Accountants as Salespeople: 5 Tips for Acing the Interview

 Businessman hand offering handshake

As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I interview candidates for many positions in our organization, including our open accounting/finance positions. Over the years, I’ve realized that the most successful candidates for any job approach the interview the way a strong salesperson handles an important opportunity.

Like a salesperson landing the deal of a lifetime, you will have to “pitch” the technical skills on your résumé—your credentials, expertise with software, and ability to produce results—during an interview for an accounting position. Here are some practical tips that can give you a competitive edge.

 

1. Be polite to the receptionist.

He or she is the first of many “gatekeepers” you’ll meet. You’ll probably need to show the receptionist or security personnel your ID—so don’t leave your wallet in the car! Making a good impression on the receptionist won’t guarantee you a position with the firm, but if the receptionist doesn’t like you, others will hear about it, and your chances will be diminished.

 

2. Be on time for the interview.

Happy business woman showing clock

Effective salespeople are never late to an important meeting. In fact, you should be a half hour early, and be gracious. The HR representative will insist that you fill out an application before anyone talks to you. Most companies use a form that asks for information not on your résumé, including salary history and reasons for leaving your previous positions.

Sometimes applicants with strong résumés balk at the application form—they want to go straight to the meeting with the executive team. This raises red flags; the last thing a firm wants is to hire a prima donna at any level.

 

3. Be accurate, thorough, and neat with the application form.

The form is a window into how well-organized you are and how neatly and accurately you’ll handle the reporting responsibilities of the Finance team. A recruiter once told me that whenever he was interviewing for controller positions he would walk the candidate to his or her car and take a peak inside. If the car were full of piles of junk, he wouldn’t present the candidate. Every salesperson knows that neatness counts. This is particularly true if you’re trying to land a job in accounting.

 

4. Prepare for the interview.

interviewGreat salespeople invest in preparation for their meetings. The most important question I ask applicants is, “What would you like to know about our organization?” This is an invitation to engage in a dialogue and to demonstrate the work the candidate has done to prepare for the interview.

The people with the best questions are those who have researched the history of IMA, the CMA program, our global membership network, and our products and services. A thoughtful compliment about our website goes a long way. People who have clearly spent time preparing for the interview, looking at the website, and thinking about questions they’d like to ask have the curiosity and drive we want on our team.

 

5. Ease awkward situations to establish rapport.

The best salespeople are as good at listening as they are at speaking. Once you’ve made it to the interview, you may realize that the hiring manager lacks interviewing skills. Don’t be judgmental; have compassion. He or she may be new to the role or may experience so little turnover on the team that interviewing opportunities are rare.

Also, many hiring managers find the interviewing process very stressful. If there are awkward pauses or if the interviewer runs out of questions for you, here is another salesperson’s tip: people love to talk about themselves. Ask questions about the interviewer’s own career path. Try to find out what motivates him or her and what challenges are trying to be solved. The goal is to establish rapport. Then you can turn back the conversation to the ways you can solve the interviewer’s challenges.

 

Sealing the Deal

Hiring managers are inundated with applications every time they post a job opening. If you are fortunate enough to make it through the initial screening process to get an interview, these 5 tips will increase your chances of landing the job. Only after incorporating these tips can you effectively “pitch” your product and close the deal by showing how your unique skills and abilities are the perfect fit.

 

Written by Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

 

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Cyberhygiene in Small Businesses: What You Need to Know

Technology helps push business forward. Yet, at the same time, it makes us—and our companies—vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breeches.

Many small business owners don’t think they’re targets for cyberfraud because of their size. On the contrary, hackers see small businesses as easy targets because they lack the resources, personnel, and/or budget to ensure proper safeguards.

And, because hackers go where the most valuable information is (i.e., financial and customer data), accounting and finance professionals are the most vulnerable to these threats. Therefore, it’s essential for those working in small businesses to fully understand cyberhygiene.

Medic Robot. Laptop repair concept.

What Is Cyberhygiene?

Cyberhyiene means ensuring best practices are in place to properly safeguard your most valuable data. Implementing software that can track traffic, has antivirus capability, and/or can report on machine operations; hiring internal or external IT professionals trained in security basics to constantly survey the cybercrime landscape; and updating your cybercrime tactics can help protect your company.

Hackers use sophisticated tools to launch their attacks and prey on busy professionals who might not second-guess what they’re clicking on. Phishing scams that trick people into clicking a link containing malware and ransomware attacks that hold hostage company information after clicking an infected link are two popular cyberattack schemes.

Who Is Affected?

Small businesses must change their mind-set from “we’re too small to be noticed” to “is a cyberattack already happening to us?” Reputation damage, loss of customer trust, and the financial impact of a cyberattack are devastating for small businesses.

When a data breach occurs, the company’s reputation is damaged and its customers become less trusting. It’s the company’s responsibility to protect customer data. Therefore, accounting and finance professionals should take the lead in creating and implementing a risk-management strategy, such as the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework.

How Can Cyberattacks Be Prevented?

The combination of the amount of data and changes in how we collect, store, share, and access it makes us vulnerable. Social media is an increasingly important communications tool for many small businesses; however, they should be cautious as to what information they share and who has access to the accounts. Companies should establish an employee policy about social media etiquette to protect their data and brand.

Password Box in Internet Browser

Another cyberhygiene best practice at the employee-level is to regularly change passwords and to create a password using a combination of 10 characters that represent a phrase or set of items that you can relate to but have nothing to do with your personal or business life. For instance, you can use the first four digits of a previous zip code in combination with street names from that zip code in an order that you will remember.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Hackers have been scamming people for years, but as technology continues to evolve, so will hackers’ schemes. To stay one step ahead, continuously monitor the cyberthreat landscape, stay up-to-date on current trends in security, and close any knowledge gaps by taking advantage of education. Make yourself familiar with the various tools that monitor the landscape.

IMA and its Technology Solutions and Practices Committee work hard to bring education about cybersecurity to our members. In July, IMA will be launching a new webinar series called “Tech Talk Mondays,” which will feature technology professionals who ensure cyberhyiene in their companies. Stay tuned for more details.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills

 

Related Articles:

“Cybersecurity – Fighting Crime’s Enfant Terrible” – ACCA/IMA

Cybersecurtiy: Time for Companies to Do More – IMA Pulse

Improving Data Quality: People, Process, TechnologyStrategic Finance