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Insights into how accountants can level-up their advisory roles

Insights into how accountants can level-up their advisory roles

Accountants are not all about maintaining and updating the company’s records for every financial year, assessing the company’s financial status, and auditing, or filing taxes.

The role of accountants is not just confined to the department of accounts only; they can instead enter into the territory of business advisory and assist companies and clients on a progressive track of profitability and goodwill.

Let us have an overview of the scope of the role of an accountant as an advisory-

  1. Accountants can aid their clients to maximize their profits.

Do you know that there is always a hidden cost in foreign exchange and FX rates laid down by the bank? Banks always conceal quite a good mark up on FX rates. Likewise, subscription services are levied over foreign exchange. These hidden costs adversely affect the business’ profitability by declining profit margins and eventually, the liquidity in the business concern.

An accountant can unveil these hidden costs and help a business to avoid paying for such hidden costs.

  1. Accountants can help a business to go overseas or global.

Global expansion is not an easy task, and financial services in foreign markets are the big hurdle that restricts companies or clients from opting for international expansion. Do you think it is an easy task to set up a bank account overseas and tackle time zone challenges? No, it is rather challenging.

But an accountant can be of great help in getting the financial services activated in places like the UK, US, and overseas without wasting much of time of yours and let the business establish and earn at earliest.

  1. Enhance the productivity of companies

New–fangled technology has enabled accountants to get away from the piles of account books and get things done more effectively, fast, and flawlessly. It is thereby reducing the probability of errors and unwanted cost to the business.

Technology is a boon to accountants as their task gets over in comparatively lesser time. This is how they can pay attention to value-added projects and help their clients or companies procure more all-inclusive productivity.

  1. Accountants can help in switching to agile and easy to execute systems.  

The technological advancement from the stage of manual maintenance of accounts to incorporating software systems has paced up the flawless work in the company, along with getting things done swiftly. Accountants can guide companies to switch to agile and straightforward to execute systems and, in a way, assist companies in using their resources more competently.

Adopting an all-in-one kind of solution can help small and medium scale companies (SME’s) minimize the waste of time and better use of resources to achieve the targeted profits.

Time management of Successful People| How they do it

Have you heard about multidimensional people who manage work and home front remarkably and come out with flying colors in every walk of life? At times, we all wonder how that guy has achieved so much at such a young age.

Success or productivity is not about age; instead, it is how an individual manages time. Would you like to peep into the things one needs to do to improve his productivity? Would you like to know the cause of lag between accomplished and unaccomplished folks?

Have an insight over the distinct style of time management of successful people underneath.

1- Focus on your priorities

Productive folks know what matters most and things that should be primarily emphasized on, which could be a choice between family, work front, or personal glee. Trying to do everything will eventually land you up nowhere. These people with expertise focus their time on quality i.e., what is most important and whose impact would affect most.

Just like productive folks, you too should try to make a list of things that, if not done timely, would lay an adverse impact on social, family, or personal life of yours.  Go through the list from top to bottom and likewise accomplish your tasks from top to bottom.

2 – Don’t let the distraction hamper your focus

After being clear cut about their priorities, these productive people don’t let distractions affect their priorities. Despite obstacles at the workplace, they remain focused, and in the process, know to say ‘NO’ to all that hinders them from their goal. Interruption neither from family, workplace nor from within let them deviate from fulfilling their aim.

Reserve early hours of the morning for most important things as the disturbance is usually less in the morning. Be straight forward in your office and communicate your messages of not being disturbed at all.

3 – Course-correct when things go wrong

Man proposes, God disposes, isn’t it? Sometimes, something very urgent strikes, which could turn out to be more important than your topmost priority of the list.   The productive individual takes a pause, does the urgent work first, and adjusts the remaining time for the priority. These folks reserve the time for their priority and make sure that they remain undisturbed while executing it.

If something unavoidable comes in between, make up the plan B for priority.

4 – Invest time

Productive people plan by investing time. These people are highly disciplined in identifying the time that should be used for planning. These folks would get back in a better way to identify things that should be done at what time and in which manner. Beforehand planning gives you enough room for your most important things to lesser important things to do.

Keep the planning time during weekends when you are on an off, and you have an idea of things to be carried forward from the past and new things to be done in the next week.

5 – Regular breaks for mental and physical recreation

It is firmly believed that the more pause you take, the more productive you become, resulting in improved performance. The duration of the break doesn’t matter; it should rather be completely pacifying and full of leisure.

If you are planning to take a break during work, fix a lunch date. Setting the alarm for a break is a good idea during which you could do some shoulder and neck stretch or exercise for release of stiffness below the neck, or you could take a walk to water filter and accomplish your quench along with a small break from your system. Vacations annually or six-monthly too, are a thing to do in their list.

The bottom line is productive people take breaks and gear up for the next venture with more endurance and energy.    

How to make your Meetings more Productive

On asking many individuals from the corporate world to describe their life at work in a few words, the answer we got was meetings, meetings, and meetings.

It is extremely true, do you know the majority of officials are always occupied with a lineup of meetings one after the other regardless of the productivity of meetings.  Most of the meetings end up with the staff snacking up after exchanging a few words on the purpose of the meeting.

With the outbreak of pandemic COVID -19, the new era began as the world switched to virtual meetings through video platforms. Unfortunately, the result is just the same, bringing no difference in official meets’ productivity results.

