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Best Practices in Interviewing Accountants

How do you interview effectively in order to identify the best candidate for an accounting position?

First, let’s assume that you have already identified those likely to be a good fit for the position based on their resumes. You have a field of candidates from which to choose with the right education, experience, accomplishments, and a progression of increasingly responsible positions.

So, if everyone you intend to interview seems “qualified” for the job, what is the purpose of the interview itself? In most cases you will want to separate candidates based on not only technical skills but on their ability to communicate, their likelihood of fitting in with the existing team, leadership skills, and other factors which are difficult to discern from a written resume.

Below are four questions most often asked by the Big Four accounting firms:

WALK ME THROUGH YOUR RESUME
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF OR BACKGROUND
WHY KPMG/DELOITTE/PWC/E&Y?
WHY AUDIT/TAX/ADVISORY?

While the answers will be important, you are looking to hear and see how the candidate communicates, how they perform under pressure, and whether this is someone who will ultimately be successful in your company.

The interview is a chance to have a conversation with the individuals being considered. Get to know them. Let their personalities come through. You will certainly want to probe for specifics, and understand how they have handled difficult situations at work - or disagreements with their boss, coworkers, and clients. Ask good follow up questions and look for consistency in their responses.

It’s also important to pay attention to your emotions during the interview. Did you feel an answer was not quite right? Is this a person you felt you could trust? Did you enjoy the time you spent with them? Your emotions are likely to tell you as much about how this person will fit with the team as will anything on their resume.

Interviewing well is an art form. Trust your instincts and avoiding rushing to make a hire.

Best Practices in Interviewing Accountants

Retaining Your Finance Staff

Keeping good employees is smart business.

The good news is that according to a recent employment study of finance professionals, most - 53 percent - indicated they preferred to stay with their current employer.

Finance professionals possess marketable skills and have more opportunities to move than those in some other job categories. It is, therefore, no surprise that the top two factors for retention are pay linked to performance and opportunity for advancement.

While 53 percent would prefer to stay put, 41 percent said they believe they will need to switch companies in order to advance.

To avoid losing high performing and ambitious finance professionals (exactly the kind of employee you would want to retain) it is necessary for leaders to focus on three key actions:

Link pay to performance and make sure you are able to make clear and objective performance distinctions.

Communicate career paths and opportunities for growth in the current company.

Make sure you are able to coach employee’s effectively and support their professional development.

Other factors influencing retention include a convenient work location, good relationship with the supervisor, job security, limits on work-related stress, and trust and confidence in senior leadership. Some of these factors are in the control of leadership, while others are more difficult to impact. It is imperative that you create a work environment and clear career path in which your star employees can succeed. Be sure to govern the factors you can control.

Retaining Your Finance Staff

The Importance of “Soft Skills”

How important are “soft skills” in the workplace?

In Anthony Mersino’s book, Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers, he identifies seven benefits of possessing and using soft skills; including developing relationships to support project success, avoiding emotional breakdowns, managing conflict, making better decisions, communicating more effectively, creating high morale, and casting a vision that attracts, inspires and motivates the project team.

We’ve all worked for inspiring leaders and those who may be technically proficient, but working with them is very difficult. Most of us prefer the former. And, with all of the benefits that come from developing relational skills, it’s a good bet that those are the leaders who generate superior results.

Are these inspiring leaders born or made? Fortunately, recent research is showing that anyone can improve their soft skills just as they can develop technical skills. It takes focus and a willingness to improve. There are five key elements which create inspiring leaders, according to Mersino:

SELF-AWARENESS – This requires seeking out honest feedback from others in order to develop an accurate self-assessment. Self-awareness is the root of genuine self-confidence.

SELF-MANAGEMENT – Self control must precede influencing others. Working to improve your own self awareness and self control is the best way to inspire others on your team.

SOCIAL AWARENESS – The ability to see others clearly, maintain emotional boundaries, and develop an awareness of the organization will allow you to effectively navigate it.

RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT – Developing relationships with others involves truth telling and trust-building.

TEAM LEADERSHIP – Only when you have developed these first four areas can you be truly effective as a leader who inspires others, communicates clearly, and manages conflict well.

When you have this type of leader in your organization, people will lobby hard to work for them. We all want to be inspired and be a part of building something bigger than ourselves. Leaders make that happen.

The Importance of “Soft Skills”