Nervous about interviewing? I use to interview people, here are some tips.

Student blogger: Chase Parker

Chase is a MS Accounting student at The University of Texas at Dallas and graduating in May 2019. He received his undergraduate in Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University. His interests include traveling, old movies, and his two dogs.

I use to interview a lot of potential new employees in my previous job, and I think I got pretty good at it. Here are some tips that I saw in candidates that were above the rest.

Prepare

Yes, super cliché. However, it’s a lot easier said than done. It’s all about HOW you prepare. Don’t just expect to ad-lib the interview, because I guarantee the interviewer is not going to be impressed. Research the company. Try and find who you’ll be interviewing with on LinkedIn and see if you have anything in common. This may sound a little strange, almost intrusive. However, if you discuss it in the appropriate way the interviewer will be impressed with your research. Look at the company website’s “about us” section and think about how it describes itself. Try and use that wording in your interview or describe how their motto relates to your own goals.

Additionally, practice your answers for the basic questions like “tell me about yourself?” and “what’s your biggest weakness/strength?” Here’s an experiment – ask your friends these questions. You’d be surprised how many people don’t have answers off the top of their head. This will give you an edge-up on the competition.

Have Confidence

Another one easier said than done. But you’d be surprised how confidence can go just as far as experience and skill set. You worked hard to get where you’re at, so show it off a little. Remember though: confidence in an interview is not bragging. It’s more not hesitating when you’re asked a question about yourself. It’s not second guessing your answers either. If you don’t know how to do this, see point one: Prepare.

Know your relevant skills to the position and be able to list them. Ask specific questions about the position. No professional experience yet? Look at the job description you’re interviewing for and connect the dots to the classes you’ve took. Formulate your questions about the position based on that. And trust me, if you hesitate to ask a question because you don’t want to sound foolish, don’t worry about it. If the interviewer needs to correct you, it’s okay! Show your interest in their answer and follow up with another question. At the end of the day, the interviewer is looking for someone who they can rely on. People make mistakes all the time, and it’s how you react that shows if you’ll be a good employee or not.

Show Your Personality

I’ll be honest, this one may be the most important tip here. Inherently, people want relationships with people who they can rely on and have a good time with. This goes for friendships as well as coworkers. There were absolutely hard decisions I had to make when I was interviewing and had to decide between two equally skilled candidates, and guess who got the job? The candidate that I connected with more.

I’ve seen situations where candidates were hired even though they had LESS relevant experience and skills all because they fit with the company culture better. So, don’t be the interviewee that sits there and answers questions in a monotone voice. Laugh a little. It’ll make you and the interviewer more comfortable. In addition, when it’s time for the interviewer to make a decision, who are they going to remember? Monotone voice or the candidate that showed who they are and laughed a little bit too?

I hope you found this helpful and if you have any questions regarding the content or something new please email me at chase.parker@gmail.com

 

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Find the Hat

John McCaskill

Are the organization’s policies achieving the desired ends? There are multiple ways to emphasize the lessons from the following parable, but in this instance, I would like to focus on emphasizing the need for flexibility in applying rules. A little empathy can go a long way toward avoiding “principle-agent” issues in the workplace and keeping everyone focused on growing a prosperous organization. The name of this story is “Find the Hat.”

A few generations back, it was common for men to wear a fedora with a suit. A paving equipment manufacturer required its salesmen to wear a suit, tie, and yes, fedora when they went on customer calls.

One particularly windy day, one of the salesmen was on an asphalt paving job site discussing the purchase of machinery with a potential customer when a gust of wind blew his hat off his head and into a patch of molten asphalt. When the salesman recovered the hat, it was completely ruined. That evening, when completing the day’s paperwork, he filed an expense report to recover the cost of the hat. Upon receipt of the expense report for the hat, the accounting clerk dutifully informed the salesman that costs for personal items were not reimbursable and the expense report was rejected.

