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Job Interviews: What your interviewer really wants to know & how you can 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.

To discuss how best to prepare for interviews, CBO Search met with Alexandra Sleator, Managing Director of Coaching for Inspiration. 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 views about what interviewers are really after during that all-important conversation.

Alexandra Sleator (AS) – A key element in an interview is to validate the candidate’s abilities: does this person really have the experience and skills base to do the job? Did they exaggerate or even lie on their CV? The interviewer wants to check that the candidate did all these wonderful things in their CV. It is fundamental to be able to explain succinctly the difference you made in any role you elaborate on.

Candice Bordeaux (CB) – If the candidate checks out, is that enough?

AS – It is necessary but not sufficient indeed. Interviewers also test candidates’ motivation. Interviewers wonder how much does this person really wants to work for their firm: is he/she just job hunting? they wonder. Is he/she eager to join us rather than our competition? Make sure to ask insightful questions which show genuine interest in working for that firm.

Related to motivation is results-orientation. Interviewers need to form a view about whether the candidate will be able to deliver. Questions circling in the interviewer’s mind are: will this person accomplish what we’re bringing them in for? Will he/she be able to gather the support and cooperation of others in the organisation? Will he/she remain focused? What drives them? Will he/she be willing to go “the extra mile” to make it happen? Remember: the interviewer who recommends a candidate is putting their own reputation on the line. If they recommend someone who doesn’t work out, they won’t look good!

CB – OK, so candidates need to be able to showcase their abilities, demonstrate they’re genuinely keen to join that firm and prove that they will deliver, is that it?

AS – I’m afraid it’s not that simple. When a role is hotly contested, interviewers move away from competencies and deliverable and they start to really focus on fit and chemistry.

Chemistry is about the candidate’s values and principles. Questions in the interviewer’s mind go something like this: will this person be able to fit in and become part of my team or is he/she a lone ranger or a prima donna? Is this an individual that we can rely on? Does this person readily share credit with others? Is this someone we will feel comfortable with? Will we enjoy working with this person on a day-to-day basis? Is this someone I and others will be able to communicate with easily and effectively? Do we have something in common?

Fit is similar but more organisationally-minded. Fit answers the following questions: will this person be able to understand the complexities or specificities of our business? Will he/she be able to “figure it out”? Will this person be able to relate to and embrace the style in which we do business? Does he/she share many of the same values?

CB – Many thanks Alexandra for these insights. In the next instalment, Alexandra will advise on how to best behave in an interview – what to say and how to say it.

Readers, when you think about the interviews you’ve had, do you recognise some of these lines of enquiry? Are there areas above with which you feel less comfortable about? If yes, get in touch at or call us on +44 (0)20 3585 4650.


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