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46 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016
ACE
YOURNEXT
JOB
INTERVIEW
By TONY BERCIK AND JOHN LEWIN
September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 47
Landing your dream job takes
more than a clean suit
and firm handshake.
Follow these 10 tips to
increase your chances.
48 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016
A
s a finance or accounting profes-
sional, you’ve no doubt spent
years getting the education,
training, and experience neces-
sary to do your job effectively.
Building the skills needed to per-
form at a high level can be an
all-encompassing task, and there
was a time when having those
skills was often enough to pave
your path to future growth within the company. Back in the
days of gold watches and pensions, you could advance
your career steadily without having to look elsewhere for
opportunities.
But as workplace dynamics have changed, promoting
your own career via other opportunities has become the
new paradigm and, for many, a necessity. While you may
know your job inside and out, there’s a good chance you’ve
never been educated or trained in how to perform one of
the most important skills you need to advance your career—
how to sell yourself.
As professionals in the world of recruiting and placing
talent, we can help you avoid making some of the job
search and interviewing mistakes we hear about most often
from human resource and talent professionals so you can
increase your chances of finding and landing a new job.
Let’s take a look at 10 things you should do as you work
through the process of securing a new position.
1. Develop a Strong
NetworkGiven the amazing technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to
default to online postings or job boards when looking for a
new job. But our experience tells us that this method often
leads to a dead end.
Search engines can put you in contact with thousands of
potential positions in a matter of seconds. But if you’re see-
ing them, so are thousands of other folks just like you,
which could lessen your odds of being chosen from a vast
pool of talent applying for the same job. In fact, according to
the results of a CareerXroads survey reported on in U.S. News
& World Report, just 15% of people find jobs through ads.
A much more effective method of locating that next
great opportunity would be tapping into your personal net-
work of friends, coworkers, and relatives to mine leads and
make connections on a regular basis. They could be friends,
people you know at other companies, former college room-
mates, or even the person you talk to on the subway, train,
or bus every day on your way to work. Someone you know
probably knows someone who is looking to hire, and being
recommended for a position directly is without a doubt
one of the best ways to land an interview (U.S. News & World
Report estimates that 70% of people find jobs through
networking).
Using a professional recruiter to help you locate that
next great opportunity is also worth considering. A recruiter
can help you with things like salary negotiations, company
and hiring manager information, interview preparation and
debriefings, and interviewing tips. (For more, see “9 Things
a Talent Professional Can Offer” on p. 50.)
Networking should be ongoing, so try to stay connected
with your contacts over time and not just when you need
something from them. It’s truly one of the most critical
parts of the job search process.
2. Take Time to Craft
Your RésuméThere are certainly many ways to put together a résumé,
and as talent professionals we’ve probably seen them all.
It’s always smart to make sure the style and formatting are
tailored to the type of profession you’re in or want to enter.
For example, someone seeking a job in a creative field will
probably have more freedom to “design” a résumé to match
that industry’s more visual orientation. If you’re searching
within a more conservative profession like accounting or
finance, you’ll want to keep your résumé on the more con-
servative side. But no matter what your industry, there are a
few do’s and don’ts that apply across the board.
For example, too often candidates list job duties on their
résumés but don’t sell themselves for the position. Hiring
managers want to know how you can help their company
in tangible ways. Refer to accomplishments on your
résumé, and be ready to describe to your interviewer any
problems you’ve encountered, the action you took in
response, and the result. Think of them as “case studies”
Interviewers will
want to under-
stand how your
accomplishments
will translate into
their company’s
environment.
September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 49
for you. In addition, make sure all the information is
accurate, spelled correctly, and proofed—and proofed
again. Never include anything that’s misleading, and
don’t put anything on the résumé that can’t be
verified.
Most employers prefer a digital/electronic résumé
on which you list your positions chronologically.
You’ll also want to keep your résumé to one page if
you’re newer to your industry or two if you’re more
experienced. It’s a good practice, too, to limit it to
your last 10 years of work history.
Finally, take the time to tailor your résumé to the
position you’re applying for. This is more crucial than
ever since everyone is doing more with less in the
workplace. You have a shorter amount of time to
make an impression, and tailoring your résumé gets
right to the point. Using this approach with each posi-
tion you apply for shows the company that you’re
detail oriented and understand the importance of a
good work product.
3. Do Your
HomeworkOf course, no matter how impressive your résumé, a
great interview is still the key to landing your dream
job. If you’re fortunate enough to get past the screen-
ers and are called in for a meeting, here are some key
areas to concentrate on beforehand:
Walk the interviewer through your résumé.
Interviewers typically expect you to give a clear and
succinct overview of each section. Use the mantra
“made, saved, and achieved” to help guide you
through this process. In other words, what did you do
to make the company money, save the company time,
or achieve a professional or company goal? Then you
can get into your specific skills.
