Hiring: Interview Tips That Work

You’re eager to bring a new team member on board. You’ve sifted through all the cover letters and resumes, and now it’s time to meet your top choices. Here are some interview tips to help you get the most out of your time with candidates seeking accounting and finance jobs, as well as some common interview questions to get you started.

Before the Interview

You know the candidates will be getting ready for the interview, but you have to prepare, too.

  • Plan sufficient time. If you’re rushed, you won’t be able to thoroughly assess their qualifications or fit with the company.

  • Write down questions. Have more than you need, knowing that you don’t have to ask them all.

  • Ask colleagues to participate. You can interview candidates together as a small group or individually during further one-on-one sessions. This way you can compare your impressions with others.

During the Interview

  • Record your first impressions. The candidates’ appearance, handshake, posture and expression say much about their professionalism and enthusiasm for the position.

  • Let them talk. You need to take the lead, but be sure not to monopolize the interview. Ask open-ended questions. Encourage accounting and finance professionals to provide details. Don’t interrupt or finish their sentences.

  • Listen to your intuition. Be alert to any signs of conflict in previous jobs. Are their answers glib and superficial or sincere and unaffected? Pay attention to body language and tone of voice. Jot down your impressions.

Common (and Not-So-Common) Interview Questions

The three basic types of interview questions are standard, behavioral and unusual.

The standard questions are the ones that everyone knows: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why are you a good fit for this job? Where do you see yourself in five years? Most candidates will have rehearsed responses for these.

Behavioral questions ask what the candidate would do in certain situations, such as conflicts with coworkers or discovering that someone was cheating.

Asking unusual questions is a good way to see how quickly candidates think on their feet. Their responses can shed light on their personality and ethics. Some examples:

  • What is your perfect job?

  • What kind of supervisor gets the best work out of you?

  • How do you organize your time?

  • What are/were the best things about your current/most recent job?

  • What bloggers and news sources do you follow, and why?

  • If you didn’t have to work for money, what would you be doing?

  • Where have you traveled, and what are some lessons you’ve learned from being in a culture outside your own?

  • What are some recent headlines that have made an impact on you?

  • If you could have coffee with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

You probably already know you should never ask direct questions regarding a candidate’s ethnicity, religion, family status, sexual orientation, politics or health unless it’s part of the job description, such as being strong enough to lift 20 pounds. But if you’re concerned about the candidates’ other obligations, you could ask, “Are you able to occasionally work nights or weekends?”

A lot rides on the outcome of an interview. By preparing, asking a blend of the right questions and listening to others and your own intuition, you will find just the right person to complement your team.

For more interview tips, see Robert Half’s section on Hiring Advice.