Do you know the quantum of work can be done in a 6 hours meeting? Is it possible for a group of people to work continuously for a long period? The figures reveal the story otherwise, as only 10-15 % of meetings end with a solution or agreement. On the contrary, most meetings are either adjourned for some other day or conclude with no outcome.

Do you know the majority of meetings as per facts and figures are a waste of time and resources?

Half of the day of an executive is occupied with meetings. It is being found in a study that nearly 71 % of folks at the managerial level believed that meetings are useless and inefficient. Surprisingly, in another survey, it was found that only in 30 % of meetings did the meeting’s purpose be discussed. It is indicating that in 70 % of meetings, the participants get involved in other work.

All that is anticipated is the estimated cost of unproductive meetings is extremely high, which businesses are incurring unknowingly or helplessly.

Where there is a will, there is a way, and companies need not bear these so-called unavoidable expenses of an unproductive meeting, which at times elevates the loss to millions.  The culture of business houses needs to undergo change as regard meeting is concerned, and so has to be the purpose of the meeting. The objective of the meeting should be mentioned, and so should be the role of those who are supposed to be a part of the meeting.  

To know more about the productiveness of the meeting, have a look at the points underneath that contribute to making a meeting a success-  

  1. Plan in advance and be prepared with all the homework

Not just in context with a meeting, but with proper and beforehand planning, half of the battle is won. Ineffective meetings are the outcome of weak and improper planning. It is recommended to send the purpose of the meeting and relevant information beforehand to expected members to avoid any wastage of time in acquainting the members regarding the purpose.

To make a meeting lucrative, make sure to involve the elements of PAO, i.e., purpose, agenda, and outcome. Meetings should either be for information purposes, for a decision, or for finding a solution to any conflict or issue.

 2. Work upon the duration of the meet as per its purpose

If a meeting’s duration is fixed or has time constraints, wastage in chit-chatting or in other irrelevant things during the meeting can be avoided. It gets mandatory or urgent to complete the work before the time for members of the meeting. Moreover, we human beings, deliver the best work when either under stress or have time restrictions.


3. Go for breakout groups.

The major hindrance in virtual meets is an obstruction in the voice as it often cracks or gets lost.  If you are opting for a breakdown feature, it is suggested to conduct meet with two or three employees. Segregate the members as per their role, topic to be discussed along with those with a high-speed internet connection. This type of allocation in a group can surely make the meet productive.


4. Scheduling of meeting as per its purpose

Meetings that don’t require deep thinking or much of brain work and rather just information or updates are to be shared should be scheduled in the second half of the day when the brain reaches the stage of saturation. Whereas meeting requiring decision making or finding a solution to business issues shall be scheduled in the morning as almost everyone is fresh and charged with mental and physical energy to think and decide in the best interest of the company and employers.

5. Be prompt, punctual, and strict as regards as time is concerned.

It is a common custom to start the meeting late for one or another reason. The organization pays for every second you spend while working in an office and imagine the loss if a group of people assembled for meetings starts the meeting late by 10 minutes.  You may not be versed with the fact that just a few minutes late in the commencement of meetings cost millions to organizations.

6. Keep your phone on silent mode or far from you

Mobile phones are the biggest distraction in virtual as well as face to face meetings.  Notification beeps or calls do attract the attention of people no matter how seriously they are attending the meet. Eventually, the mobile phone is browsed when things get a bit boring in the meeting by members. It amounts to not just wastage of time of all in the meet but is ultimately the loss of the company.

Direct to video: ‘the new normal’ for job interviews


The novelty of the job interview via video doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be any less scrupulous in your preparation. Here’s how to get it right – and get the job.

Despite the economic slowdown driven by the COVID-19 crisis, hiring is still taking place, although social distancing rules and remote working requirements mean that job interviews are increasingly being done through computer screens rather than face-to-face.

“The technology for virtual interviews has been around for some time but prior to the COVID-19 crisis it was not used often, maybe 5 per cent of the time,” says Matthew Gribble CPA, regional managing director of recruiting firm Michael Page ANZ.

“That has changed radically. They are now the new normal and happen in 99 per cent of cases. And we expect that even after the crisis has passed many organisations will embrace the efficiency gains from using them, especially in the early stages of the assessment process.

“So, knowing how to handle a virtual interview is a skill that anyone looking to move up or move on will need.”

In many ways a virtual interview should be treated like a face-to-face interview: taken seriously, with research and preparation.

There are numerous platforms used for virtual interviews, and Gribble nominates Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts as the most popular. They are fairly easy to install and use but checking software compatibility and internet speed with the interviewer are important steps. There are useful tutorials on YouTube and most of the platforms provide guidance.

For first-timers a rehearsal with a friend in a remote location makes sense. This not only helps to identify any technical issues but can go a long way to ameliorate nervousness.

The overall goal is to be relaxed enough about the technology so you can focus on the substance of the interview itself.

Setting up the home environment for video interviews

If the interview is conducted from home, the interviewee should ensure that there is a quiet, controlled, indoor space, preferably backed by a blank wall.

Pay attention to lighting. Aim to have natural light behind your computer, or bounce lamp light off a nearby wall so your facial expressions can be clearly seen, as they would in a face-to-face conversation. Avoid having your back to a light or bright window.

