Interview Advice for Tax Professionals for that First Post Practice Move

You haven’t done an interview in years, when you were probably talking about college projects, hobbies and part-time jobs, so how do you approach your interview preparation for your first post-practice move? This will be your first professional, and often technical, interview so it is important to prepare accordingly….

Interview processes can vary considerably, from one round processes to three or four stages, and can involve various types of interview formats.

Here are some of the questions you need to be asking your recruiter, or client contact if applying directly, in advance of the interview process:

  1. How many rounds of interviews are there likely to be and over what time-frame? Will there be psychometric or aptitude testing?
  2. Who will I be meeting with? It is important to be familiar with the interviewers’ personalities and backgrounds to give you an idea of their career to date.
  3. What will the format of the interview be? Make sure you know whether it is likely to be quite technical and/or competency based or whether it is likely to be a more informal chat through your CV and experience to date.
  4. Is there anything which will be the focus of the interview (e.g. a type of tax exposure)?

Interview preparation

Below is just a flavour of some of Barden’s key tips, specifically relevant to tax professionals looking for their first move from practice.

Know your CV

Know your CV inside out and make sure that you are VERY comfortable talking through each and every point which you have mentioned on your CV.  If you have detailed anything which you feel may be particularly relevant to the role, then make sure to have some technical knowledge of this area as you are leaving yourself open to probing questions which could differentiate you from another strong candidate.

Prepare examples

Have a variety of examples/scenarios which you encountered during your training contract at the ready, which can be tweaked and tailored in response to a competency based question. The interviewer may probe you on your skillset by asking such competency based questions (e.g. leadership/initiative/ability to deal with conflict/coping with tight deadlines etc.). Think about the most challenging scenarios during your contract, as these are the ones most likely to have developed and enhanced your skillset.

  • Did you have any particularly difficult clients during your contract? What was the nature of the conflict (e.g. not receiving required information from the client or them being challenging in terms of tax treatments)? What did YOU do to try and overcome the effect of the conflict? Ensure that it resulted in a positive outcome, of course!
  • Were there any contentious issues during any of your tax reviews/projects? What technical issue did it relate to? What did you have to do to try and resolve the issue (e.g. in-depth review of the tax legislation/discussion with the Partner)? How was the issue resolved in the end? Demonstrating that you are proactive in terms of trying to resolve issues or challenge any errors can be a good way of displaying your ability to use initiative. It can also be a good opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your technical knowledge.
  • Prepare examples around your skills, strengths and weaknesses. Try to tailor these to the company’s specific requirements, outlined in the job spec, and make sure you’re backing up these claims with strong examples which demonstrate these skills/strengths. If asked about weaknesses, there is no point in claiming to be perfect, so try to mention something which isn’t quite a weakness, but something you are aware of and working on to improve e.g. I currently don’t have much experience in XYZ…..

Researching/getting familiar with the company

The routine invitation to ask questions at the end of an interview is your prime opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the company’s drivers and challenges as well as your enthusiasm for the role, the importance of which should not be underestimated! The company’s annual report will provide a wealth of discussion points so make sure to review the annual report, if publicly available, or filed accounts.

Finally, have a think about the possible answers you give to the questions below – these are some of the most commonly asked questions for tax professionals and please feel free to get in touch with me to make sure you’re on the right track with your answers (kateflanagan@barden.ie)  I have years of preparing tax professionals for interview so should be able to point you in the right direction!

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What area of tax (if any) do you consider you’re a specialist in? What other areas of tax have you got experience in?
  • A move to industry or another practice or area where you don’t have experience in – how will you overcome the challenge of not having practical experience in this area?
  • What do you think will be the challenges of making a move from practice to industry?
  • What do you think is the most challenging issue facing your clients from a tax perspective?
  • What do you think your key strengths are?
  • How does the tax team in your current firm/company integrate with other functions in the company? Do you think your department is a value add department in the firm?
  • Did you ever miss a deadline or do something that caused an error in your work and how did you fix it?
  • Tell me about a time where you had to organise and tailor your communication skills for clients/internal stakeholders?
  • Give an example of a difficult or sensitive situation that required extensive communication.
  • How do you approach work, can you analyse data in a logical matter and provide advice in a logical way?
  • Tell me about a time when you improved the way things were typically done on the job.
  • Describe a situation in which you were a member of a team, and a conflict arose within the team. What did you do?
  • Describe a recent situation in which you convinced an individual or a group to do something

For more great insights into the tax market please review a career planning guide specifically for tax professionals tax here and feel free to get in touch with Kate Flanagan and Aideen Murphy – your Barden Tax Career Partners for insight and advice on your career.

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to hello@barden.ie and we will take it from there!

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