At a glance
Now is a very good time for accountants and finance professionals to be looking for a new job.
A confluence of factors – uncertainty caused by the pandemic, restrictive lockdowns and closed borders – has resulted in a red-hot employment market and unprecedented demand for skilled accounting and finance professionals, says Benjamin Jotkowitz, who runs Melbourne accounting recruitment firm Benneaux.
“There are a lot of opportunities out there,” says Jotkowitz. “Every area of accounting is required.”
However, the recruitment landscape of 2022 is vastly different to that of two years ago.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we work – and the skills employers are looking for in candidates – has changed dramatically.
Many organisations no longer require staff to gather in a central office to function well. Indeed, in many cases, a hybrid working model fosters improved productivity and engagement.
Because of this, employers want to establish the candidates’ suitability to hybrid work environments.
The job interview is an opportunity for hiring managers to gauge candidates’ capabilities around key traits such as self-motivation, resilience and communication.
Where in the past recruitment tended to focus on technical skills, “interviewing is a lot more about personality now,” says Jotkowitz.
How did you hold up during lockdown?
The twin pillars of health and wellbeing have emerged as critical issues in the post-pandemic era. According to one US study there has been a four-fold increase in adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression since 2019.
Candidates should expect questions about their experience during the pandemic, in particular with regards to health and wellbeing, says Jotkowitz.
Interviewers might ask how you managed lockdown, how you stayed motivated and how you managed your daily routine.
Roxanne Calder, managing director of recruitment agency EST10 and author of Employable: 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future, says interviewers want to hear evidence that a candidate takes a proactive approach to health and wellbeing.
“So many companies are supplying tools to help people, but it can’t all rest with the business,” she says.
“People need to put things in place for themselves.”
Calder says interviewers might quiz a candidate about their strategies to maintain health and wellbeing and to manage stress. For some people, she says, the answer might be yoga, for others it could be meditation, regular exercise or spending time with family.
Give an example of a time you have shown resilience
Two years into a pandemic, resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties – is a key trait that sits high on employers’ wish lists.
“Show an example of a time you’ve worked through a difficult period that shows resilience” is a common question from hiring managers.
Resilience is crucial, “because it shows you’re coping,” says Calder.
“The answer won’t be ‘You had a bad morning or a tough week’ – a week doesn’t show resilience. Resilience is about how you bounce back, cope and can see the silver linings.”
In your response, you should demonstrate how you overcame adversity.
You might reflect on how you initially struggled with working from home during the pandemic and what you did to adjust to the new circumstances – whether it was to implement a daily routine or seek help from your manager, says Calder.
“It’s showing how you bounced back, not that you just got up and did your job. It’s more than that.”
Responses must be specific, Calder notes.
“The mistake that a lot of people make is they give a general response, but what interviewers and hiring managers are looking for are real examples.”
Describe a time you’ve demonstrated your problem-solving skills
Problem-solving is another prized trait in a hybrid work setting. In an office environment, colleagues are on hand to answer questions and help resolve crises, says Calder.
“When you’re working from home, you’re relying on yourself.”
Interviewers want to hear how you produced a solution to a problem well ahead of any deadlines, says Calder. An aptitude for problem-solving “shows your learning ability, your curiosity, your independence,” and helps build trust in a remote environment.
Jotkowitz says employers also want to gauge the “technical savviness of candidates” and their capacity to work independently with minimal supervision.
Hiring managers are looking for self-motivated candidates who can complete tasks “without having management support every minute of the day”.
How forthcoming should you be?
It can be difficult to know how much to disclose when discussing sensitive topics such as health and wellbeing in an interview setting, Calder acknowledges.
Try to remain objective in your observations, use real-life examples and consider how your response sounds from your interviewer’s perspective, Calder advises.
Honesty from the outset improves decision-making and helps set realistic expectations.
There is no point in saying you thrive on tight deadlines when the reality is you find high pressure environments stressful. If you aren’t honest in your answers, says Calder, “then you’ll be in a work situation where you potentially won’t be happy and leave in six months”.