There should be no interruptions from other adults, children, pets or neighbours. When speaking, look at the webcam on the computer and not the images of the interviewers. It is better to use a computer than a mobile phone but if a phone is the only option then it should be in a fixed position. A hand-held selfie-style image does not say competence and professionalism.

Attire should be the same as you would wear to a face-to-face interview, although it should be noted that stripes, bright colours and complex patterns do not work well on a screen.

Most platforms have an option that allows the interviewee to see themselves as they appear to the interviewers, and this should be checked before the interview.

Any supporting documents should be provided to the interviewers prior to the interview. Having a hard copy on hand can be useful. You do not want to have to exit the video platform to check documents that you have only in digital form.

A virtual interview provides fewer visual clues than a face-to-face interview so an interviewee should demonstrate their engagement with some extra nods and signs of agreement. A common problem with video platforms is that there is often a lag of a few seconds, and the interviewee should time their responses accordingly. The degree of lag can be established with a rehearsal and is not difficult to address once you are aware of it.

Paper for taking notes and a glass of water should also be on hand. Don’t forget to ensure that the connection is terminated before you relax at the end of the interview.

Interviewer obligations for video interviews

For interviewers, preparation is also essential to get the best out of the process. Most platforms allow for several interviewers to be involved on a split-screen basis. Familiarity with the technology is as important for interviewers as it is for interviewees.

Interviewers should realise that virtual interviews, like face-to-face interviews, are a two-way street, and that they and their company are being assessed as well as the interviewee.

“The chief issues typically come with coordinating the questions,” Gribble notes.

“A good briefing is important so that all interviewers are clear on the background of the candidate and their progress through the process so far, as well as the run of play and the questions to be asked.”

Prior to the interview, the interviewee should be informed about the length of the interview, the participants, and the general subjects for discussion. It might be also necessary to check any differences in time zones.

For both sides, virtual interviews are not difficult, but the special characteristics should be understood. Interviewees should realise that just because they are in their home environment does not mean they can be overly casual. Likewise, interviewers should acknowledge that they have obligations to ensure that the process is organised appropriately.

5 tips for virtual interviews

  1. Ensure software compatibility and internet speed
  2. A rehearsal allows for problems to be identified and addressed
  3. Find a controlled space free of distractions
  4. Use a fixed camera and not “selfie-style”
  5. In panel-style interviews, interviewers should ensure their co-ordination

Lessons for the profession from the coronavirus


While the coronavirus pandemic has accountants scrambling to safeguard their people and keep up with new client concerns and legislative updates, the crisis has also given the profession the opportunity to learn some crucial lessons that can only strengthen accountants’ roles in an uncertain future. We asked a collection of accounting’s thought leaders to share what knowledge they are seeing practitioners glean — and what they should be learning — from this unprecedented time.

Lesson 1: Truly essential

One of the most reassuring lessons from the pandemic is the invaluable role of accountants, especially amidst all this volatility, according to our panel of leaders in the profession.

“Many people believe a crisis is a test of character, but it’s not,” said Sarah Dobek, president and founder at Inovautus Consulting. “A crisis instead reveals the character and skills you already have. I think the biggest thing firms are learning is how well they were really doing on certain fronts. Firms are learning a lot about the resiliency of their partner group’s mindset and the soundness of their vision and strategy for growth.”

“I think the pandemic has made two things very clear related to firms,” said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of “First, their services — in particular, their role as a trusted advisor — is highly relevant. Their clients are turning to them for critical business advice and support.”

“I believe CPAs and other accounting professionals have learned how invaluable they are to their clients and the community — something that has always been true but has been especially brought to light during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis,” said Ralph Thomas, CEO and executive director of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. “Our members have been tested in new ways, but they discovered the real value they bring to the table is helping clients navigate the unknown.”

Marc Rosenberg, president of The Rosenberg Associates, reports a similar takeaway, in “how much clients really appreciate their CPAs. Accountants have become lifesavers for their clients by helping them navigate the complexities of the government stimulus programs and generally providing advice, counsel, and solace on survival. This goodwill will play a huge role in firms’ recoveries.”

“The assistance with PPP and other stimulus solutions have given accountants the needed self-confidence boost to finally see themselves in this light,” said Angie Grissom, president of The Rainmaker Companies. “I have heard comments from clients like ‘My client will never see me in the same way again. He is grateful that I helped save his business.’”

Kim Austin, a business development manager for national accounts at Inuit, has heard similar feedback, including from one Intuit partner, Gabby Luoma of MOD Ventures: “A powerful quote from her message was, ‘Accountants are the first responders for small businesses through this.’ Firms are realizing that their clients need them, and are putting their trust in them to guide them through this.”

“We are needed now more than ever,” said Ron Baker, founder of the Verasage Institute. “We are not commodities, no matter what people mindlessly say. Just as the men and women in the medical and first-responder community are putting their very lives at risk to keep people physically healthy, CPAs will be needed to keep their customers financially healthy.”

“The other lesson that firms should be learning is how clients will truly value strategic insight,” said Todd Shapiro, president, and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society. “It was common for firms to be assisting a client in the preparation of their PPP application. Many firms proactively reached out to clients to advise them on alternatives to help their businesses survive and, eventually, thrive — all while not knowing if there would be compensation for their advice and assistance.”