Match your skills to the position. Understand
how your experience, skills, background, and aspira-
tions relate to the position. Interviewers want to
understand how your accomplishments will translate
into their company’s environment, so be prepared to
give clear examples of specific situations in which
your contributions made a real difference.
Play to your strengths. Identify areas where you
can offer the most value. For example, if you’re adept
at keeping up with the rules and regulations that dic-
tate what you can or can’t do in your industry and as
a company, make this known to the interviewer.
Don’t ignore your shortcomings. Remember, no
one’s perfect. If you have a particular weakness, be
honest and share the specific steps you’re taking to
improve yourself. Describe a situation in which you
put your improvement plan into action and what the
result was.
Expand on your résumé. Use the interview to
explain the “why” and “how” behind your accom-
plishments or to share new accomplishments not
highlighted on your résumé.
TIPS FOR
INTERVIEWING
IN PERSON
Yes, it’s important to dress appropriately and to
show up to the interview on time. That’s the
least a company expects from the candidates it
has agreed to talk to in person. Here are a few
other good tips to keep in mind when presenting
yourself to a prospective employer:
4 Give a firm handshake. It shows self-confidence, plain
and simple.
4 Take notes. Document important information that the
interviewer shares with you, such as the company’s plans
for expansion or any employee benefits it plans to add in the
coming year. This demonstrates that you take the interview
seriously.
4 Maintain eye contact. A lack of eye contact can
indicate insecurity, a big red flag for interviewers.
4 Be positive. Keep your voice strong, steady, and
confident, and maintain a calm and composed appearance.
And don’t forget to smile!
4 Avoid overconfidence. Strike a careful balance
between confidence in yourself and respect for the
interviewer. Companies are looking for team players, not
self-promoters.
4 Talk about next steps. Ask if there are any areas in
your background that need clarification. When it comes time
for you to ask questions, you can always refer to your notes
and ask questions that weren’t answered during the
interview.
50 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016
Share your goals. Talk about your short- and
long-term career goals. Interviewers want to know
you’re career minded and not just looking for a job.
Part of doing your homework also involves
researching the company you’ve applied to. This
shows that you’re prepared and serious about the
position. A company’s website will often include
information on the history of the organization as well
as its vision, mission, and goals. If the company is
publicly traded, its annual reports can provide an
overview of its products, services, and finances.
4. Understand the
Recruiting Process
While it may seem counterintuitive, your primary
objective when going in for a first interview with a
prospective employer isn’t really landing the job
you’re after. What you really should be concentrating
on is getting called back for a second interview
(unless, of course, you’ve already made it to the final
interview). Your first meeting most likely will be with
the firm’s HR professional, who will then decide
whether to move you on to the next steps in the vet-
ting process—namely, interviewing with the company
managers specifically involved with the position
you’re hoping to fill.
To reiterate a previous point, prepare for that first
meeting by doing your homework—not just on the
people you’re meeting with, but on the company in
general—to make a great impression every step of the
way. Statistics show that the person who’s best pre-
pared and sells himself or herself effectively in the
interview receives the offer 86% of the time.
All too often candidates go into first interviews
focused simply on getting the job without doing all
the little steps that are necessary to get past the first
stages of the screening process successfully. It’s
important to make sure that your professional and
career goals align with the company’s mission. There-
fore, focus on questions that relate not only to your
position and making a positive first impression
(remember the old saying about never getting a sec-
ond chance!) but also those that allow you to deter-
mine if the company is the right fit for you. Think of it
as you interviewing the company that’s interviewing
you. The night before, write down at least 10 ques-
tions about the position, the company, and the people
you’d be working with. Ask about the culture, who
thrives there, what a typical day is like, and how per-
formance is measured.
5. Know How to
Ace the InterviewCongratulations, you’ve made it to the actual inter-
view stage of the game! Now the real work begins.
Again, the first thing to remember is that this is your
9THINGS A TALENT
PROFESSIONAL CAN
OFFERWhile plenty of accounting and finance
professionals have landed jobs on their own or
through business contacts and connections,
some people will do better with an experienced
professional recruiter. Here’s what you can
expect:
1. A face-to-face career consultation to discuss your
marketability, evaluate your needs/wants, and review
your criteria for change. This ensures that the
opportunities that are presented to you match what
you’re looking for.
2.A long-term, trust-based, consultative relationship.
3.Résumé tips and enhancements.
4.A review of your references to ensure you’re as strong as
expected and to help position you better with potential
employers.
5.Greater exposure to the marketplace and targeted
companies.
6.Information on the talent professional’s client companies
and contacts to help you better evaluate the opportunity.
7. Thorough briefs and debriefs, which will increase your
success when interviewing and expedite the hiring
process.
8.Open and honest communication.
9.Complete confidentiality.
