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Job Interviews: 3 top tips to help you get the job

Alexandra Sleator Job Interview Tips

At CBO Search, we have seen a steady and strong demand for Tax Technologists. While there are regular job vacancies, the market is also competitive. On one of the assignments we worked for a Tax Technology role with a Big Four client, there were over 100 applicants! We therefore believe it is crucial for the candidates to stand out from other applicants.

In the third and last of three articles on interviewing successfully, CBO Search met with Alexandra Sleator, Managing Director of Coaching for Inspiration to discuss how best to prepare for interviews. Alexandra has a 23-year track record in the world of finance during which she interviewed dozens of candidates. Now an executive coach, she and I discussed interview success tips. Here, Alexandra shares her last tips on how to best interview – and therefore get the job!

Candice Bordeaux (CB) – Alexandra, thanks for sharing with our readers what interviewers look for when interviewing candidates as well as for telling us about the body language of the successful interviewee.

Today, what else can you share with our readers which will help them interview well?

Alexandra Sleator (AS) – Hi Candice, and thanks for asking. Let me try and pull together some of what we’ve been discussing and conclude with my three top tips for interview success.

The first one is: build rapport. I trust this one makes sense in light of previous recommendations: by engaging well with the interviewer and by adopting the appropriate body language, what will emerge between the successful candidate and their interviewer is true rapport.

You see, I truly believe that we recruit people we can imagine working with, having a chat with by the water cooler, exchanging jokes with, telling about our weekends to. When I had two candidates with equal capabilities to choose from or even if I had two candidates and one of them was a little less experienced but I could spot chemistry, then I would offer that person the job.

You all know how determining first impressions are so a firm hand shake, good eye contact and a friendly and open smile are crucial.

Candice Bordeaux (CB) – Indeed, Alexandra: one’s CV gets you the interview but your personality gets you the job.

Anything else?

AS – Many candidates I discuss interview preparation with tell me they have been advised to have 2-3 core messages ready for their interview, for example about their top strengths. While I don’t necessarily disagree, the risk is that you try desperately to mention what you’ve prepared. This attitude risks making you appear overly preoccupied with selling yourself, as opposed to wanting to find out about the job’s requirements and about the firm. Nobody likes a hard sale. So, don’t pitch.

Let the interviewer steer the interview and let them ask the questions and make sure your you give corresponding answers: don’t try to slot in your messages under the radar – you will be spotted I assure you. Listen, really listen to the problems the hiring manager is trying to fix with this recruitment and engage him/her in a discussion on how your profile makes you best suited to help out.

I call this the ‘WIFE’ mindset. ‘WIFE’ is an acronym for ‘What’s in It For the Employer’.

CB – Seems to me that if a candidate truly adopts the ‘WIFE’ mindset, they will walk into their interview and naturally build rapport, adopt the right body language and easily respond to the questions.

AS – I’d like to conclude with the concept of the “experience story”.

Telling an “experience story” is how you answer the questions of the interviewer. The objective is for you to demonstrate how your knowledge, skills, prior experience are relevant to this particular role and how they will benefit the company.

Whatever you are talking about, give specific details. Don’t just say “I’m a fast learner” but rather “During this project, it was important for me to learn the basics of accountancy fast and I did that by….”. Similarly, don’t say: “I like to work with others” but rather “During this project, I worked with people from several departments and I could see the value of diversity because ….” What you are doing is sharing your “experience stories”.

“Experience stories” show how you operate. Show how you practically apply the knowledge you have accumulated. Give them a sense of what your contribution might look like. Going back to my point about rapport, the more the interviewer is able to visualise you as part of the team, working alongside its current members, the likelier you are to get a call back.

Tell them also how you’ve solved problems in actual concrete circumstances. Many interviewers will ask: “what did you do you” type of questions because they’re trying to see what value you can bring from prior experience. Say: “We had a bit of a similar situation at ABC Company and how I helped was XYZ.” The “experience story” gives the interviewer what is called “a future experience today” – that is to say, it shows them today how working with you in the future will be like.

Like road-testing a car.

CB – Many thanks Alexandra for these insights and this nice wrap-up to our three-part conversation.

Readers, would you agree that your mindset might make a difference to how good you are at interviewing? And how about sharing some of your ‘experience stories’ as a more compelling way to address an interviewer’s questions? And don’t forget your body language – so you build rapport!

To discuss your interview challenges, get in touch at or call us on +44 (0)20 3585 4650.


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