‘Tell Me about Yourself’ – Accountemps Survey Shows CFOs’ Favourite Interview Questions Look Beyond Resume

Apr 19, 2011 | Corporate Member News

The resume helps land the interview, but when it comes to making hiring decisions, employers are looking for less-obvious clues that an applicant is right for the job, a new Accountemps survey reveals. Fifty per cent of chief financial officers (CFOs) polled cited their “go-to” interview questions as those related to personal attributes — for example, “What is your character like?” and “What does being a team player mean to you?”

The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a stratified random sample of Canadian companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, “When interviewing job candidates, what is your favourite question to ask?” Their responses fell into three basic categories: Those questions designed to learn more about the applicant’s work style and personal attributes (50 per cent of responses fell roughly into this category), job or company-specific questions (27 per cent of CFOs picked these as favourites) and those addressing the candidate’s qualifications (23 per cent of questions landed here).

“Hiring managers may feel they can gain a good sense about a candidate’s technical skills from the resume and cover letter “In interviews, employers are more interested in finding out if the applicant’s personality and work style are the right fit for the company. Job seekers should be prepared to have a more open dialogue about their strengths, interests and work ethic.”

While standard interview questions may seem passé to some, CFOs still like the following “oldies but goodies”:

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about your previous experience.
  • Why should we hire you?

Here are interview questions designed to learn about the person behind the resume:

  • If you were not going after this job, what would you be doing?
  • Tell us about the last time you helped someone without being asked?
  • What type of environment best suits you?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made and what did you learn from it?
  • What is the most useful criticism you have had in your career?
  • How did you act when you were a student in group settings?
  • What have you done to improve your knowledge while looking for a job?
  • What is your character like?

Not all CFOs stick to the standards, however. Executives occasionally like to throw curveballs, like these, to applicants:

  • If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?
  • How much time do you spend on your computer?
  • If you were in my position interviewing a candidate, what would be the most unnerving question you would ask? Now, answer it yourself.

“Job seekers should take a moment or two to compose their thoughts before responding to potentially tricky interview questions, as the hiring manager is most likely gauging their ability to confidently think quickly on their feet,” Bolt added.

About the Survey

The national study was developed by Accountemps. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 270 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of Canadian companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportion of employees within each region.

About Accountemps

Accountemps has more than 350 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at http://www.accountemps.com/. Follow Accountemps for workplace news at twitter.com/accountemps.

For further information: Nadia Santoli, (416) 350-2330, [email protected]

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