September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 51
chance to be the salesperson of you. In other words, you
have to sell yourself and bring the person on your résumé to
life. So take advantage of the opportunity to get in front of
decision makers and make them certain they’ve found just
the person they need. A recent Kelly Services GetHired sur-
vey we conducted with finance and accounting hiring
managers showed that 73% of them know if a candidate
is right for the position within the first 15 minutes of an
interview.
More than likely, before you actually sit down to talk
with someone, you’ll be handed an application to fill out.
While this can be a time-consuming task, take it as seri-
ously as any other part of the process. Make sure to follow
instructions and fill out the entire application. If you’re
asked to list your skills and qualifications, do it. (Don’t just
jot down “see résumé.”) This will help you in an interview
since your relevant experience is fresh in your mind
because you just took the time to write it down.
It’s common for candidates in an interview to list
their job duties the way they’ve done on their résumé
instead of selling themselves as problem-solving experts.
But hiring managers want to know what value (there’s that
word again!) you bring to the table, so take every opportu-
nity to talk about problems you’ve faced in the past and
how you handled them effectively. Use the technique of sit-
uation, action, and result (SAR, for short) to explain the
problems and situations you’ve faced in the past. In other
words, talk about the issue that created the problem or
situation, discuss the actions you took to remedy it, and,
finally, talk about the results of those actions. Presenting
yourself as a proactive thinker and doer is a must at every
stage of the process, so be ready to do so over and over
again.
It’s important to be enthusiastic, but don’t be cloying or
fake. Be you. No matter what, you want to come across as
genuinely intrigued by the opportunity at hand.
6. Don’t Brush Off a
Phone InterviewIt isn’t uncommon for first interviews to be conducted over
the phone, especially for positions located far from where
you live. While it may seem to be a more casual way to do
this, phone interviews are still the HR professional’s chance
to screen you the same ways as if you were sitting down
across from them. So don’t let your guard down, and stay
sharp. The good news? If you follow the same guidelines
we’ve outlined above, you can ace these particular tests and
move on to the all-important second interview.
While a phone interview can be done from the comfort
of your home or office, there are some things to keep in
mind. The number one rule is to find a quiet place where
you won’t be interrupted. Distractions such as barking dogs,
ringing phones, or screaming kids in the background are a
sure way to make a poor first impression. Here are a couple
of other things to keep in mind:
Show enthusiasm. The first 15 seconds of a phone inter-
view are critical, and the way you answer the phone is
important. Speak clearly, distinctly, and with confidence.
FAST FACTS
73%
of hiring managers know if a candidate is right for a
position in the first 15 minutes
80%
match the résumé qualifications to the job descriptions
when deciding which person to hire
TOP COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE (WHEN
CANDIDATE QUALIFICATIONS ARE EQUAL)
64%
of hiring managers say that candidates are referred by a
current or former employee or a coworker
49%
say that candidates started as a contract or temporary
employee within the company
38%
say that candidates have completed an internship within
the company
BE PATIENT
36%
of finance and accounting hiring managers say it can take
anywhere from three weeks to three months to hire for
a position
INTERVIEW BLUNDERS:
TOP MISTAKES THAT PREVENT
A&F CANDIDATES FROM MOVING
FORWARD IN THE PROCESS
88%
of finance and accounting candidates act arrogant and
ungrateful for the interview
83%
use their phone or text during the interview
83%
don’t arrive to the interview on time
83%
aren’t well groomed or dressed appropriately for the
interview
Source: Kelly Services, Inc.
52 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016
Establish a connection. Ask about the inter-
viewer’s experience with the company or mention
something interesting you’ve read about the company.
Confirm information. At the close of the interview,
be sure to confirm the interviewer’s title, name
spelling, and street or email address. Then use this
information to send a thank-you note or email. (More
on this later.)
7. Dress
Appropriately
In an era where some people consider flip-flops to be
fine footwear, it bears repeating that how you dress
sends a powerful visual message about you to
whomever you meet. You wouldn’t wear club attire to
a black-tie event, so don’t dress down for a job inter-
view. Once again, know your audience. It’s always a
good idea to go with conservative dress, especially
when we’re talking about fields like accounting and
finance. Clean and buttoned-down sends a message
of efficiency and intelligence.
Remember, too, to turn off your phone. If you
smoke, don’t light up before an interview—the smell
will cling to you no matter what you do. And keep
accessories, makeup, and cologne to a minimum. Know
your industry, and err on the side of professionalism.
What’s the one thing you can wear that works
every time and in every situation? A smile. Remem-
ber to be warm and courteous to everyone you meet,
from the parking lot attendant when you arrive, to the
receptionist at the front desk, to the admin who walks you
into the interview room. Believe it or not, many compa-
nies will check with the front desk after you’ve left to see
how you interacted with the person there. We once had an
experience where an applicant was rude to a woman at
the receptionist desk, and we only later found out that she
was the owner of the company, who was filling in while
the regular receptionist was out for lunch. No, things did
not turn out well.
