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  • Writer's picturePGAA Tax

Interview like a Champ

One of the most exciting parts of our jobs is the point at which we, as recruiters and career coaches, have no control over the process and outcome...the interviews. The questions and the answers are two points of the recruiting process that we won't butt our heads into. And while we always want our candidates to crush the interview, we also need to let candidates be themselves and "do their thing." We want our clients to get to know the person and work experiences of their potential new hire because if you get hired, it will be you and only you making it happen.


But c'mon... we all have bad days! There's the person you know yourself to be and the person who shows up on the day of the interview. Here's a worst-case scenario that some call "kicking the cat."

On the morning of the interview, David wakes up late, pours his coffee, his kid vomits on his way out the door, and the babysitter is late. He's a top candidate, but he is frazzled and didn't get a chance to review his notes because of the morning chaos.


Is he a bad guy?


No, but he tripped up on his words, fumbled on answers, and forgot to mention his technical expertise with Corptax. Unfortunately, today was his only shot.


Also, the best hiring manager can have a bad day. As recruiters, we can't control the interview, and second chances are handed out in this arena. So bad days on interview days could undoubtedly happen. But we are here to set you up for success, which starts well before you have a chance to spill your coffee.


Study like you did for your CPA exams:

  • make sure you know as many insights into the company as possible

  • make sure you know the tax team and the interviewers

  • ask us about the hiring manager! What are they like, and what's their personality like?

  • write down what interests you in the company and the opportunity

  • write down when you made or saved money or time for your current company and relate that to your three attributes

  • review your resume and review the job description. Write down stories where you made a difference and provide measurable results

  • find out the reputation, company culture, and stage of the business (growth, shrinking, M&A's)


Practice, because the leopard doesn't change its spots, and the tiger doesn't change its stripes:

Let's say we present two identical candidates in terms of hard skills. It then becomes all about soft skills, making the interviewers feel something, and communicating your experiences well. Be ready to tell stories that highlight your hard and soft skills. Here's how to get prepared for that.

  • Fiverr offers mock interviewers for reasonable rates. You might even have someone from HR of the company you are interviewing because some of these side hustlers are HR managers for Fortune 500 companies.

  • Meet with someone who works or used to work at the company or a closely related company and get their insight.

  • STAR behavior-based interview prep: this needs its own blog, but look it up. STAR stands for your interview answer containing thesefour4 elements:

    • Situation

    • Task

    • Action

    • Results

  • Essentially, tell a story for the key attributes you bring to the table. Pick three key personality traits and get that theme into your answers. Don't pretend to be everything. Behavior-based interviewing is meant to be a truth detector because while it is easy to say, "I'm organized," it is hard to invent a story of a time your organizational skills made or saved time or money at your current company. Write down an example for every responsibility in the job description.

Be ready to answer all the potential WHY'S:

Make sure you know why you have made career moves because all people have behavior patterns, and the interviewer is looking for why you have changed a job, be able to answer, what were you thinking?


Be ready to handle not knowing the answer--EEK!

(for the interview questions and workplace questions) If you get the job, you will not have all the answers for a while. So how do you handle that? The same applies if you don't know the answer to an interview question. How you handle "I don't know" can generate interest in you if you can handle it with grace. Pausing to think can feel like an eternity, but trust yourself, focus on your breathing, and your mind will be open, creative, and flexible. Should you freak out when you initially draw a blank, unfortunately, you will have an even harder time generating answers because your brain has crossed into panic mode (think sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, aka fight, flight, freeze mode where high executive thinking shuts down).


Now pump yourself up:

You (the candidate) are mostly interviewing for the same(or close to the same) job you have! So trust your experiences will support you in a new role. Remember the changes will be a higher role of supervisory, elevated scale or scope of the role, and potentially new learning opportunities. Focus on what you bring to the table but acknowledge your interest in developing your professional expertise.


Be your biggest fan, and talk to yourself like your best friend, mom, or partner would. Tell yourself (literally) how awesome you are and how capable you are. Get some exercise and practice deep breathing. Breathwork is underrated (read: Breath: the new science of a lost art) and helps activate your mind and regulate your emotions.


Remember, the in-person interview goal is to get an offer:

Find out what the hiring manager needs in 3, 6, and 12 months to ensure that you are a change maker.


Reasons you'll get hired:

  • make or save money and time

  • add value to the company

  • solve problems/holes the interviewers have with the current team

  • you will benefit the interviewer if brought on

Have Questions!

Most of the time, candidates seek a change in bosses, not their job description. Make sure you find out who you will work with and see if the growth opportunities align with your goals.


Proper preparation allows you to be true to your best self; if it doesn't work out, it was not meant to be. "What is meant for me will not miss me; what is not meant for me will miss me."


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