The Aston Carter thought leadership series examines strategies for navigating the finance and accounting labor market.
“If you’re an accounting or finance professional who has kept your skills current, right now you’re worth your weight in gold.” That’s Aston Carter Account Manager Bobby Rua's take on what continues to be a tight market for qualified accountants and finance professionals.
Asking questions throughout the interview is crucial.
Changes in the past few years regarding revenue recognition reporting and revised leasing guidelines have contributed to the hiring crunch — and companies are scrambling to meet compliance deadlines. With new mergers and acquisitions on the rise, companies also need contractors to join project teams or cover day-to-day operations.
But are accountants and finance professionals using this seller’s market to their full advantage?
Not always, says Rua. And that often starts with the job interview. In his experience preparing candidates, Rua has identified five questions that lead to successful placements — for the candidate and the employer.
1. Why Are You Looking to Fill This Role?
This basic question can reveal a lot about the position and the company.
“If the answer is, ‘We’ve grown by X percent over the past five years and we can’t handle all of the work,’ that’s a good situation,” says Rua. “While there are other factors to consider, this shows the organization is moving in a positive direction.”
On the other hand, if the answer is “the person in this position left the company,” that may be a warning sign. Dig deeper.
“You'd be surprised at how many people don't ask why,” says Rua. “It could be an indication of a problem in the workplace, but it could also be a sign that the company is making positive changes. Either way, candidates should ask a follow-up question.”
In fact, Rua believes that asking questions throughout the interview is crucial. It shows that you’re engaged, and it makes the dialogue more natural.
“If I were an experienced professional with a good resume, I’d be asking as many questions as the hiring manager, if not more. And don’t settle for ‘yes or no’ answers — always ask for clarifying details.”
2. What Do You Want the Position to Accomplish?
You need more than the job description and qualifications to know whether a position will meet your professional goals. Asking about outcomes — what success looks like — will give you a better sense of your potential employer’s expectations.
“If you look only at the required qualifications and experience, you’re missing important information,” says Rua. “You may be able to check all of the boxes, but there may be a mismatch between your skills and what the employer is trying to accomplish.”
The position could be something that you’ve already done that no longer interests you, or it could require competencies you haven’t acquired yet. It could also represent a lateral move, even if the job title is one you’re looking for.
“Job titles are incredibly relative,” says Rua. “You could be a Financial Analyst 1 applying for that same title, but the actual job may not remotely align with what you did at your previous company.”
3. What Are the Advancement Opportunities?
This one is obvious, but Rua recommends a follow-up that seldom gets asked: What’s the timeline?
“Ask where the position could lead to, but also ask when. If the company is growing and looking to add a supervisor by the end of the year, that’s good information to have.”
Getting more specific about where the role could lead shows the hiring manager you’re interested in being more than just a role player. That could signal you’re someone who could fill a bigger need in the company.
On a related topic, clarify what you’ll need to know from Day One to be successful, what training you’ll receive and what that training consists of. That will give you a clearer picture of what you’ll be stepping into, and also shows the manager that you’re focused on outcomes.
4. What Do You Do for Your Employees?
You may have seen this elsewhere as “What’s the company culture like?” But that leaves too
much room for vague answers.
“Ask for specifics about things like flexible schedules, vacation days and remote work options,” says Rua. “It’s one thing for a manager to say, ‘We’re employee-focused.’ It’s another to say, ‘Here are the benefits we make available to workers.’”
Rua admits that Aston Carter is very selective regarding the companies it works with — and for good reason.
“We make sure contract employees are valued and treated similarly to permanent employees. We look for tangible factors that indicate what kind of culture the company offers.”
5. Is There Anything I Can Clarify Before I Go?
As important as first impressions are, your final question may have the greatest impact. You can’t know if you’ve covered everything, so give yourself and your potential employer one last chance to make a connection.
“You may have covered 80% of the job, but the manager isn’t sure about the other 20%,” says Rua. “Here’s your chance to address uncertainties and show why you’re the best person for the role.”
One bonus piece of advice: The best interviews are conversations where you and the manager get the information you both need to make an informed decision.
“Keep it simple and focused: ‘Does that answer your question?’ ‘Does that line up with what you’re looking for? Asking questions is a great way to keep things conversational and connect with your interviewer,” says Rua.
Want to learn more about how we can help you take the next step in your finance career? Contact Aston Carter now.