8. Rehearse
Your Answers
Ahead of TimeInterviewers will typically ask questions about your past
employment, your current position and responsibilities,
and your long-term career goals. Respond truthfully and
with an upbeat, confident tone. Avoid negative answers;
instead, emphasize the positive. Focus on your professional
accomplishments, and make your answers concise but
informative, always thinking in terms of situation, action,
and result.
It’s a very good idea to rehearse your answers ahead of
time. Good interviewers have a knack for getting applicants
to relax and open up about what they’re looking for in a
position. That’s their job, and real pros know not to scare off
potential employees by being rigid or stern. It’s fine to feel
comfortable when sitting down for the first time, and confi-
dence can certainly help you in the process of selling your-
self. But a word of caution: The last thing you want to do is
gossip, go off on tangents, or bad-mouth your current or
previous employer. Don’t share too much personal informa-
tion about yourself, and don’t get too relaxed. Sit up
straight, stay focused, and listen carefully.
9. Ask for the Job
Before You LeaveHere you can immediately see where you stand in the
process. Assuming this is a great position for you and will
further your career goals, ask for the job by simply saying
something like, “I’m very interested in learning more about
this opportunity and the organization, as well as curious as
to the next steps and the overall time frame in the process.”
But don’t talk about salary or benefits. This discussion
should always be a part of the interview process, of course,
but the trick is figuring out when to broach the subject.
Most companies will bring up the topic if they’re interested
in you, but if it isn’t brought up, it should be addressed by
either your external recruiter (who will know the salary
range ahead of time) or in the initial phone screening (you
don’t want to waste everyone’s time if the number isn’t
close to what you’re looking for). If the interviewer asks
you about salary, the appropriate response would be,
TO FIND YOUR
NEXT JOB,
START WITH IMAA great job search site allows candidates to
search for positions from coast to coast
across a wide range of skill levels and types
of industries. Thankfully, IMA’s job page
(http://jobs.imanet.org) allows job seekers to
check off all of these important criteria. Open
positions can be located by state, keyword, or
job title across roughly a dozen industries from
accounting and finance to wholesale/retail
trade. A detailed summary job description
accompanies each entry. At the time of this
writing, close to 500 job opportunities were
available for IMA members to review, each with
a link that lets users “Apply Now.”
September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 53
“Obviously, I’m interested in the opportunity first and
foremost. In my last/current company, however, I was/am
making ___, and I’m sure we’ll come up with a number
that will be acceptable to both of us.”
10. Follow Up
Promptly
One of the most important parts of the interview process
comes after it’s over: sending thank-you notes.
Make your note specific about the job and why you feel
you’re a good fit. The trick? Keep it short and sweet. Send
an email, letter, or note to each interviewer. Thank each of
them for their time, and reiterate your interest in the posi-
tion. Whether you decide to send a handwritten note, a
typed letter, or an email depends on the conservative or
casual nature of the company, the industry, and the level of
the position, but email is always acceptable.
The body of the letter should accomplish four main
objectives:
1. Thanking the interviewers for their time,
2. Reiterating interest and enthusiasm in the position and
company,
3. Highlighting relevant experiences and accomplishments,
and
4. Asking if you can proceed to the next step.
Also, be sure to review your note for errors, and have a
friend or recruiter proofread it as well. (See above for a
sample letter.)
This is an incredibly critical part of the process, yet can-
didates far too often forget it or ignore it. We advise follow-
ing up as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the
interview. This shows your interest and that you’re taking
the process seriously. Keep in mind, depending on the level
of the position, the typical time frame from the first inter-
view to a job offer could be three to six weeks or even
longer in some cases. So be patient.
There you have it: 10 interviewing do’s and don’ts that
could make the difference between landing the position
you want or missing a great opportunity. So do your home-
work, present yourself like a pro, ask questions, and follow
up. You’ll be off and running! SF
Tony Bercik is senior director, Global Finance Consultant for
Professional Services Outsourcing at Kelly Services, Inc. He’s
responsible for the strategic development and growth of finance and
accounting workforce solutions globally. You can contact him at
tony.bercik@kellyfinance.com.
John Lewin is vice president and national recruiting leader of finance
and accounting talent within U.S. Operations for Kelly Services, Inc. He
leads a strategic community of recruiting specialists responsible for
engaging and creating niche talent pipelines that align with the finance
and accounting workforce needs of Kelly clients. You can reach John at
john.lewin@kellyfinance.com.
A SAMPLE THANK-YOU LETTER
Dear Ms. Clark,
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss ABC Company and the (insert position
title) position in detail. Your insight was valuable in helping me understand not only the position and
company but also the type of person that will be successful in this role. I feel my qualifications and skill
set in (insert qualification, skills) reflect those necessary to succeed at ABC Company.