“Our clients really need us in a crisis, and we have to have a lot of people on our team with the right advisory skills who are ready and able to handle client inquiries and provide solid advice or we risk not being able to help them all,” said Jennifer Wilson, co-founder, and partner of ConvergenceCoaching.

“Clients highly value their accountant as an advisor,” said Darren Root, co-founder and general manager at Rootwork and VP of market strategy at Right Networks.

Dawn Brolin, executive vice president of business development and compliance at Powerful Accounting powered by Out of the Box Technology, noted that clients and non-clients alike were waking up to the value of accountants. “People who typically file on their own realized they didn’t know what they were doing and were finally willing to pay for services due to the confusion around all of the rules,” she said. “The pandemic has taught me that you can never underestimate the importance of the accounting industry and its relevancy and its critical role in the economy.”

“I also think we have learned how to react and respond ‘on the fly,’” said Allan Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group. “When the CARES Act and/or PPP loan program came out, firms literally had hours to become the ‘resident expert.’”

Lesson 2: Move to advisory

The crisis has only crystallized the necessity for firms to embrace advisory services.

“Advisory really is the service that our clients value the most!” said Jim Bourke, managing director of advisory services at WithumSmith+Brown “During this time, if I can point to one area where our team members excelled, it was in guiding and advising our clients around their cash flow needs during this period of time. From dealing with clients with crushed revenue streams to those struggling to find a bank that was willing to process their SBA-PPP loan applications … now more than ever, we have learned it’s all about being that ‘trusted advisor.’”

“The opportunities for advisory services are huge right now,” agreed Jody Padar, vice president of strategy at Botkeeper. “There are so many services that we never dreamed of offering in ways we never thought of delivering them.”

“The biggest lesson I think firms should take away from this is that regardless of how their firm feels about ‘advisory services,’ their clients will be coming to them to advise them through tough times,” said Intuit’s Austin. “If a firm is not able to provide the type of help and guidance their clients need, they’ll be forced to look elsewhere for that assistance.”

And accountants must realize this demand will survive the crisis. “I think they should be learning to embrace change as a challenge to be better,” said Dobek. “We are seeing many firms take this approach and others that have yet to make that leap. I’ve heard a few comments around the move from compliance to an advisory, and some being happy they retained more compliance work. These firms are missing the bigger picture. The advisory work is what will help businesses and individuals make it through this pandemic.”

“Overall, the most important focus for firms should be realizing that this is a defining moment and time to deliver on the trusted advisor role with their clients,” said Asgeirsson. “Over the past two months, firms have been put in the center of advising their clients on how to manage the downturn and business relief. Over the coming weeks and months, they are going to support their clients on restart efforts and adjustments to their business model. This is a historic moment for the firms to help their clients. Clients will remember who helped them navigate through this time successfully.”

Lesson 3: ‘Remote work works!’

One of the most obvious opportunities to come out of the pandemic is the (long-awaited, for many) move to remote, flexible work. “The biggest lesson learned is that work-at-home can work,” said Randy Johnston, executive vice president of K2 Enterprises and CEO and founder of Network Management Group. “Stay-at-home orders forced everyone into this new work environment.”

Wilson agreed: “Remote work works! People are more productive than firm leaders imagined. Firm leaders realize they have to double down on technology to have maximum flexibility in the way they serve their clients.”

Hector Garcia, CEO of Quick Bookkeeping & Accounting, shared similar insight: “Embracing flexible work; not just ‘remote work,’ but different ways of being able to have team members work without interruption.”

“While firms have toyed with working remotely for several years, it has not been something that was widely done,” said August Aquila, CEO of Aquila Global Advisors. “The pandemic forced firms into doing it and they have found that it works. People who work remotely are more productive overall and have a better quality of life since they do not have to commute. Once the dust settles from the pandemic, remote workers will be the norm rather than the exception.”

“In as short as two days, many firms moved on-site engagements and critical administrative functions to 100 percent virtual environments,” said Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, executive director of finance thought leadership for the cloud business group at Oracle, and a past chair of the American Institute of CPAs. “Necessity is the mother of invention and this quote has never been more true. In a pre-COVID-19 environment, a completely virtual working environment would have taken many firms several more years, if ever, to implement.”

While the adjustment period is challenging, mastering new models can provide future benefits.

“Working from home was a difficult transition for some of our clients,” reported Jeff Phillips, CEO of Accountingfly. “But many firms have learned they can give staff this great gift of flexibility and still be highly productive.”

“Adaptation is not optional; it is essential for survival and firm leaders will see this as the new expectation,” said Grissom. “This includes the move to virtual workforces as necessary, the types of services offered, and the adoption and use of technology in their firms … The work-life blend is non-negotiable.”

Lesson 4: Embrace technology

Our panel emphasized technology’s vital role in a remote workforce, and in surviving post-pandemic.

“Difficult times magnify strengths as well as weaknesses. The efficient use of technology in a virtual environment is a primary lesson,” said Gale Crosley, president of Crosley+Co. “The tech world has been operating virtually for over 20 years. They’ve figured it out and we have only to peek over the fence for insight.”

