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The Finance and Accounting Interview:
Essential tips for hiring managers


 
 

The war for talent is fierce. So if you are lucky enough to have identified that ‘diamond in the rough’, and you have them sitting right there in front of you, then you need to ensure you make the most of the situation… and not waste either party’s time.

Gone are the days of just asking about strengths and weaknesses. And hypothetical questions are a thing of the past. The only way to determine how a candidate will perform in a role, is to ask questions around how they performed a similar task in the past.

Before you meet with any candidate, you need to go back to your job description and performance profile and decide which skills, competencies and key success measures are most important and then create a series of competency- or behavioural-based questions around these.

Here are a few common core competencies and questions that you could ask to determine a candidate’s suitability:

• Problem-Solving: "Think of a complex accounting problem that you recently had to solve. Can you describe the problem and how you went about solving it?"

• Problem-Solving: "How have you handled situations where a business entity does not want to share the right information with you?"

• Energy and Drive: "Can you please give me an overview of your current or most recent position and describe the biggest impact you've been able to achieve in it?"

• Teamwork: "Tell me about a time when you were part of a group who had to work together to achieve an important objective in a short period of time."

• Strong communicator: “When have you ever had to “sell” an idea to a co-worker? How did you do it?”

• Decision making: “Can you give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision. What obstacles did you face? What did you do?”

• Time management / planning: “Please describe a situation that required you to do a number of things at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?”

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Hopefully you are seeing a pattern here. The questions you ask must prompt the candidate to talk about their past experiences. And in order to assess the quality of their responses, just think about the word STAR.

S – situation  T – task  A – action  R – result

The best responses to behavioural- or competency-based interview questions will reveal the specific situation that the candidate had found themselves in, the task they were faced with, the action or steps they took to solve the problem and then the outcome – whether good or bad.

Don’t let your emotions take over. Don’t hire in your own image. And don’t make a decision based on non-job related criteria such as where a candidate lives, where they went to school, what they’re wearing etc.

Spend at least half an hour taking your candidate through the set of specific competency related questions. Once you are satisfied with the responses you can then ask certain questions around salary expectations, availability, and of course whether they have any questions prepared for you.

A decent interview should take you approximately one hour. But during that time, please remember that you have two ears and one mouth. This means that you should listen twice as much as you talk. Don’t oversell your organisation or the role. Make sure you make the candidate feel comfortable but don’t just spend an hour chatting. You want to make the right hire. So make sure run a professional and effective interview.

 

In summary

• Hypothetical questions are a thing of the past

• The questions you ask must prompt the candidate to talk about their past experiences

• Don’t make a decision based on non-job related criteria

 


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