Working in recruitment we naturally get asked a lot of questions about looking for work with the main ones being:
- When is the best time to look for work?
- What can I be doing to differentiate myself from other candidates?
- How should I prepare for interviews?
- What should I say if I’m asked about salary?
When is the best time to look for work?
The accounting industry is changing very quickly and chances are the skills you need for the job you want are going to be changing as well.
So, it makes sense to speak regularly with people in the jobs you want, friends in similar positions and recruiters to make sure you are on track and if not identify any issues early so you can bring them up at performance reviews.
Equally important, is that if you are in best job in the world then speaking with people will confirm that.
What can I be doing to differentiate myself from other candidates?
Within professional services at least, we are seeing a huge shift in what employers want. Compliance and technical knowledge is still important however candidates with strong soft skills are in increasingly higher demand, a trend we expect to continue.
The expectation is that over the next 5-10 years the stereotypical accountant will start looking more and more like a sales person. Understanding of technical issues will be important but it will be the ability to be a business partner, influence and advice clients that will be most important.
If you are past the 2 to 3 years’ experience level and are not in a client facing role you really need to be asking yourself why?
Provided you are getting the client exposure you need, the single best thing you can do, especially if you are starting out, is join a group like Toastmasters.
I can honestly say that I’m yet to meet someone who regularly attends Toastmasters who I didn’t think I could place in a job.
How should I prepare for interviews?
An interview in my mind is like any other meeting so keep it simple and make sure you know your CV.
A firm handshake, smile, appropriate attire and eye contact go a long way.
One thing you can do to differentiate yourself from other candidates is to think about what it is you do and prepare several STAR examples for each aspect of your job:
STAR examples are a great way for you to address any potential concerns an interviewer might have about your experience because they usually offer “hooks” for them to ask further questions.
Outside of that a lot of the time people will ask you about things you haven’t done.
If you get asked about something you haven’t done before, try and walk the interviewer through what your process might be for solving the problem.
By doing these things, you will avoid sounding like every other candidate they met as well as avoiding the answer, “I don’t know”.
Finally, do your research on the business and make sure you come across as enthusiastic for the opportunity in front of you.
What should I say if I’m asked about salary?
Salary is an interesting one and I think that you should be framing any answer in terms of market value.
“What are your salary expectations?”
“The positions I’m interviewing for are paying between $100-110K and I would be comfortable moving for similar to that.”
The most important thing is that you are consistent in what you say throughout the process. If your expectations move you need to communicate the reasons why.
By way of example, a candidate I know was earning 130K and was interviewing for 2 positions, he told both businesses in the first interview what he was earning and that he would be happy to move for similar.
After the first interviews with the initial 2 businesses he was offered a third role paying $200K, obviously this changed things a little.
He advised the recruiter in question (not me) prior to the second interviews that he had been offered the above salary and to let the other businesses know. One of the businesses said no problem we can match that and the other pulled out.
The end result was that he was offered two positions paying $200K because he was clear with everyone what had happened in advance of attending the interview.
Increasing your salary expectations because you think you are going to get an offer doesn’t sit well with people at all and will more often than not result in any offer being pulled.
- Good recruiters know what employers are looking for now and what they will be looking for in the future;
- Staying in regular contact with one or two of them will help you make sure you are in a role that is giving you the skills you need to achieve your medium and long term career goals.