“As time marches on and changes occur, so a firm should never put off for tomorrow what can be done today,” said David Bergstein, strategic account manager with the accountant and advisory group at Intuit. “Up until now, firms have been talking about taking advantage of technology, being virtual and collaborative, but were moving at a snail’s pace. Firms are now retooling at a record pace, trimming staff where they should have done it before, and utilizing technology that leads to digital movement of data and elimination of paper.”

“The pandemic has taught us the importance of true practice virtualization in that everyone needs to be able to work effectively from any place at any time,” said Roman Kepczyk, director of firm technology strategy at Right Networks.

As much as the experts lauded the profession’s ability to go virtual, some identified new obstacles to overcome in the transition. “Interestingly, as the huge impact of the pandemic on personnel’s work lives and their sanity (partners and staff alike) have become apparent, one of the biggest issues emerging is people lamenting over the lack of interpersonal interaction,” said Rosenberg. “The very people who demanded more remote work time now crave more face-to face-time. This is especially problematic for younger staff, who need more attention and guidance than more experienced personnel.”

“First, firms had to shift to a remote work environment. Many were prepared; however, many were not,” said Shapiro. “The need for technology, especially cloud-based systems, became a game-changer, and those who were cloud-based transitioned more easily. However, the degree to which clients were comfortable with technology also had a huge impact on the success of shifting to a remote work environment.”

Going forward, many of the profession’s leaders expect these new work environments to endure, ushering in other changes. “One lesson that I believe we are about to learn is that we likely have too much office space,” said Bourke. “Our firm, like many, has large physical locations in major cities. Yes, we have embraced the ‘hoteling’ concept and have even deployed technologies to facilitate that process, but will our staff be willing to come back to the new reality of social distancing, face coverings, continual cleaning of the work environment, the temperature checks, the unknown contacts made by the staff that sat in the space before them?”

“One of the biggest lessons will be how to reconfigure space and implement the new office reopening standards for social distancing, safety, building entry (scanning for a fever), and cleanliness,” said Koltin.

“Virtual meetings, audits, advisory services, and consulting engagements are here to stay,” said L. Gary Boomer, visionary and strategist at Boomer Consulting.

“Firms should be looking to not only get their practices and clients securely through the COVID storm but also be prepared to take advantage of the new work economy afterward,” said Kepczyk. “We saw with the rushed transition to WFH that security was not made a priority, so firms are just now catching up on policies, training, and technical remediation which cloud/hosted providers natively had in place.”

These efforts can also serve as a blueprint for future change management. “Now it is time to lead change,” said Ellison-Taylor. “If we have learned from iconic businesses that either is no longer here or have been dramatically impacted, we know that new disruptors are sure to emerge in the post-pandemic environment.”

As Ed Kless, senior director of partner development and strategy at Sage, put it, one pervasive lesson is, “Change is not only possible but often necessary.”

11 Must-Ask Behavioral Interview Questions

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Behavioral interviewing uses strategically-composed questions to share how a candidate’s past performance might support a hiring company’s future needs. Focusing in on both hard and soft skills, the questions drill down into several layers of a job seeker’s value proposition, unearthing interview gold.

This type of questioning remains popular because it is the most pragmatic way to uncover real-life work experiences. The answers, if articulated well, will convince the employer that the job seeker is a fit — or not — for an open opportunity.

While hundreds of behavioral interview questions are available to help the employer vet out their next great candidate, the following 11 are must-asks:

1. Tell me about a time where you felt defeated; e.g., your project was falling apart, you were unable to meet your boss’s timeline goals, your idea was dismissed, etc. How did you respond to the adversity?

Value of this question: Unearths how self-motivated the candidate is when the job gets tough, and/or when they do not feel in control. How do they step up and unravel challenges of a failing project? Or, what actions do they take to ensure timelines are met on the next project? When ideas are passed over? Do they internalize the situation and, over time, get so frustrated that they decide to look for a different job, or do they brainstorm with a coach or colleague, or even discuss with the boss who dismissed the idea, to find a better path to ideation?

2. Describe a time when you were asked to perform a task or spearhead an initiative that went against your values. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Value of this question: Speaks to integrity and values and how the job seeker communicates their needs amid uncomfortable and uncertain situations. It also helps the hiring company to determine if there is a values fit with this candidate.

3. Think about the most exciting and energizing aspect of your current or most recent position. What did you specifically enjoy about it? Why?

Value of this question: Helps determine culture fit. For example, if the most energizing aspect of their job has been interacting with clients on a daily basis but there is no similar type of interaction in the prospective role, then further inquiry may be needed to ensure fit.

4. Think back to one of the most energy-depleting periods in your current or most recent position. What was going on? How did you respond to it? What was the outcome?

Value of this question: Again, this question helps determine culture fit. If the most depleting period of time was when the candidate regularly corresponded with clients, but they prefer working alone, then this job — especially if it involves continual customer correspondence — may not be a fit.

5. Tell me about a time when you had too much to do, but not enough resources (this could include staffing, time, money). How did you handle the pressure, overcome the deficit and/or achieve goals?

Value of this question: Uncovers how the candidate responds to pressure and also their problem-solving skills. For example, if the employee shows how they bartered with a colleague for additional resources, then they prove out-of-the-box initiative (versus asking their boss for additional budgeting or resources that may not have been available).