At XYZ Company, I successfully led a state-of-the-art system conversion on time and under budget, as
well as managed a staff of 25 professionals. I’m confident that I have the experience and drive to
successfully manage the (insert department name) department.
I’m truly excited about the opportunity as it will allow me to obtain my goals of (insert goal) and
(insert goal).
I look forward to our next meeting to discuss this opportunity in greater detail.
Sincerely,

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AceYourNextJobInterview

  • 1. 46 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016 ACE YOURNEXT JOB INTERVIEW By TONY BERCIK AND JOHN LEWIN
  • 2. September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 47 Landing your dream job takes more than a clean suit and firm handshake. Follow these 10 tips to increase your chances.
  • 3. 48 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016 A s a finance or accounting profes- sional, you’ve no doubt spent years getting the education, training, and experience neces- sary to do your job effectively. Building the skills needed to per- form at a high level can be an all-encompassing task, and there was a time when having those skills was often enough to pave your path to future growth within the company. Back in the days of gold watches and pensions, you could advance your career steadily without having to look elsewhere for opportunities. But as workplace dynamics have changed, promoting your own career via other opportunities has become the new paradigm and, for many, a necessity. While you may know your job inside and out, there’s a good chance you’ve never been educated or trained in how to perform one of the most important skills you need to advance your career— how to sell yourself. As professionals in the world of recruiting and placing talent, we can help you avoid making some of the job search and interviewing mistakes we hear about most often from human resource and talent professionals so you can increase your chances of finding and landing a new job. Let’s take a look at 10 things you should do as you work through the process of securing a new position. 1. Develop a Strong NetworkGiven the amazing technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to default to online postings or job boards when looking for a new job. But our experience tells us that this method often leads to a dead end. Search engines can put you in contact with thousands of potential positions in a matter of seconds. But if you’re see- ing them, so are thousands of other folks just like you, which could lessen your odds of being chosen from a vast pool of talent applying for the same job. In fact, according to the results of a CareerXroads survey reported on in U.S. News & World Report, just 15% of people find jobs through ads. A much more effective method of locating that next great opportunity would be tapping into your personal net- work of friends, coworkers, and relatives to mine leads and make connections on a regular basis. They could be friends, people you know at other companies, former college room- mates, or even the person you talk to on the subway, train, or bus every day on your way to work. Someone you know probably knows someone who is looking to hire, and being recommended for a position directly is without a doubt one of the best ways to land an interview (U.S. News & World Report estimates that 70% of people find jobs through networking). Using a professional recruiter to help you locate that next great opportunity is also worth considering. A recruiter can help you with things like salary negotiations, company and hiring manager information, interview preparation and debriefings, and interviewing tips. (For more, see “9 Things a Talent Professional Can Offer” on p. 50.) Networking should be ongoing, so try to stay connected with your contacts over time and not just when you need something from them. It’s truly one of the most critical parts of the job search process. 2. Take Time to Craft Your RésuméThere are certainly many ways to put together a résumé, and as talent professionals we’ve probably seen them all. It’s always smart to make sure the style and formatting are tailored to the type of profession you’re in or want to enter. For example, someone seeking a job in a creative field will probably have more freedom to “design” a résumé to match that industry’s more visual orientation. If you’re searching within a more conservative profession like accounting or finance, you’ll want to keep your résumé on the more con- servative side. But no matter what your industry, there are a few do’s and don’ts that apply across the board. For example, too often candidates list job duties on their résumés but don’t sell themselves for the position. Hiring managers want to know how you can help their company in tangible ways. Refer to accomplishments on your résumé, and be ready to describe to your interviewer any problems you’ve encountered, the action you took in response, and the result. Think of them as “case studies” Interviewers will want to under- stand how your accomplishments will translate into their company’s environment.
