If you're prepping for an interview for an accounts payable clerk position, you know to expect common interview questions, such as, "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" or "Where do you see yourself in five years?" You're probably also prepared to answer role-specific questions, such as, "Which accounting software do you have experience with?" and "Can you tell me about past invoice disputes and how you've resolved them?"
What happens, though, if your interviewer throws in a wild card or two? Here are some tips and examples to help you make the most of any oddball questions that may come your way.
Don't let simple questions throw you for a loop
Sometimes, the simplest questions can be the toughest to answer. For example, a question about the salary you seek could get you flustered if you haven't thought about the answer ahead of time. Before any interview, be sure to review the most recent Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance to get a sense of the compensation an accounts payable clerk with your background can command.
If possible, ask a friend or family member to conduct a practice interview with you. Yes, you may have answered "Can you tell me about yourself?" about a thousand times before, in previous interviews. But it's hard to be overprepared, especially if you haven't taken part in a job interview in a long time. Be sure you cover accounts payable clerk-specific questions such as these in your practice interview:
- "Can you explain end-to-end process of accounts payable?"
- "What is a workflow?"
- "What is consolidation?"
- "What is interest on capital?"
- "What is a non-PO invoice?"
The real purpose behind unusual questions
Take your interviewing skills to the next level by practicing replies to a few unusual questions. In an OfficeTeam survey, executives were asked to share the strangest questions they'd ever been asked during an interview. Here are just a few they cited:
- "What would I find in your refrigerator?"
- "What's the last book you read?"
- "What animal are you most like?"
Why don't hiring managers just stick to standard questions when interviewing an accounts payable clerk? Because your answers to oddball questions may shed light on your personality, problem-solving skills and performance under pressure in ways that standard questions do not.
How to stay poised
Preparation is the best defense. Unfortunately, you can't practice every possible question in advance. Rely on the following interview tips to ensure you don't become tongue-tied if you're asked a question that seems to come from out of the blue:
- Keep your composure. Interviewers evaluate more than the content of your answers. They also note how you formulate responses to get a sense of your creativity and approach to problems. Remain calm, maintain eye contact and stay confident.
- Ask for clarification. If you're stumped, it's OK to ask for clarification. Ask the interviewer to repeat or reword the question. Interviewers will respect your desire to give them what they are looking for in an answer.
- Don't be a dodger. Don't dodge questions. You could be particularly tempted to do so if asked about a resume gap. If you stopped working as an accounts payable clerk so you could finish an MBA program early, say so. Be honest and factual, and get ready for the next question.
- Make sense of it. Let's say an interviewer asks you, "What animal are you most like?" If you say "a cat," you might want to add "because I am curious and always land on my feet." Try to highlight skills you'll need as an accounts payable clerk at that particular company when answering questions such as these. In this example, curiosity and landing on your feet represent eagerness to try new things and dependability.
- Take your time. The interviewer will expect you to take some time with an unusual question. A thoughtful answer is better than a rushed one. It's OK to say something like, "That's an interesting question. Let me think about it."
Finally, remember that you're unlikely to knock yourself out of consideration if you say you identify more with cats than dogs or reveal that you have only a chocolate bar and jar of mustard in your refrigerator. Above all, be honest, be thoughtful and be yourself when faced with unexpected questions.