Tell Me About Yourself

On 09/28/2011, in Finding a Job, Interviewing, by Jordan Wilson

In Things Hiring Managers Will Not Tell You, we discussed a few tips on how to prepare for a job interview.

One piece of advice concerned how interviewers like to intentionally make interviewees uncomfortable by asking unusual questions.

Today we will quickly review some of the favourite questions posed by interviewers.  

Favourite Questions of CFOs

A recent Accountemps survey of 270 Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) found that their favourite questions to ask related to three broad categories.

Those questions designed to learn more about the applicant’s work style and personal attributes (50 per cent of responses fell roughly into this category), job or company-specific questions (27 per cent of CFOs picked these as favourites) and those addressing the candidate’s qualifications (23 per cent of questions landed here).

I would agree with this breakdown, especially for more senior positions. And those are the jobs where a CFO will take a more active role in the interview process.

Slightly Different for Junior Functions

For entry level positions, where the candidate has limited technical expertise and experience, I would expect a higher percentage of questions to address the candidate’s qualifications. And, depending on the size of the company, the CFO may not be involved in the interview process. Or may only meet the finalists, whose technical qualifications have previously been vetted by other interviewers.

Candidates for entry level or junior positions should expect to be grilled on technical competence. Know the job requirements and anticipate being asked specific questions about your skills.

When I interview applicants, I always ask them to solve hypothetical situations that fall within their claimed expertise and experience levels. This way I can quickly tell if their assertions are accurate or how much they have padded their resume.

Even when interviewing for a position where you do have knowledge, spend some time refreshing your skills so that you are 100% certain of what you say.

If applying for an accounting position, make sure you know the current accounting standards cold. For added points, read up on proposed accounting standards and accounting issues that may affect the company to which you have applied.

For finance or banking roles, know the technical details. Also, make sure you know what is going on in the financial markets and other areas relating to the job. If you are discussing finance in general, it is useful to know where the key market benchmarks are at, as well as the level of interest rates, unemployment, inflation, etc.

You never quite know what direction the interview will take. Better to have too much information in your brain than to not know what the prime interest rate is when interviewing for a position in the loans’ department.

So definitely be prepared for position specific questions. The more junior the job, the more this may be relevant.

Be Prepared for Non-Job Related Questions

For all interviews, especially for more senior roles, also be prepared for more personal or offbeat questions.

The linked article offers good examples of questions relating to a candidate’s personality and work style (including the idiotic question on being a tree). Study these types of questions and have friends or family quiz you with questions of a similar nature. In that way, you will be prepared to some degree to handle any curveballs that may be thrown during the interview.

Regardless of your specific answer, the interviewer wants to see how quickly and confidently that you can think on your feet. And how you use logic and sound reasoning to come up with a cogent response. Those are the keys interviewers seek. Not whether you actually would make a better oak than elm tree.



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