  • 4. September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 49 for you. In addition, make sure all the information is accurate, spelled correctly, and proofed—and proofed again. Never include anything that’s misleading, and don’t put anything on the résumé that can’t be verified. Most employers prefer a digital/electronic résumé on which you list your positions chronologically. You’ll also want to keep your résumé to one page if you’re newer to your industry or two if you’re more experienced. It’s a good practice, too, to limit it to your last 10 years of work history. Finally, take the time to tailor your résumé to the position you’re applying for. This is more crucial than ever since everyone is doing more with less in the workplace. You have a shorter amount of time to make an impression, and tailoring your résumé gets right to the point. Using this approach with each posi- tion you apply for shows the company that you’re detail oriented and understand the importance of a good work product. 3. Do Your HomeworkOf course, no matter how impressive your résumé, a great interview is still the key to landing your dream job. If you’re fortunate enough to get past the screen- ers and are called in for a meeting, here are some key areas to concentrate on beforehand: Walk the interviewer through your résumé. Interviewers typically expect you to give a clear and succinct overview of each section. Use the mantra “made, saved, and achieved” to help guide you through this process. In other words, what did you do to make the company money, save the company time, or achieve a professional or company goal? Then you can get into your specific skills. Match your skills to the position. Understand how your experience, skills, background, and aspira- tions relate to the position. Interviewers want to understand how your accomplishments will translate into their company’s environment, so be prepared to give clear examples of specific situations in which your contributions made a real difference. Play to your strengths. Identify areas where you can offer the most value. For example, if you’re adept at keeping up with the rules and regulations that dic- tate what you can or can’t do in your industry and as a company, make this known to the interviewer. Don’t ignore your shortcomings. Remember, no one’s perfect. If you have a particular weakness, be honest and share the specific steps you’re taking to improve yourself. Describe a situation in which you put your improvement plan into action and what the result was. Expand on your résumé. Use the interview to explain the “why” and “how” behind your accom- plishments or to share new accomplishments not highlighted on your résumé. TIPS FOR INTERVIEWING IN PERSON Yes, it’s important to dress appropriately and to show up to the interview on time. That’s the least a company expects from the candidates it has agreed to talk to in person. Here are a few other good tips to keep in mind when presenting yourself to a prospective employer: 4 Give a firm handshake. It shows self-confidence, plain and simple. 4 Take notes. Document important information that the interviewer shares with you, such as the company’s plans for expansion or any employee benefits it plans to add in the coming year. This demonstrates that you take the interview seriously. 4 Maintain eye contact. A lack of eye contact can indicate insecurity, a big red flag for interviewers. 4 Be positive. Keep your voice strong, steady, and confident, and maintain a calm and composed appearance. And don’t forget to smile! 4 Avoid overconfidence. Strike a careful balance between confidence in yourself and respect for the interviewer. Companies are looking for team players, not self-promoters. 4 Talk about next steps. Ask if there are any areas in your background that need clarification. When it comes time for you to ask questions, you can always refer to your notes and ask questions that weren’t answered during the interview.
  • 5. 50 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016 Share your goals. Talk about your short- and long-term career goals. Interviewers want to know you’re career minded and not just looking for a job. Part of doing your homework also involves researching the company you’ve applied to. This shows that you’re prepared and serious about the position. A company’s website will often include information on the history of the organization as well as its vision, mission, and goals. If the company is publicly traded, its annual reports can provide an overview of its products, services, and finances. 4. Understand the Recruiting Process While it may seem counterintuitive, your primary objective when going in for a first interview with a prospective employer isn’t really landing the job you’re after. What you really should be concentrating on is getting called back for a second interview (unless, of course, you’ve already made it to the final interview). Your first meeting most likely will be with the firm’s HR professional, who will then decide whether to move you on to the next steps in the vet- ting process—namely, interviewing with the company managers specifically involved with the position you’re hoping to fill. To reiterate a previous point, prepare for that first meeting by doing your homework—not just on the people you’re meeting with, but on the company in general—to make a great impression every step of the way. Statistics show that the person who’s best pre- pared and sells himself or herself effectively in the interview receives the offer 86% of the time. All too often candidates go into first interviews focused simply on getting the job without doing all the little steps that are necessary to get past the first stages of the screening process successfully. It’s important to make sure that your professional and career goals align with the company’s mission. There- fore, focus on questions that relate not only to your position and making a positive first impression (remember the old saying about never getting a sec- ond chance!) but also those that allow you to deter- mine if the company is the right fit for you. Think of it as you interviewing the company that’s interviewing you. The night before, write down at least 10 ques- tions about the position, the company, and the people you’d be working with. Ask about the culture, who thrives there, what a typical day is like, and how per- formance is measured. 5. Know How to Ace the InterviewCongratulations, you’ve made it to the actual inter- view stage of the game! Now the real work begins. Again, the first thing to remember is that this is your 9THINGS A TALENT PROFESSIONAL CAN OFFERWhile plenty of accounting and finance professionals have landed jobs on their own or through business contacts and connections, some people will do better with an experienced professional recruiter. Here’s what you can expect: 1. A face-to-face career consultation to discuss your marketability, evaluate your needs/wants, and review your criteria for change. This ensures that the opportunities that are presented to you match what you’re looking for. 2.A long-term, trust-based, consultative relationship. 3.Résumé tips and enhancements. 4.A review of your references to ensure you’re as strong as expected and to help position you better with potential employers. 5.Greater exposure to the marketplace and targeted companies. 6.Information on the talent professional’s client companies and contacts to help you better evaluate the opportunity. 7. Thorough briefs and debriefs, which will increase your success when interviewing and expedite the hiring process. 8.Open and honest communication. 9.Complete confidentiality.