6. Describe a situation where you had to make a tough decision that normally would have been escalated to your boss. How did you handle the decision-making process? What was the result?

Value of this question: Provides insights about the job seeker’s decisiveness as well as confidence. Moreover, asking what the result was helps to determine the quality of the candidate’s decision.

7. Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile when it would have been just as acceptable to perform the bare minimum. Why did you exert the effort? What was the outcome?

Value of this question: Delivers insights into the candidate’s drive, and the ‘why’ behind the initiative. Is the candidate internally driven to always push that extra mile, or was this a one-and-done event? If it’s one-and-done, then what was their motivator? Was it team-driven, was it for a greater company good or did they want to prove they were ready for the next promotion?

8. Describe a situation where you and a colleague whom you relied upon for support (e.g., to complete a project) were in conflict. How did you address the situation?

Value of this question: Unearths the candidate’s conflict-resolution abilities. It also may illustrate how flexible the candidate is in adapting their expectations and/or behaving with humility to achieve a greater organizational good.

9. Provide an example of a difficult situation with a major client that you had to resolve. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?

Value of this question: Exposes the candidate’s advanced customer relationship management skills, as well as tenacity in problem-solving. It also reveals how well they connect the dots between a problem and a meaningful outcome. Even better if they can measure the results or articulate how their resolution contributed to longer-term gains.

10. Tell me about a time when you had to convince another staff member or leader, whom you had no direct authority over, to buy into a new idea or project? How did you accomplish this?

Value of this question: Brings light to the interviewee’s ability to influence others. How well can they gain idea buy-in from someone who does not report to them? How well do they function in a matrix environment? Moreover, it sheds light on communication abilities.

11. Tell me about a time you made a blunder on the job that cost your company time or money. How did you handle the aftermath?

Value of this question: Uncovers the candidate’s ability to own their mistakes and also demonstrates their ability to rectify the situation immediately or, if that’s not possible, to prove they’ve learned from their mistakes and have put measures in place to avoid them happening again.

By tapping into these 11 questions, as well as adapting behavioral questions to your own unique hiring situation, you will glean an abundance of candidate intel, extending the conversation beyond the resume. After the interview, you will better understand motivators and values, you will get a sense how the candidate solves problems and initiates new ideas, you will know whether they play well with others or work better solitarily and you will understand how they influence and communicate with others.

4 Tips to Include Remote Employees

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With the recent global COVID-19 outbreak, many companies have adopted a remote work policy to keep employees safe and prevent further spread of the virus. A recent Garner HR survey found that 88% of organisations have encouraged or required employees to work from home due to coronavirus. Some companies have asked their entire workforce not to come into the office, whilst others have split staff into teams who rotate working from home.

But even without this current threat, remote work is becoming the new normal for many companies: a 2019 Indeed survey found that over two-thirds (68%) of Australian employers allow their employees to work remotely.

The ability to work remotely has benefits beyond the comfort of working from home, or avoiding traffic and a long commute; 64% of businesses agree that remote work increases morale and productivity (68%). But with the upsides come some inherent challenges, such as workers feeling disconnected.

How can employers keep remote teammates just as involved as those who work on-site? From communication to recognition, we’ve gathered four tips for including remote employees.

1. Make time to get to know them

Without a physical presence in the office, remote teammates may get overlooked in daily team and project updates. What’s more, they miss out on casual hallway conversations, office amenities and company events. Despite an abundance of chat, email and videoconferencing technologies, communication and collaboration can still be a struggle for remote workers.

While they don’t have the swivel-your-chair benefit, there are other ways to make remote employees feel socially present, such as regular check-ins. Schedule video calls and weekly one-on-one meetings to get maximum face time with those who are off-site. Create time for informal conversation, as well, such as long-distance coffee dates.

2. Manage meetings accordingly

Although technology allows remote employees to attend meetings from any location, it can be challenging for them to follow along. Acoustics in meeting rooms can be weak or muffled, and even a slight delay can result in on- and off-site workers talking over one another. To avoid disengagement, make an agenda and share materials ahead of time.

Recording calls can help ensure remote teammates are still part of the discussion when technology is inconsistent or calls drop. And don’t forget to solicit feedback and participation from those who are remote, just as you do with those in the meeting room.

3. Involve them in projects and decisions

When deadlines are tight and changes happen quickly, remote employees can get left out of important decisions. Instead of apologising after the fact, commit to including them in projects and decisions from the start, so they stay up-to-date and engaged.

One good approach is to communicate all project changes and updates via a designated chat or messaging channel, used by both on-site and remote workers. A communication policy that ensures any decisions or updates must be documented in writing will force these channels to stay open and active for all teammates, regardless of location.

4. Find opportunities for recognition

Just like on-site employees, remote staff want appreciation and recognition for their work. Acknowledge the accomplishments of off-site teammates in front of their peers, whether it’s a shoutout in a team meeting or a formal email praising a project they completed. Whatever form of acknowledgment you choose, expressing your gratitude for their contributions lets remote employees know their work is meaningful.


Employees who work off-site are just as essential to the team as those who are on-site. With more people choosing to work remotely, it’s important for employers to adapt and adjust to the communication needs of these out-of-office workers. Making time for long-distance socialising, enforcing inclusive communication policies and actively recognising remote teammates for their accomplishments are important ways to keep those who are out of sight top of mind.