The salesman thought there had to be an exception to that policy if a personal item was damaged in performance of activities on behalf of the company, so he wrote a lengthy explanation of the circumstances involving the destruction of the hat and resubmitted the expense report. This time the response was more severe. “Costs for personal items are not reimbursable.  YOU ARE NEVER GETTING MONEY FOR THIS HAT!” The salesman shook his head and then filed a third expense report with a brief note at the bottom: “Find the hat.”

The moral of this story is not the encouragement of cheating on expense reports. The point is that we need to consider what the ends are that we are hoping to achieve with our policies and the enforcement of them. Are we working together in the interests of the company or are we using policy as a method to settle scores and keep others in their place?

This goes back to a post I’ve written earlier regarding a positive attitude toward colleagues. Should the clerk have ignored the rules and just processed the expense report? Probably not, but there could have been alternatives suggested to ameliorate the issue – being harsh obviously didn’t help.

This anecdote ties back to the idea of being positive instead of negative. We should look for ways to be supportive instead of looking for ways to say no. The culture in many companies pits one group against the other with the mistaken idea that competition will bring out the best outcomes. The moral is to demonstrate empathy and pull together. Don’t weaponize the rules to increase your own sense of power – doing so can backfire and lead to unforeseen adverse outcomes. The organization is much more successful when we pull together versus pushing against each other.

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Turning Micro-level Actions into Macro-level Outcomes

John McCaskill

A question you might ask yourself when reading about transformational leaders is, “How does that relate to anything I have control of in my place in the organization?” The answer is at once surprising and inspiring: exert influence on your organization’s social architecture. That may seem a bit obtuse, but it’s actually quite simple: influence the culture, or “the way we do things around here.”

Hal Rainey (2014), a noted management scholar, reviewed several studies of the techniques used by transformational leaders. Those are leaders that “raise their followers goals to a higher planes” (Rainey 2014, 349).  To get their organizations to change and follow the new vision they have, transformational leaders use one particular leverage point that all organizations have in common. They use the organization’s culture to get individuals to release their orientation on their own narrow self-interest in favor of the organization as a whole.

This demonstrates that the culture of an organization is a point of leverage for influence. If you want to change an organization, change the culture. If this strategy is what makes the transformational leaders of exceptional organizations successful, then why not use it at lower levels? Great question; the answer is, we should!

By bringing a positive and engaged persona to work each day, we influence our organization’s culture for the better. Be empathetic to those in your working group without being a pushover. Be respectful, and open to new ideas. We have powerful influences on each other. Stanley Milgram showed that negative peer role models gave others incentive to do horrible things (Check out the Milgram experiments online). He also proved that one person providing a positive role model had an extremely positive outcome – those that saw one person resist negative actions encouraged others to do the same. Be that positive influence in your group. Avoid close-mindedness and resistance to change, in favor of thoughtful input presented in a respectful way.

There are many ways to disagree. You can be insulting, injecting ad hominem attacks into your argument, or you can be respectful of the person or group with the opposing view, while still providing an evidenced based counter to their arguments. If this sounds like advocacy for political correctness, it is. You can present differing points of view without being difficult. The best way to win people over to your side – and display leadership – is to present reasoned arguments and then listen. The impact you will make on your group’s culture will be profound. You will be the person that can reach agreement and get things done.

To summarize, the way the most successful leaders leverage their position is to focus on culture. The way an individual, at any level of an organization, can influence culture is to bring respect, curiosity, and an open mind to work each day. Modeling positive behaviors, coupled with successful outcomes, leads to imitation. That is how micro-level actions turn into macro-level outcomes.

Rainey, Hal G. 2014. Understanding and managing public organization, 5th edition. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

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Accept New Challenges and Attain Your CPA – Even If You’re Older!

Student blogger: Jason Huber

Don’t hesitate to continue learning as you get older. I am forty-seven years old and attending the University of Texas at Dallas studying accounting. I was a traditional student at the University of Oklahoma in the nineties. I completed a degree in economics because I enjoyed studying the subject. At that time, I thought I would never study accounting. I would talk to business students that were majoring in accounting and strongly believed I would never have anything to do with the accounting field. Ultimately, I completed my degree in economics and entered the workforce.

