Commonly Used Interview Types
Also known as 'Screening interviews,' these interviews are often conducted by recruitment consultants and on occasion, HR staff.
This method is increasingly used and is favoured by large organisations such as the Big 4, financial services and government organisations. The questions asked at these interviews are structured to reflect the competencies sought by an employer for a particular job and are likely to be more detailed than those asked in a strictly chronological interview.
The competencies to prepare for are usually found in the job specification and generally cover skills, qualities, knowledge and characteristics.
Think JEI: Judgment, Evidence, Impact when answering questions.
Most commonly used at the more senior end of recruitment within public practice and the commercial sector and generally within government organisations, the panel generally consists of a variety of individuals who have a common interest in making a successful appointment.
The panel members ask all candidates questions from a pre-set list, to ensure consistency and fairness in selection. Ideal responses are pre-set and candidates will be measures against the evaluation criteria.
To test your tax knowledge, these can be knowledge-based or scenario-based questions.
Case Study Interviews
Used largely at a more senior level, the case study usually involves the analysis of a hypothetical business problem. In either case, you will be evaluated on how you analyse the problem, identify the key issues and pursue a particular line of thinking. How you arrive at your solution is as important as the solution itself.
'Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.'
- Undertake a thorough research of the organisation. Most firms and companies have websites that provide you with most of the information you will require for your research. Familiarise yourself with the company culture, performance and future goals.
- Read the job specification. Easy to do and surprisingly helpful. Focus on the person specification in particular, as it lists the employers' preference in terms of skills and attitude required for the role.
- It is also useful to research the person interviewing you. Try looking them up on search engines like Google to see if they have written any tax related articles or appear on a company biography.
- If you are looking to move into another tax sector, make certain that you research the latest developments within that area. A display of recent changes in legislation or relevant trends will allow you to sound credible and informed.
- The ability to talk through your CV in a positive and confident manner will assist you greatly in the interview. Ideally rehearse and run through this with a friend. Contact the Career Clinic for tips on this, as it is vital to be able to convey your 'story'.
- Prepare questions for the interviewer. This is an important part of the interview process. Well-rehearsed questions can give you the edge over the competition. For example: who would the employee report to; why is the situation vacant; and what are the promotion prospects?
- Make sure you are aware of the interview format all of the people involved in the interview and the type of interview that will be conducted. Ask your recruitment consultant to provide you with as much information on this as possible.
- Ensure you look presentable and are dressed in a smart and professional way. First impressions count - our minds make judgments on the person's visual presentation and manner.
- Introduce yourself with a firm and positive handshake and remember to smile.
- Maintain good eye contact with the interviewer and speak in a clear and confident manner. Try to maintain a confident but relaxed posture.
- Allow the interviewer to finish their sentences and listen clearly to any questions. Avoid interrupting the interviewer and try not to wander into areas not related to the question being asked. Waffling is one of the more common reasons a candidate can get turned down for a role.
- Take your time before answering any awkward questions. Do not be afraid to ask clarification questions before answering. Most interviewers will be looking for you to ask journalist type questions before responding to the more difficult questions.
- Try not to put too much emphasis on salary package at this stage. Focus on the role and why it is the right role for you.
- Remember to ask questions and display interest in the role on offer.
The Interview: Seven Commonly Asked Interview Questions
In general, it is likely you will be asked at least some, if not all, of the questions below. An understating and ability to effectively to respond to these questions is vital.
Question: What Are Your Strengths?
This is a straightforward question, requiring a straightforward response. Think of at least 5 points that describe what makes you suitable for the role. If you have read the job specification, this should be an easy to prepare for question. Remember the strengths should ideally be professional strengths.
Question: What Are Your Weaknesses?
This is a question about self-awareness. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate on professional traits. Try to be a little more original with this question and focus on a strength that you are looking to further develop.
Questions: Why Do You Want To Work Here?
The interviewer is looking for a response that indicates you've given the role some serious thought and have a genuine commitment to join their organisation.
Question: Why Are You Looking To Leave Your Job?
