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Turning a Challenge Into an Opportunity

Turning a Challenge Into an Opportunity

Candidates make more mistakes during interviews than in any other phase of the job-search process.  Here’s how to avoid common pitfalls and land the position you really want.

A recent Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey of chief financial officers found that job seekers make more mistakes during interviews than in any other phase of the job-search process.  This news may make you even more apprehensive over the prospect of meeting with a potential employer, but it doesn’t have to.  In fact, by preparing thoroughly for the discussion and understanding common pitfalls to avoid, professionals can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

The interview is your time to shine.  Receiving an invitation to personally discuss a job opportunity means that the organization was impressed by your resume and intrigued enough to bring you in for further insight into your abilities and experience.  This can be a breakthrough moment for accounting professionals, in particular.  Today’s accountants must be able to present complex data and concepts, often in layperson’s terms, to clients, colleagues and senior management.  Clearly expressing your thoughts and showcasing your talents during meetings with hiring managers demonstrates you possess strong communication skills.

So how can you turn the challenge of the interview into an opportunity?  The following tips can help.

Research the employer.  One of the biggest mistakes job applicants make is not knowing enough about the organization.  Even before you send your resume, review articles in trade publications, business journals and local newspapers to learn as much as you can about the firm.  Also speak with contacts in your network who can share their insights and experiences.  The information you gather will help you speak directly to the opportunity and show your enthusiasm for the role.

Understand the value you bring.  Fundamentally, a hiring manager wants to know why you’re the right person for the opportunity.  Develop a plan before the interview that will help you answer this question and distinguish yourself as a top candidate in the process.  Study the job description again and determine how your unique skill set will enable you to succeed.  The research you conducted will show you how you can fit into the specific business environment and corporate culture as well.

Rehearse answers to common questions.  While you never know exactly what you will be asked during an interview, you should be able to succinctly describe your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your most significant accomplishments in previous positions.  Provide specific examples of how you helped former employers and make sure your responses tie into the job description for the opening.  Also be prepared to discuss your decision-making process and how you have acted in situations that presented an ethical dilemma.  As you answer the interviewee’s queries, be straightforward but remember to remain positive, avoiding derogatory comments about past managers or colleagues.

Demonstrate confidence.  Sometimes, how you say something leaves a more-lasting impression than what you say.  That’s why it’s imperative to believe in yourself and let this show in your body language.  Greet the hiring manager with a strong handshake and maintain eye contact throughout the discussion.  Avoid gestures that make you appear nervous, such as excessive hand motions or constantly tapping your fingers or feet.  But a quick word of caution: Remember the difference between confidence and arrogance: Our company’s research has found that the worst mistake a management-level job candidate can make during an interview is displaying arrogance.

Take your turn to ask questions.  This meeting is not just a time for the company to see if you are the best fit for the position; it’s also a chance for you to find out if the opportunity is right for you.  Decide in advance the aspects of the role and the business about which you’d like to learn more.  Examples may include: "What are the organization’s long-term growth objectives?"  "How does the position fit into the firm’s overall strategy?"  "What constitutes superior performance?"  "What will be expected of me in the first few months?"

After the interview

Even after the interview has taken place, there are still opportunities for you to enhance your chances of scoring an offer.  Always send a thank-you note promptly to each person who met with you.  This simple courtesy can go a long way.  A majority of executives polled by our company said they consider a post-interview thank-you note helpful when evaluating prospective employees, but those polled said less than half of applicants actually take the time to craft one.

Briefly restate the skills, expertise and enthusiasm you bring to the position, and address any areas of the discussion in which you feel you could have expressed yourself better.  You can send your gratitude in writing or via e-mail, but whichever form you choose, this gesture will ensure the effort you took to distinguish yourself during the interview will make a lasting impression.

Source: Robert Half International,

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