When I entered the workforce after college, I learned that I enjoyed working in accounting. I worked diligently over the years and decided to attain a CPA license to move my career forward. When I went back to school, I felt a little self-conscious being around people half my age in the classroom. Also, I noticed that I learned a little slower than in my twenties, but I do not have any regrets going back to school to attain a second bachelor’s degree. I always enjoyed learning new things, and overall, I enjoy being in school again attaining new skills.

The other students are very accepting of someone that is not a traditional student. I enjoy being around these students and feel I can provide a perspective that only age can provide. Everyone learns more as they move through life, and all of a person’s past experiences aggregate to create a world view that matures and changes over the years. Hopefully my experiences in the past can give a different perspective to a traditional student in their twenties.

If a person is thinking about taking the coursework necessary to attain their CPA, I would encourage them to work towards their goal at any age. It is truly never too late to learn new skills and grow professionally. Don’t avoid new experiences that can assist you professionally. These new opportunities for growth may make you feel a little uncomfortable, but these new experiences will create rewards for the rest of your life.

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What Does it Take to be a Good Leader?

UTD blogger: William King

Some people may think that being a leader means you just get to boss people around and tell them to do this or that. That is not the case. At least not the quality of a good leader. Being a leader is much like being a team player. I will be showing you three principles that can and will help you become a good leader.

1. Lead by example

First and foremost is to lead by example. A good leader can demonstrate a path to success. When a leader is doing all of the right things, he/she seems more apt to be a leader. No one wants to the follow a person that is on the wrong path, so if a leader shows an inability to complete their task, how can they inspire and encourage others to complete theirs?

2. Inspire and encourage

A good leader must know how to inspire a team and encourage them to get the task completed.

Inspiring a team is one of the hardest tasks for a leader because people are inspired by different things and, even if everyone has a goal to be successful, people often have their own ideology of success.

3. Listen and adapt

Yes, even leaders have to listen if they want to be considered a good leader. They have to not only hear but also listen to everyone’s thoughts and ideas. If there is an issue, they are responsible for changing the situation to better the team environment. Making the situation ideal for everyone will increase team productivity.

These principles show that being a leader is more than just being the boss and bossing people around. A leader must be able to conduct themselves in many ways to be successful.  If you follow these simple principles, you yourself can become a great leader too.

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Why did I choose accounting?

By: Johnny Fu, student at The University of Texas at Dallas

When I was a kid, I always wanted to do something in the business world since my parents had their own business back in my home country. During my senior year in high school, I took an accounting course and I fell in love with the subject.  I knew that I was going to study this in college. Also, there are a lot of job opportunities in this field. My main goal for obtaining my bachelor’s in accounting is to open my own firm and have my own business someday. First, I must be able to pass the CPA Exam before this can happen.

Future goals after getting my bachelor’s in accounting.

My future goal after achieving a bachelor’s degree in accounting is to work for a company for a year. While working for a company, I would like to go back to school to complete my master’s degree and complete the requirements to take the CPA Exam. After obtaining my CPA license, I will slowly start a firm.

Between my CPA and my own firm, I would like to gain some experience working for a Big Four firm. We hear a lot about these firms in school and I know the experience will be beneficial. Getting this job is hard, but I have a few ideas to tackle this goal.

One of them is to go back to school and obtain my master’s degree in accounting and pass the CPA Exam. This will help me get my foot in the door to work for these firms. Beyond the education part, I must get the experiences in the field and start networking with other accountants. The more experiences I get and the more I can network, the better chances I have to open doors for a job and for my future goals. Everyone should have a plan, and this is mine for now.

