Sailing Through Your Job Interview

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“Do your homework.”

If you are like most people, the prospect of an upcoming job interview probably puts your nerves on edge and gets you all worked up and tense. But don’t let such negative feelings dampen your spirits or give you cold feet. In fact, you can channel this nervous energy to boost your self-confidence – a critical factor for success in any job interview. One of the simplest ways to increase your self-confidence is by preparing thoroughly for the interview. Here are some tips on job interview preparation for chartered accountants and finance professionals:

• Do your homework. Find out as much about the company as you can, from the official company website as well as recent articles published in business magazines. If available, go through the latest Annual Report of the company, paying special attention to the Balance Sheet, P&L Account and annexures.

Brush up on fundamental accounting concepts, accounting terminology, and also current financial news pertaining to the state of the country’s economy. It is impossible to predict what technical questions you could be asked at the interview. But in general, interviewers wish to ascertain your understanding of concepts rather than factual knowledge. In any case, no sensible person is going to reject you solely on your response to a couple of technical questions, unless you indisputably establish your total ignorance of accounts and finance! Similarly, no one is going to select you merely because you answered a couple of technical questions correctly.

List down any special qualities you think the finance job you are being interviewed for requires. You will be asked at the interview to speak about yourself. Rehearse beforehand how you will highlight aspects of your character and skills that correspond to these special qualities, in order to emphasize your suitability for the post.

• The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India has published a Handbook of Newly Qualified Chartered Accountants (2001). Read this before attending any interviews. It’s available online for Rs 121 (including shipping).

• On the interview eve, keep ready everything you require, including copies of your resumé and certificates, photographs and other documents specified by the company.

Dress formally and soberly. There’s no need to overdress, unless you are aware that the company’s dress code calls for it.

• Keep a time buffer for traffic delays and other contingencies. The last thing you want is to be late.

• During the interview do not get rankled or lose your cool, no matter what. Some interviewers deliberately put you under pressure and attempt to rile you, to see how you handle such situations.

• Do not lie. Honesty is one of the key traits required in CAs and finance professionals. Also, if you do not know the answer to something, say so. Trying to bluff your way through won’t get you anywhere anyway.

• At any CA job interview, as much as the company needs to ascertain your suitability, so also are you trying to establish whether the company/job are suitable for you. If the interview panel is not already forthcoming on such details, you can ease in a few questions just before the end of the interview, from a prepared list that you have carried along with you. Questions could pertain to work culture, company plans, working conditions, growth prospects, and whatever else you think important.

• Later, make a few notes regarding your performance at the interview, highlighting questions/areas you need to prepare for better in future.

• Finally, if you do not hear anything from the company after a reasonable period, send a polite follow-up email to the interviewer requesting feedback.

So then, we wish you good luck for your next interview… but do remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, who once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.”!!

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