The Art of Listening in an Accounting Interview


We have two ears and one mouth, and yet too often the latter overpowers the former. Here are some tips for becoming a better active listener that you can use in your next accounting interview.

Stephen R. Covey once said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.” Covey’s words probably ring true for a lot of us. Be honest: when you’re in a conversation with someone, how many times will you interrupt them mid-sentence, or start formulating a response before they’re finished speaking?

Unfortunately, you’re the one who loses out when you don’t listen actively to your interlocutor. Among other things, you’re likely to miss all kinds of important information, including some critical non-verbal cues. This is especially vital when you’re interviewing for a job. In fact, your success in an accounting interview rests as much on what you don’t say, as what you do say. By following these active listening tips, however, you’ll have a much better chance of acing your accounting interview and landing the job you really want.

Tip #1: body language

Seventy-five percent of our communication is non-verbal. The way you look while you’re listening, or speaking, speaks volumes about you as a candidate.

During your accounting interview, position your body so that you’re directly facing the speaker. Keep your body language open and alert; crossing your arms over your chest can make you appear distant or disinterested. When it’s your turn to speak, make eye contact. Try to still any fidgeting that might suggest how nervous you are.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to mastering your body language. Have a friend role-play a few questions with you and offer feedback on your posture and comportment. You might be surprised about what you’re communicating.

Your success in an accounting interview rests as much on what you don’t say, as what you do say.

Tip #2: verbal and nonverbal signs of agreement

To succeed in your accounting interview, you will want to offer your prospective employer some positive verbal and non-verbal signs of agreement. For example, nod when they’re speaking. Give them your complete focus. This communicates respect for their point of view and helps to build rapport.

Voice your assent, too. Say things like, “uh huh,” “I see what you mean,” or “I understand.” Verbal cues such as these can work in tandem with your non-verbal communication to indicate your attention and agreeability. You may think these kinds of things are trifles, but don’t underestimate the power of rapport in moving you to the next level in your accounting interview.

Tip #3: talk less, listen more

To hit a home run in your accounting interview, try talking less and listening more. If you’ve asked a question, extend your interviewer the courtesy of hearing them out.

Listening attentively can tip you off about the kinds of opportunities and challenges your prospective employer might be facing, which you can then relate to your own experiences in previous roles, demonstrating competency in an area they’re bound to value.

The way you look while you’re listening, or speaking, speaks volumes about you as a candidate.

Tip #4: paraphrasing

Ever drawn a blank answering a question in an accounting interview? A good way to buy yourself time to produce an answer is to repeat or paraphrase the question. Don’t think of this as simply a stall tactic, however. Paraphrasing is, in fact, a cornerstone of active listening; it will help you to clarify the query for yourself.

For example, start your response with, “I think that what you’re saying is…” Listen carefully to your interlocutor’s response and base your answer on their clarification. When you finish speaking, don’t forget to ask whether you’ve addressed their question thoroughly. Again, listen attentively, watch their body language, and follow up further if necessary.

Even the smoothest talker won’t stand a chance of succeeding during an accounting interview if they can’t listen actively to their interviewers. So perk up your ears, pay attention to body language – both yours and theirs – and you’re bound to ace the interview.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!