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A Few Takeaways From My Undergraduate Career

Student Blogger: Ashesh Pandit

I will be graduating in December 2018 with my Bachelor’s in Accounting. When I look back, I want to share some of the things that I learned during my undergraduate career that might be helpful for freshman and sophomore students. Also, how to use the available resources effectively. I will divide this into five parts:

1) Student Organizations and Networking: If you are an accounting major, you should at least be a member of a professional student organization like Beta Alpha Psi and/or IIA/ACFE Student Chapter. Through these organizations, you can attend professional meetings and volunteer events. Since they invite new companies to each meeting, you will learn about company culture, their experiences, what accounting jobs look like in the real world, things employers look for when hiring, the differences between audit and tax, what it’s like working in Big Four accounting firms versus smaller companies, what you can do to better prepare while you’re a student, and more!

You can also have conversations with professionals from these companies and connect with future mentors. Overall, it will help you to engage in a conversation, team work, network and have a basic perspective on what’s coming ahead in your career.

2) Job/Internship Fairs: You will have lot of job and internship fairs during your undergraduate period. If you just want to collect pens, flyers and other stuff, there is no point in going to these fairs. I know it’s crowded, and you may think you don’t have enough time for long conversations, but it’s worthwhile to attend.

First, research the companies that will be at the fair and pick a few that best interest you. You should not be stopping at every booth just to say “hi,” hand them a resume, and collect a flier that will end up in the trash. The point is to ask meaningful questions from your research, learn about career opportunities and listen to them carefully. Also, it’s a good idea to co-relate to interesting things outside of work like hobbies so that they remember you. At the end of the conversation, you should ask for their business card and connect with them on LinkedIn within a couple of days. It’s a good idea to send a short message saying, “we met at ____ internship fair and we talked about ____and ____.”

Always keep this in mind: all the networking that you do now doesn’t have to benefit you right now. Some of them might help you land your dream job or a better opportunity years down the road.

3) Excel Knowledge is Must: No matter how big or small of a company you work with, and no matter how sophisticated their accounting software is, you will still be using a lot of Excel functions. An accounting job is not complete without Excel/spreadsheets. There will be a lot of reconciliations, accruals and amortization in Excel. You will use these functions like pivot table, v-look up, sum if, what if, filter, grouping, index, concatenate, if error and analyzing functions in depth. If you have advanced Excel knowledge or certifications, this will put you a few steps ahead of others. Also, if you are good with Excel, this is how you will be well-known in your new company.

4) Financial Statement Analysis and QuickBooks Online Class: I suggest every accounting student take these two classes. This will help you connect all the accounting dots you learned in different classes and give you a bigger picture. I didn’t have a good understanding of accounting until I took these two classes.

There was a group project in Financial Statement Analysis where we had to study 10K filings of three competing companies for the last three years and analyze their income statement, balance sheet, ratios for profitability, liquidity, debt paying ability, investor analysis and post period analysis. You will be amazed at the understanding you get by doing this project.

Another class is QuickBooks Online. In this class, you do chapter projects every week that simulate real-world situations. You will enter business transactions for every month and do the month-end closing procedures. The best part is that you can see the report and understand what effect each entry has in the overall reports. You can see the magic of journal entry happening behind the scenes. The projects build on each other so that you can compare and corelate it to prior months and recurring entries like amortization for prepaids, interest expense, depreciation expense, etc. All the accounting terminology made better sense to me after taking the QuickBooks class. I feel like all the schools should make these classes mandatory.

5) Do Not Wait for CPA/Master: Are you graduating soon and can not decide if you should continue your master’s and take the CPA exam or if you should wait and gain working experiences for a couple years? I asked this question to more than 12 CPAs and the majority said you should not wait to take the CPA exam as there will be unforeseen circumstances, you will not have enough time and it just gets harder to get back into your study habits.

You will have a fresh memory to take the test if you decide to take it as soon as you complete your bachelor’s degree. On top of that, the pay increase is at least $10K to 2$0K. So, if you want to make a career in public accounting, the CPA just adds more value and you should plan to get the CPA designation as soon as possible.

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