by Nick Benson
Accountants are in high demand, with job growth projected at 8-10% over the next 10 years. That means you can afford to be selective as you look for your first job. How do you decide which accounting firm is a good fit for you? By doing a little research and making the most of your job interview.
Before the interview – check out the firm’s website
There’s a lot you can learn from the website. Is it well-designed or does it look dated? How easy is it to navigate? The answers may shed light on the firm’s overall style and management. Here are some specifics to look for:
- Location – Where is the office physically located and is the commute acceptable?
- Clients – What industries and clients do they serve, and do they align with your interests?
- Values Statement– Look for language that sheds light on their overall business philosophy to see if you agree.
- Leadership Team– Find out who you’ll be working with. You can also do deeper dive by checking out their LinkedIn pages.
Interview the Interviewer
Job interviews go both ways – while the firm is evaluating you, you need to evaluate the firm. The best way to do that is with targeted questions. The answers will tell you a lot about whether this is a place you can see yourself working. Let’s look at the topics you’ll want to cover.
Understanding the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that shape daily life at a firm is essential. This can encompass everything from leadership practices to employee behavior to organizational policies. Here are questions that get at the personality and character of a firm:
- What’s a day-in-the-life of an accountant like here?
- If I need help with a project, what’s the process for getting support? (e.g. is there a hierarchy I need to follow or can I ask anyone I choose? Do I need to email someone first or can I walk into their office?)
- What’s the team culture like and can you give an example of how teams support one another?
- What are some of the firm’s community involvement activities?
You also need to know what the firm expects from you and what you can expect from the firm. Be specific and don’t be afraid to ask a follow up question if you get a vague response.
- Is the position salaried or hourly, and if it’s hourly, does that overtime pay?
- How many hours per week does the firm expect employees to work and how does that vary during busy seasons?
- How many hours does the firm expect employees to bill per month?
- What kind of business development expectations does the firm have for their staff, managers, directors etc.
- What training does the firm provide, including personal, professional and sales and does the firm allow employees to earn CPE credits during work hours?
- Is there a clear path for advancement for my role and what is a realistic timeframe?
- What are the guidelines and expectations on ‘flex-time’, work hours and ability to work from home?
Post Interview Analysis
Immediately following the interview, have a list of questions ready to ask yourself while everything is fresh in your mind. The list should reflect what’s most important to you. Possibilities include:
- Are they offering the right amount of money?
- How would I rate the work-life balance?
- Did I feel like I could be myself in the interview?