5 tips to enhance your accounting skills this year


Good news: accounting professionals who offer the tech, data analysis, and communication skills that employers are looking for will be in high demand this year. Here are some steps to enhance your accounting career.

By Johanna Leggatt

“It is always difficult to find good accountants, and that hasn’t changed,” says Benjamin Jotkowitz, director of an accounting recruitment firm, Benneaux.

“Across the industry, skilled accountants are in high demand.”

Acquiring these accounting skills, however, takes effort and a positive attitude towards change. Here are some tips on what accountants can do to ensure they enjoy a long and rising career in accounting.

1. Don’t fear technology

There is no escaping the fact that software skills are vital, says Jotkowitz.

“Back in the day, employers would nominate software proficiency as something they desired, but technical prowess is more of an expectation now,” he says.

This translates into fluency with accounting-specific software, such as Hyperion or Xero, as well as the software used by a broad range of business professionals.

“A lot of things are cloud-based now,” Jotkowitz says, “so accounting professionals who are very proficient in data-based applications and ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] programs are well regarded.”

Regional Director Australia and New Zealand at Skillsoft, Rosie Cairnes says rather than fearing the onset of automation and technology, accountants need to embrace it.

“Automation frees up the talent pool to focus on business insights and work that adds value,” she says.

A healthy amount of curiosity is also vital for ambitious accountants, adds Cairnes.

If accountants have curiosity it puts them in a good position to grab hold of what new technologies offer, she explains.

“Accountants should also look at what the emerging technologies in their industry are. What are the productivity and collaboration tools that can be introduced?”

2. Learn to analyze data

It’s not enough to operate the systems that manage data – you need to be able to interpret that information as well.

This is especially pertinent if you are mid-career or at the senior level where there is a greater expectation of strategic analysis as part of your role.

“You need to be able to tell the story that the data presents,” says Jotkowitz.

“This leads to the importance of critical thinking in accountancy. When you look at a spreadsheet, do you see a bunch of numbers or is there a deeper story?”

Cairnes agrees that accountants who are able to think creatively and draw solutions from data are in high demand.

“Long-term planning and analysis are very important,” she says.

She argues that this can apply to junior accountants as well. Younger people, and those who are relatively new to the profession, should not underestimate their ability to contribute new thinking.

“If you have a good handle on these technologies and if you’re coming up with solid business recommendations, then that can provide a new way of doing things. Creative solutions are what people are looking for.”

3. Hone your communication skills

As repetitive tasks become increasingly automated, accountants need to offer the kind of skills that cannot be easily replicated by algorithms.

“This means the ability to relate information to clients who are not across jargon, and to display excellent written and verbal communication,” says Jotkowitz. “Clients want more of service now.”

The ability to communicate is important, whether you are an experienced accountant or new to the profession, says Cairnes.

“The most in-demand skills across many industries are often professional development skills like communication,” she says.

“Communication means not just what you say, but your ability to listen and understand what the organization is all about.”

4. Learn how to lead

An accountant with strong leadership skills is highly regarded, says Cairnes.

“There is a lot written about poor leadership and how it causes churn and lack of productivity, so strong leadership is really an evergreen skill.”

However, the kind of leadership skills accountants need has changed over the past two decades.

“Thanks to technology changing the way in which we work, leadership is more about collaboration and managing virtual teams,” Cairnes says.

“Our organizational structures are much flatter, too, so inevitably it’s not just executives that need leadership skills, it’s almost everybody in the organisation.”

If you want to brush up on leadership skills, Jotkowitz recommends management courses or seeking out a mentor.

“Put up your hand for that leadership role and see what happens,” he says. “Keep on pushing yourself.”

5. Seek sector-specific experience

Jotkowitz has noticed that many employers are looking for accountants with experience in their own sector.

“If they are recruiting in FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods, such as soft drinks, toiletries], then the employer will want candidates who have worked in that sector,” he says.

“So think strategically if you want to work in, for example, pharmaceuticals.”

While candidates are often convinced they can apply their skills across many sectors – and they’re often correct – employers value sector-specific experience.

“So, if you have an aged care role, it helps to have to have aged care experience,” says Jotkowitz. “That is the preference we are noticing.”

Confidence at Work Is the Soft Skill on Everyone’s Mind

We’ve all seen the stats: The job market is the strongest it’s been in decades, investments are up and the economy is booming. While such good news is always welcome, Indeed wanted to know how this impacts employees on the ground. Do workers feel confident in their abilities and career paths? And why should employee confidence levels matter to employers?

We’ve been thinking a lot about confidence at work as part of our new Indeed Job Market, an experience that helps job seekers boost their confidence while on the job search. The Job Market will support job seekers throughout their career journey, and kicks off with eight in-person events at cities across the U.S.

As we prepared for this exciting launch, we wanted to see how job seekers felt on the ground. To find out, we surveyed nearly 800 U.S. workers from a variety of industries and professional stages. Read on for a closer look at career confidence levels, why they’re important and how employers can nurture confidence to boost company-wide performance.

Confidence is key for success

What do we mean when we talk about confidence, and why is it so crucial? Confident people believe in themselves and their abilities. When we feel better about ourselves, our performance and our career prospects, our work tends to thrive.

