Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Make a Great Impression in Interviews by Asking Better Questions

  By Blake Hise, TSCPA Nashville Chapter Student Ambassador    

If you were to search the internet for tips on acing an interview or networking at a career fair, you would find many of the basics such as bring a resume, dress professionally, deliver a firm handshake and so on. All serious internship candidates should already be applying these basic principles, so you will need additional skill sets to market yourself competitively. In my experience, the ability to ask insightful questions is one of the greatest assets outside of a resume that you can bring to any career fair or interview.

When I was a junior in the accounting program at MTSU, hiring firms invited me to interview after interview, but never followed through with an offer. After reflecting on my networking approach during senior year, I realized I was failing to ask recruiters the questions they wanted to hear. Shortly after having this epiphany and implementing the advice in this article, I secured two internships within a couple of months.

When firms seek to hire college students, one of their most common concerns with this demographic is lack of experience. To overcome this barrier, ask meaningful questions with a demonstration of competence and professionalism based on the recruiter’s oral representation of the firm’s services. Learning to ask better questions can be extremely resourceful in your job search as an aspiring accountant.

In almost every exchange, the recruiter will provide an overview of the company’s services. This information can challenge many students, because it is often industry-specific and outside the scope of accounting taught at the undergraduate level. Many students may become inattentive, nod and smile politely, or simply wait to ask the next question they have rehearsed.

However, the recruiter’s representation of the firm’s services presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate your accounting knowledge. If you can repeatedly ask insightful questions based on the recruiter’s information, you will successfully project competence, an ability to think on your feet and a genuine interest in the organization. This will, of course, work alongside your communication skills and resume to make a great impression.

The key question, then, is how do we learn to ask better questions throughout the recruiting process? Here are a few steps that are helping me to develop this critical skill.

Listen Actively: The first step to asking better questions involves making the effort to listen attentively to understand the firm’s services.

Relate Information To Your Accounting Knowledge: The differences between the recruiter’s experience and your overall knowledge of accounting create an opportunity for you to ask questions that “bridge the gap” between academia and real-life application. Draw on your accounting knowledge to understand the services the firm provides. Then, ask questions that relate what you already know from your accounting coursework to the recruiter’s description of the firm’s services.

Imagine This Will Be Your Job:
To identify which questions are best to ask, I have found it helpful to maintain the mindset that you are going to be hired by this company in the following week. What concerns would you have with the details of this position? What would you want to know about the industry?

Use Current Events: Relating a firm’s services to current events is an excellent way to learn more about the industry and indicate that you stay abreast of developments in the field. Tax reform, healthcare reform and the new revenue recognition standards are a few example topics that can lead to interesting conversations.

Repeat and Practice: Be sure to repeat this process throughout the exchange with the recruiter. Employers frequently interpret a candidate having too few questions as being disinterested or inexperienced. Asking too many questions is more favorable than asking too few. You should constantly be probing for better, more insightful questions to ask.

Professionals in the accounting field are generally passionate about their work and enjoy discussing it in detail with interested students. Next time you are in a career fair or interview situation, take the time to consider if you are asking questions that project competence and give the hiring company a great impression of you as a candidate.