Mastering the skill of being interviewed

Mastering the skill of being interviewed

Sarah Reid

Being interviewed is certainly something that comes naturally to some whereas others struggle. However, even the most confident of interviewees have noticed that the format of an interview has changed over the years and the way in which the preparation is undertaken needs to evolve in the same way interview styles have.

‘What will the format of my interview be?’ is a question I am regularly asked when arranging an interview for my candidates. The usual answer I receive from interviewers which is relayed back to interviewees is ‘the interview will be competency based to begin with, followed by some technical questions and mostly conversational’. What exactly does this mean? Let me break it down…

Competency based
Have you ever heard ‘describe a time when….’ or ‘what’s been your biggest challenge to date’ as questions during an interview? These types of questions are still relevant, but the way in which you should answer these has evolved and more will be expected from you. Your answer needs to be commercial; you need to be able to demonstrate how you add value to your client, your employer and your colleagues.

There are techniques that you can use to help deliver an impactful answer showing prospective employers how you are a rounded tax advisor. One that I like to inform interviewees on is ‘STAR’ which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Response.

Using the STAR technique to answer a question makes you think holistically about any situation you have come across in your career to date, and any potential scenario you are given in the interview. Your answer will demonstrate your thought process from start to finish.

Situation: What is the immediate issue the client is presenting you? Do their issues stop there, or is there anything else you can help them with given the facts that are presented? Do you need to ask more questions?

Task: What do you need to do to assist client(s)/colleagues in providing excellent client service? Are there any other parts of the business that could help this client; e.g. issues outside of your remit that the client needs advice on?

Action: How did you assist? How did you operate to provide the service, and who did you work with? Did this involve team work? Tight deadlines?

Result: What were the challenges and success stories? Was the client satisfied? Did you gain extra revenue from cross selling? Did you raise your profile within the business? Did you receive a client referral?

Don’t refrain from speaking confidently about your achievements when using this technique.

Preparation for an interview is not just about knowing your CV – and to be honest, you should know everything on your CV and be prepared to talk about your career to date with ease. After all it’s your experience collated, no-one else’s. Therefore, from a technical perspective, you must be able to expand on every project you have listed on your CV and explain in granular detail the intricacies of the project. This is what distinguishes the technically excellent Tax Advisors.

Tax is an evolving industry with legislation being updated on a regular basis, therefore do not solely base your answers on what you have advised to date and think about how new legislation would impact the advice should you advise today.

In some interviews, you may be given a client scenario and asked to talk about the technical issues and how you would approach this if you were advising them.

This interestingly tends to be the most difficult part of an interview for some of the interviewees I speak with. Interviews have traditionally been the interviewer cross referencing the interviewee in a very formal style.

This is where the evolution part comes into play – an interview is a two-way conversation and you will be expected to talk about your interests, your aspirations, your likes/dislikes and show your personality!

Reason being is that it’s not just about whether you can do the job, it’s more important that you will get along with the team, have the same work ethic as your prospective colleagues, and someone that the interviewer would be happy to put in front of their clients.

As a result, the interviewers will expect you to ask (intelligent) questions about the role, the client base, your team, the working environment, expectations and career prospects. This is actively encouraged and the feedback I regularly receive from employers when quality questions are asked by interviewees tends to be positive. This is your chance to see whether this role is right for you and whether you would want to work with these individuals - the employer doesn’t want to invest in you only for you to leave three months after starting!

If you are working with a recruiter, ask them for information on who will be interviewing you, information on the role, the team and the employer. This sounds like an obvious point to make but you’d be surprised how often I am not asked this. There is never going to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to an interview so it is important that you prepare for every eventuality and (actually) take the time to prepare!