  • 6. September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 51 chance to be the salesperson of you. In other words, you have to sell yourself and bring the person on your résumé to life. So take advantage of the opportunity to get in front of decision makers and make them certain they’ve found just the person they need. A recent Kelly Services GetHired sur- vey we conducted with finance and accounting hiring managers showed that 73% of them know if a candidate is right for the position within the first 15 minutes of an interview. More than likely, before you actually sit down to talk with someone, you’ll be handed an application to fill out. While this can be a time-consuming task, take it as seri- ously as any other part of the process. Make sure to follow instructions and fill out the entire application. If you’re asked to list your skills and qualifications, do it. (Don’t just jot down “see résumé.”) This will help you in an interview since your relevant experience is fresh in your mind because you just took the time to write it down. It’s common for candidates in an interview to list their job duties the way they’ve done on their résumé instead of selling themselves as problem-solving experts. But hiring managers want to know what value (there’s that word again!) you bring to the table, so take every opportu- nity to talk about problems you’ve faced in the past and how you handled them effectively. Use the technique of sit- uation, action, and result (SAR, for short) to explain the problems and situations you’ve faced in the past. In other words, talk about the issue that created the problem or situation, discuss the actions you took to remedy it, and, finally, talk about the results of those actions. Presenting yourself as a proactive thinker and doer is a must at every stage of the process, so be ready to do so over and over again. It’s important to be enthusiastic, but don’t be cloying or fake. Be you. No matter what, you want to come across as genuinely intrigued by the opportunity at hand. 6. Don’t Brush Off a Phone InterviewIt isn’t uncommon for first interviews to be conducted over the phone, especially for positions located far from where you live. While it may seem to be a more casual way to do this, phone interviews are still the HR professional’s chance to screen you the same ways as if you were sitting down across from them. So don’t let your guard down, and stay sharp. The good news? If you follow the same guidelines we’ve outlined above, you can ace these particular tests and move on to the all-important second interview. While a phone interview can be done from the comfort of your home or office, there are some things to keep in mind. The number one rule is to find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Distractions such as barking dogs, ringing phones, or screaming kids in the background are a sure way to make a poor first impression. Here are a couple of other things to keep in mind: Show enthusiasm. The first 15 seconds of a phone inter- view are critical, and the way you answer the phone is important. Speak clearly, distinctly, and with confidence. FAST FACTS 73% of hiring managers know if a candidate is right for a position in the first 15 minutes 80% match the résumé qualifications to the job descriptions when deciding which person to hire TOP COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE (WHEN CANDIDATE QUALIFICATIONS ARE EQUAL) 64% of hiring managers say that candidates are referred by a current or former employee or a coworker 49% say that candidates started as a contract or temporary employee within the company 38% say that candidates have completed an internship within the company BE PATIENT 36% of finance and accounting hiring managers say it can take anywhere from three weeks to three months to hire for a position INTERVIEW BLUNDERS: TOP MISTAKES THAT PREVENT A&F CANDIDATES FROM MOVING FORWARD IN THE PROCESS 88% of finance and accounting candidates act arrogant and ungrateful for the interview 83% use their phone or text during the interview 83% don’t arrive to the interview on time 83% aren’t well groomed or dressed appropriately for the interview Source: Kelly Services, Inc.
  • 7. 52 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / September 2016 Establish a connection. Ask about the inter- viewer’s experience with the company or mention something interesting you’ve read about the company. Confirm information. At the close of the interview, be sure to confirm the interviewer’s title, name spelling, and street or email address. Then use this information to send a thank-you note or email. (More on this later.) 7. Dress Appropriately In an era where some people consider flip-flops to be fine footwear, it bears repeating that how you dress sends a powerful visual message about you to whomever you meet. You wouldn’t wear club attire to a black-tie event, so don’t dress down for a job inter- view. Once again, know your audience. It’s always a good idea to go with conservative dress, especially when we’re talking about fields like accounting and finance. Clean and buttoned-down sends a message of efficiency and intelligence. Remember, too, to turn off your phone. If you smoke, don’t light up before an interview—the smell will cling to you no matter what you do. And keep accessories, makeup, and cologne to a minimum. Know your industry, and err on the side of professionalism. What’s the one thing you can wear that works every time and in every situation? A smile. Remem- ber to be warm and courteous to everyone you meet, from the parking lot attendant when you arrive, to the receptionist at the front desk, to the admin who walks you into the interview room. Believe it or not, many compa- nies will check with the front desk after you’ve left to see how you interacted with the person there. We once had an experience where an applicant was rude to a woman at the receptionist desk, and we only later found out that she was the owner of the company, who was filling in while the regular receptionist was out for lunch. No, things did not turn out well. 8. Rehearse Your Answers Ahead of TimeInterviewers will typically ask questions about your past employment, your