Focus on what you want in your next role. Explain the positive reasons for moving and how you wish your career to progress. Do not criticise your previous employer or dwell on areas of dissatisfaction. The important thing is your future.
Question: Why Should We Hire You?
Discuss your experience and make it relevant to the role: "I have a proven record of saving my company money; I can make a positive impact on your organisation as I have the required skill set.”
Question: What Are Your Goals?
Start with your short and medium-term goals. Telling the interviewer you wish to make partner one day is a laudable goal but unless you are interviewing in a role were it is a very real prospect in the next 18 months, it may be a better idea to focus on more immediate goals. For example, "My immediate goal is to secure a role in a successful tax team. My ideal is to make senior manager and progress towards greater leadership responsibility."
Question: What Salary Are You Looking For?
This is one area we strongly recommend you prepare for. You will find it beneficial if you note all salary considerations down on paper and then review them before going into an interview.
Firstly, how much do you want to earn? Realistically, how much do you think someone with your skills and experience should be able to command?
Secondly, how low will you go? At some point, the compensation just doesn't justify getting dressed to go to work in the morning, unless you're independently wealthy and only work for the fun of it. You need to know when you walk into an interview what your absolute bottom line is, including the trade-offs between salary and other benefits you might be offered. That doesn't mean you should tell the interviewer what your bottom line is, since your floor could become the interviewer's first point of negotiation.
Thirdly, how valuable are the non-salary benefits to you? It's not enough to know what they are. You should put a price on them. If, for example, you really need health insurance, then the value of that policy to you would be equal to what you'd have to spend if you went out and bought your own. You should know how much lower a salary you could accept or how much higher it would have to be, depending on whether or not the job includes a good health insurance program.
Regardless, we highly recommend that you plan in advance how you'll answer the salary question and rehearse it a few times with a friend. You'll feel much more at ease in the real interview if you have answering questions that might come up.
The best tactic for salary questions is to try and delay responding to them as long as possible - ideally until after the employer makes an offer. Try to deflect salary questions with a response like: "I applied for this position because I am very interested in the job and your company. Currently, in my last job, my package is £xx,xxx I'm interested in this opportunity and I will seriously consider any reasonable offer you care to make me.”
The Interview: Asking Questions And You
The interview should ideally be a two-way process. The organisation interviewing you will want to find out whether you are suitable for its position and you will want to find out if it is the right one for you. Intelligent, role-related questions will demonstrate your genuine interest in the role and commitment. This will also allow you to gather valuable information about the position and management. Going into an interview without questions, will almost certainly lower your chances of securing that role.
Example of some questions to ask:
- Can you tell me about the team's future expansion plans?
- What are the opportunities for advancement?
- How would you describe the culture of the organisation?
- Can you tell me about your own backgrounds?
- How do you see me contributing to the role with the experience and skills that I have?
- What is your training/study policy?
- How would I fit into the structure of the team?
Our Career Clinic can provide you with a comprehensive list of questions tailored for your specific job interview.
Contact your recruitment consultant and talk through your interview with them. This is important as it will allow you to bring up any issues or concerns you may have from your meeting. This can sometimes make all the difference when it comes to securing a second interview.
- The best way to prepare for an interview is to practise, practise and practise.
- Knowing your story - this will allow you to deal effectively with a chronological interview and the 'tell me about yourself' type question. Your story should include your name, a personal profile, your key strengths, a recent achievement; you're most recent position, responsibilities and what you would like to do next in your career. This should take no longer then 90 seconds. Practice this and talking it though with a friend.
- This type of question is terrific opportunity to sell yourself and make a strong impression. It shows the interviewer you are well prepared and have thought things through before turning up for the meeting.
- It is not possible to predict every question in an interview. Treat the advice in this section as a guide. Do not get hung about rehearsing every answer as interviewers can easily spot a prepared answer. Understand the basics and think about your 'story', strengths and why you would be right person for the role.
- Look at other resources beyond the advice offered in this website and contact our Career Clinic for a more personalised service!