Your first accounting job out of college is critical, and the particular firm or company that you choose to work for will likely play a big role in shaping your long-term career. Most junior associate jobs are entry-level positions, which means your interview will likely be focused on behavioral characteristics as well as your academic background. While it’s important to fine-tune your written sales pitch, proper interview preparation begins with a plan.
To start, come up some thoughtful questions about the company and your own professional and academic background. Then, practice your answers out loud in front of a family member or friend. This gets you in the professional zone and thinking on your feet. Once you’re comfortable with the general interview protocol, consider what’s expected in the accounting field. Whether you plan to work your way up in the public sector or settle into an industry role, here are a few junior accountant interview tips to make you more attractive for the position.
Junior Accountant Interview Tips
Know Your Employer: This is particularly important for Big 4 recruits or for a graduate interviewing for a junior accountant position at regional firm. For many of these companies, the interview process starts long before your office visit. In fact, recruiters will start to assess your skills and interests during your sophomore year in college. Attend as many recruiting events as you can. This will help you learn about your target employer and become better connected with decision makers and partners. When you do finally graduate, be sure to do plenty of research and know exactly what you’re looking for. In what city do you want to work? How important is company culture? What values does your target firm practice? Why are you interested in public accounting? Why are you interested in industry accounting? Don’t forget to take a look at the company’s mission statement, client scope and employee profiles. Above all, know the key product inside and out.
Be Prepared to Discuss Professional Designations: Most state’s CPA boards require at least one year of experience prior to licensure. As a junior associate, you may be currently looking to build up your time. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in public accounting, make sure you have a solid plan in place before your interview. Partners will want to know when you’ll be eligible to sit for the exam and what steps you’ve already taken to prepare.
Establish Your Focus: Many junior accountant candidates enter the job market hoping to discover the area that best fits their skills and interests. While this is certainly an inevitable part of professional progression, you’ll look much better having established some initial goals. For firm applicants, this usually means choosing to enter as tax associates or auditors. Even in industry, it’s important to avoid that wait-and-see attitude. You can always change your mind as you build up experience, but try to nail down a particular path initially, and be sure to state your purpose during the interview.
Discuss the Future: As a junior accountant, you’re well positioned for a successful career in accounting, finance or business operations. Don’t be afraid to ask about advancement opportunities within the company. This conveys drive, ambition and dedication, which are all qualities that hiring managers look for in entry-level applicants. Business is highly meritocratic by nature, and those who look for opportunity are usually rewarded with opportunity. Also, be sure to ask about continuing education benefits. Many firms and corporations actually pay for CPA prep courses and licensing fees for their employees.
Highlight Soft Skills: Introversion is a common misconception about the accounting profession, but number crunching is definitely not the only function of the role. In fact, client interaction is a huge part of the job, particularly if you’re planning to work in assurance or audit. One of the most important junior accountant interview tips is to showcase your personality. The partner who you interview with needs to feel confident that you can communicate effectively with the firm’s clients. Furthermore, you want to be a team member who is pleasant to work with. Always sharpen your communications skills before heading into an interview, and practice a few phrases to avoid stumbling on your words. Likewise, maintain eye contact and always dress to impress.
First impressions are critical, but with a few solid interview techniques, you’ll be better prepared to showcase your accounting knowledge and your personality.