current position and responsibilities, and your long-term career goals. Respond truthfully and with an upbeat, confident tone. Avoid negative answers; instead, emphasize the positive. Focus on your professional accomplishments, and make your answers concise but informative, always thinking in terms of situation, action, and result. It’s a very good idea to rehearse your answers ahead of time. Good interviewers have a knack for getting applicants to relax and open up about what they’re looking for in a position. That’s their job, and real pros know not to scare off potential employees by being rigid or stern. It’s fine to feel comfortable when sitting down for the first time, and confi- dence can certainly help you in the process of selling your- self. But a word of caution: The last thing you want to do is gossip, go off on tangents, or bad-mouth your current or previous employer. Don’t share too much personal informa- tion about yourself, and don’t get too relaxed. Sit up straight, stay focused, and listen carefully. 9. Ask for the Job Before You LeaveHere you can immediately see where you stand in the process. Assuming this is a great position for you and will further your career goals, ask for the job by simply saying something like, “I’m very interested in learning more about this opportunity and the organization, as well as curious as to the next steps and the overall time frame in the process.” But don’t talk about salary or benefits. This discussion should always be a part of the interview process, of course, but the trick is figuring out when to broach the subject. Most companies will bring up the topic if they’re interested in you, but if it isn’t brought up, it should be addressed by either your external recruiter (who will know the salary range ahead of time) or in the initial phone screening (you don’t want to waste everyone’s time if the number isn’t close to what you’re looking for). If the interviewer asks you about salary, the appropriate response would be, TO FIND YOUR NEXT JOB, START WITH IMAA great job search site allows candidates to search for positions from coast to coast across a wide range of skill levels and types of industries. Thankfully, IMA’s job page (http://jobs.imanet.org) allows job seekers to check off all of these important criteria. Open positions can be located by state, keyword, or job title across roughly a dozen industries from accounting and finance to wholesale/retail trade. A detailed summary job description accompanies each entry. At the time of this writing, close to 500 job opportunities were available for IMA members to review, each with a link that lets users “Apply Now.”
  • 8. September 2016 / STRATEGIC FINANCE / 53 “Obviously, I’m interested in the opportunity first and foremost. In my last/current company, however, I was/am making ___, and I’m sure we’ll come up with a number that will be acceptable to both of us.” 10. Follow Up Promptly One of the most important parts of the interview process comes after it’s over: sending thank-you notes. Make your note specific about the job and why you feel you’re a good fit. The trick? Keep it short and sweet. Send an email, letter, or note to each interviewer. Thank each of them for their time, and reiterate your interest in the posi- tion. Whether you decide to send a handwritten note, a typed letter, or an email depends on the conservative or casual nature of the company, the industry, and the level of the position, but email is always acceptable. The body of the letter should accomplish four main objectives: 1. Thanking the interviewers for their time, 2. Reiterating interest and enthusiasm in the position and company, 3. Highlighting relevant experiences and accomplishments, and 4. Asking if you can proceed to the next step. Also, be sure to review your note for errors, and have a friend or recruiter proofread it as well. (See above for a sample letter.) This is an incredibly critical part of the process, yet can- didates far too often forget it or ignore it. We advise follow- ing up as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the interview. This shows your interest and that you’re taking the process seriously. Keep in mind, depending on the level of the position, the typical time frame from the first inter- view to a job offer could be three to six weeks or even longer in some cases. So be patient. There you have it: 10 interviewing do’s and don’ts that could make the difference between landing the position you want or missing a great opportunity. So do your home- work, present yourself like a pro, ask questions, and follow up. You’ll be off and running! SF Tony Bercik is senior director, Global Finance Consultant for Professional Services Outsourcing at Kelly Services, Inc. He’s responsible for the strategic development and growth of finance and accounting workforce solutions globally. You can contact him at tony.bercik@kellyfinance.com. John Lewin is vice president and national recruiting leader of finance and accounting talent within U.S. Operations for Kelly Services, Inc. He leads a strategic community of recruiting specialists responsible for engaging and creating niche talent pipelines that align with the finance and accounting workforce needs of Kelly clients. You can reach John at john.lewin@kellyfinance.com. A SAMPLE THANK-YOU LETTER Dear Ms. Clark, Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss ABC Company and the (insert position title) position in detail. Your insight was valuable in helping me understand not only the position and company but also the type of person that will be successful in this role. I feel my qualifications and skill set in (insert qualification, skills) reflect those necessary to succeed at ABC Company. At XYZ Company, I successfully led a state-of-the-art system conversion on time and under budget, as well as managed a staff of 25 professionals. I’m confident that I have the experience and drive to successfully manage the (insert department name) department. I’m truly excited about the opportunity as it will allow me to obtain my goals of (insert goal) and (insert goal). I look forward to our next meeting to discuss this opportunity in greater detail. Sincerely,