail."