ACA 30 Years of Experience: Top Tips #3 The Interview

Continuing on from our last post on how to prepare for your interview, here we focus on the interview itself and how to give your peak performance to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

First impressions count

When you arrive, ensure you are polite to all the staff you encounter before you reach your interview room; it’s not unusual for the administration staff who greet you to be asked about their impressions of each candidate. Make sure you are well presented with a clean suit and black shoes, and give each person you’re introduced to a firm handshake with eye contact. Take your cue regarding formality from the person leading the interview: if they’re fairly relaxed then don’t be too stiff but if their manner is quite formal then do not act too casual, no one likes to feel nervous, but you do need to treat the process with appropriate seriousness.

Answer questions to the best of your ability and remember it’s a two-way process

The main purpose of interviews from an employer’s point-of-view is to gauge a candidate’s suitability for the job (do they have the requisite skills? Will they leave their responsibilities in better shape than when they took them on? Etc.) and their fit in the company. Answer the questions as fully as you can (with examples to illustrate your relevant experience) but don’t waffle, if an interviewer requires further details then they will ask you to elaborate.

Remember that interviews are a two-way process, you’re also interviewing the employer to see if this is the right sort of role for you and whether it’s a company you’d like to work in. You’ll be asked at the end if you have any questions, so have a few prepared. It may be that your questions were answered during the interview, in which case they were probably quite specific to the role, so good things to ask might relate to the wider company e.g. short and medium term plans for the company, or how many employees are in your department and the company as a whole. You can ask about the package or salary but do not restrict your questions solely to this topic, or you will give the impression you’re only motivated by money. At the end of the interview if you’d still like to be considered for the role then let your interviewer know, tell them you’ve enjoyed meeting them or learning more about the role and that you’d “like to be considered further for this role”. By the same token, if after the interview you come to realise this is not the role or company for you then let the interviewer know, they’ll respect you for being honest and not wasting their time in following up.


Keep in touch with your recruiter

After your interview let your recruiter know how you thought the interview went and whether the interviewers gave you any indication of how the process would proceed, this is important as the employer usually contacts the recruiter regarding any follow up (rather than contacting the candidate directly) so you want your recruiter on the same page. One final word of warning: do not lie about your salary or try to play the recruiter and employer off against each other. Any exaggeration of previous salary will be uncovered by the accounts office in your new company when you’re issued with a tax code (so within your probation period). Similarly, playing the recruiter and employer off against each other in a bid to increase the salary offer will lose the respect of both. The recruiter will guide you in terms of salary negotiations and realistic expectations; it is wise to follow this guidance, after all the recruiter’s fee is usually a percentage of the candidate’s starting salary!

Good luck!