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How to be confident and creative in those interviews

By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager.

Josh Lindenmuth is currently the Chief Information Officer at Payce, Inc. a midsized payroll and HR outsourcing company in Maryland . His previous experience includes being a manager in Accenture’s U.S. retail consulting group and we caught up with him to ask about some of the  interview techniques that can further a career in the Big4.

How do you build a rapport with an interviewer?

In the first 10 minutes, ask about the interviewer’s job (assuming it’s not an HR person), show interest, and be genuinely enthusiastic about the position and your own experience.  Being successful at a Big 4 firm has just as much to do with interpersonal skills as it does with capabilities – there are very few people who can succeed if they don’t make a good team player.

  What’s the best way to summarize your current job?

Being CIO of a small company requires a lot of responsibility juggling.  Our technology team

Josh Lindenmuth

Josh Lindenmuth

has 7 full-time employees, and up to 25 team members during times when we’ve used outside contractors.  My primary job responsibility is managing both the technical and business roadmap for a SaaS-based payroll and HR products.  On some days this might encompass working with the owners on long-term strategy, while on others it could mean programming or helping with network architecture.  Every day is something different – my previous career as a management consultant definitely helped me prepare for the variety of work I currently perform.

 How do you portray yourself as a great problem solver?

In an interview, being confident and creative are key to demonstrating your skills as a problem solver.  Most interviewers want to know that you can either work through a difficult problem, or collaborate with the right people to do so.  If you aren’t a strong problem solver, you don’t want to portray yourself as one – at some point in the interview process the ruse would be exposed and you’ll certainly lose the job.  Instead, audibly detail how you would come up with the answer, who you might utilize, and discuss in more detail with the interviewer.  I always found that practicing logic problems before interviews was helpful to get in the right frame of mind.

 What other bits of advice are important?

Don’t argue with the interviewer – whether purposefully or not, interviewers will sometimes present something as fact that is not.  This is sometimes done to see how a candidate handles a situation where the client is stubbornly wrong (which happens frequently once on client engagements).

Be prepared for nebulous questions – most candidates spend most of their time preparing for specific questions such as “what are your weaknesses”, “tell me about a time you had to deal with a coworker that refused to help you”, “what is EBITDA”, etc.  However, I’ve found that interviewees get tripped up on more general questions.  Be prepared to answer questions such as “tell me about yourself in 60 seconds”, “where do you want to be in 10 years”, and “what is your ideal job”.  Nailing these questions makes a candidate shine.

How do you get around not having the tools or knowledge to answer a question?

The best approach is to explain how you would find the answer, and the types of tools you would seek out.  For example, imagine you were asked to evaluate if Tesla would be a good takeover target for Apple, and that you knew nothing about either company.  The worst thing you could do is say “I don’t know how to solve that”, but that’s exactly what a lot of candidates would do.  Instead, think through where you would start, and what tools you’d need to evaluate the purchase.  You’d want to see why Apple would be interested in an electric car, what other benefits they’d get from buying the technology portfolio, consider market valuations and P/E ratios for each, look at projections for Tesla and the electric car market in general, and then also consider the big unknown of what Apple designers/visionaries are cooking up that we wouldn’t see.  A question that’s easy to answer with “I don’t know” can easily become a 10 minute long collaborative discussion that’s fun for both the interviewer and candidate.

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