While confidence is often thought of as a fixed trait (something you either do or don’t have), it’s actually a soft skill that changes over time. There’s ample evidence that happier employees are more productive — and our research reveals that confidence brings similar benefits. While confidence may ebb or flow depending on circumstances, it’s something we can work to build up, and it’s in employers’ best interest to help.


Our survey respondents overwhelmingly agree that confidence is key to professional success. This holds true at all stages of the job search and after starting a new role. Virtually all workers (99%) believe confidence is vital in finding a job, and 95% say it’s an “important” or “very important” factor in securing a position. When it comes to interviewing, 97% agree confidence is a critical skill, and 98% consider it crucial when negotiating a hiring package.

But confidence matters long after getting the gig: It’s “important” or “very important” to completing daily work for 94% of respondents. Meanwhile, 97% say confidence matters when securing a promotion, and 94% believe it’s a major contributor to overall career growth.

Interestingly, this soft skill helps people avoid poor choices: 90% of workers say confidence clarifies whether a job is a bad fit. As in any part of life, trusting ourselves lets us know when something isn’t right for us.

Workers believe in themselves and in the market

Clearly, confidence is important — but how is this playing out with workers? Our research shows confidence levels are rising in two key areas: belief in themselves and in the job climate.

Respondents feel good about their skills, with over 90% confident they can perform their jobs at a high level. Workers also report feeling better about their ability to find a new job today than they were either two or five years ago, and many are optimistic about their company’s future.

When it comes to available positions, workers are confident there are jobs that match their skills and experience (91%); meet their desired work-life balance (88%); and fit their long-term goals (84%).

Despite murmurs of a possible economic downturn, respondents are overwhelmingly confident in their ability to meet milestones, with 93% believing they can achieve their one-year goals. Meanwhile, 88% are confident they’ll meet their five-year goals, and 90% believe they’ll meet career-long objectives.

Confident employees make stronger, happier companies

The real impact of confidence stretches beyond the individual; confident workers also bring big rewards for employers. Nearly all workers (98%) say they perform better when they feel confident. This makes sense, since many foundational workplace skills, including work ethic, are driven by confidence.

What’s more, 96% of respondents are more likely to stay at a company when they feel confident. Teams and companies that support this skill and nurture it among employees can help reduce turnover.

Better yet, our survey suggests confident employees can boost morale across the organization: 94% of respondents say they’re happier when they feel confident at work, and happiness can have a major impact on workplace culture.

Today’s confidence boom brings big benefits for employers

We are in the midst of a confidence boom, with most respondents reporting overwhelming confidence in their abilities and career outlook. Since confident workers are happier, more productive and less likely to leave, the rising tide benefits teams and companies, too.

Employers can — and should — nurture this quality across the workforce. Promote a company-wide culture of confidence by hiring and promoting strong managers, recognizing and supporting employees, prioritizing clear communication and offering opportunities for professional development and advancement.

We do our best work when we believe in ourselves, our work and our futures. Confidence is key to long-term success.


Best Payroll Interview Questions for Job Candidates

Source –  Robert Half

You’re in the hot seat during job interviews. To avoid being tongue-tied on the big day, rehearse your delivery of answers to all the payroll interview questions you can think of. Here are some you may encounter:

Informational questions. Managers often start interviews with these queries as a way to get to know you and gauge your interest in the position.

  • What can you tell me about yourself?
  • Why did you choose payroll as a career?
  • What interests you about this position?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?

Functional questions. After finding out who you are, the next set of interview questions may deal with your knowledge base.

  • Which payroll systems have you worked with?
  • What are some differences between an employee and contractor?
  • Can you describe Fair Labor Standards?
  • What is FICA, and how is it calculated?
  • What are some examples of voluntary deductions?
  • What are some examples of involuntary deductions?
  • What benefits are taxable?
  • What Excel skills do you use as part of your payroll duties?

Behavioral questions. How you’ve handled work issues is a good indicator of future performance, so interviewers will want to know more about situations in your past jobs using behavioral questions.

  • Have you ever had to deliver bad news to someone? How did you approach it?
  • When have you make a mistake on the job, and how did you resolve it?
  • How do you manage your time so that you meet payroll-related deadlines?
  • Can you describe a time when your ethics felt challenged?
  • How do you stay current on regulatory and compliance changes?

Situational questions. These are similar to behavioral questions, but with a hypothetical component.

  • An employee is angry because payroll made a withholding error. What are your next steps?
  • An employee asks for reimbursement for a questionable business expense. How do you handle it?
  • What would you do if you discovered a mistake on a coworker’s year-end report?
  • Due to something that is not your fault, payroll will be late this pay period. How do you deliver this news company-wide?

Questions about workplace fit. To avoid a bad hire, organizations want to make sure new employees will get along well in their corporate culture.

  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
  • What is your pet peeve at work?
  • What do you do to beat stress in the payroll department?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with colleagues? With management?

Curveball questions. Some hiring managers like to see how you think on your feet, which is the rationale behind questions that have nothing to do with the job itself.

  • Which Hogwarts house would the Sorting Hat place you in?
  • How many Peeps are made each year?
  • If you could be any animal for a day, what would you choose and why?

There’s no good way to prepare for wacky questions, and that’s OK. Just relax and give a creative answer. A sense of humor can definitely help. The worst response is to go silent or get flustered.

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