Interviews and assessment centres

Interview tips for graduate accountants

21 Jun 2023, 15:38

Don't be fazed by graduate recruiters when you're interviewed for an accountancy or financial management job. Solid preparation can make all the difference.

Graduates waiting for interviews

Demonstrate a genuine interest in the graduate scheme to which you are applying.

Going for an interview with an accountancy or professional services firm, whether it's a small firm, SME or one of the Big 4, can feel daunting. Use our advice on what to do before and at your interview to boost your chances of getting a graduate job offer. Remember to go in with the right attitude: have a positive, honest and enthusiastic outlook and you could well be the graduate for the job.

Four things to do leading up to your accounting interview

  1. Once you’ve been invited to interview, reply by phone or email within a couple of days. If you’re unsure about what to expect you can contact the recruitment team to ask a few questions. However, make sure you have gone through the website thoroughly before you call.
  2. Read our article on doing your research . You’ve probably done a fair amount already, which is why you’ve been selected for interview, but there may be some extra tips for you.
  3. Prepare a variety of examples of where you have shown certain skills and competencies – from different areas of your life, not just academia.
  4. Accountancy firms decide on their selection criteria and use interviews to examine whether you meet them. Work out the criteria and think about those obvious but tricky questions that are bound to come up, but avoid sounding as if you have rehearsed your answers.

Four things to do on the day of your accountancy interview

  1. Be smart, business-like and try to ‘look the part’. We've got some tips on what to wear for your interview .
  2. Check the address and your itinerary beforehand and aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before your interview begins.
  3. Check out the 'news' section of the employer's website to make sure you're up to date with any recent developments at the firm.
  4. Be polite and courteous with anyone you meet at the employer's offices. Recruiters often ask receptionists about the pre-interview behaviour of candidates.

Eight things to do at your accountancy interview

  1. Smile and give a nice firm handshake with direct eye contact as soon as you are introduced to your interviewer – first impressions count!
  2. Demonstrate a genuine interest in the graduate scheme to which you are applying, drawing on activities you have been involved in (such as online trading games, finance societies at university, entrepreneurial ideas, programmes run by firms of accountants, etc).
  3. Keep your focus. A good academic record is only a starting point – it’s also important to show you have a convincing motivation to join the accountancy sector. A lot of time, money and effort will be invested in your training, so recruiters want to feel you’ll stick at it. Talk enthusiastically about the reasons you wish to pursue the job on offer. Show an interest in world events and their effect on the financial world.
  4. Don’t argue with recruiters, but do ask for clarification if you do not understand a question.
  5. Make a connection between the skills you’ve gained from your work experience and the job of being an accountant. Don’t dismiss a job because it had nothing specifically to do with accountancy. Instead, pull out the skills you gained from it. Working behind a bar, for example, can develop your communication and numeracy skills, and experience of team work...
  6. Show you really know what accountancy is. Recruiters don’t expect in-depth knowledge, but a good grasp of the basics will help you and impress them. For example, it’s great if a would-be auditor can show they understand that they’ll be working with different businesses and that communication skills will be essential.
  7. Show you have researched the professional qualifications on offer, that you are aware, for example, that a management accounting qualification is particularly suited to those wishing to enter industry.
  8. Use a breadth of examples, rather than just repeating one example. Try to expand on a different example during your interview than one you may have expanded upon in your application form.

We hope that your interview goes well, but if you receive a rejection, don’t give up hope. Some accountancy and professional services firms allow re-application after six months (for others, it may be a year). Check the information provided by the employer on its website, or by making a call to its recruiters. Use the intervening time to get some work experience and build up your skills set.

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