The Inside Scoop – A Director of HR on Having a Gold-Star Accounting or Finance Interview

Marsha Forde is the Director of HR for Workopolis (yes, that’s right, Workopolis).  Her career story is one of openness to change and tenacity.  Couple that with a key mentor who opened a door for her, and you have a story of success and growth.

And here’s the best thing of all – she’s willing to give us the inside scoop on how to have a gold-star accounting or finance interview – one that will ensure that you impress the hiring manager, but also help you determine if the company and role is a fit for you.

Question #1 – You had an unusual transition into HR. Can you tell us a little bit about your education and career choices that led you there?
(Laughs).  You’re right.  It’s an unusual path isn’t it?  I started off studying linguistics, philosophy and French at the University of Toronto.  I value different cultures and diversity so studying linguistics and philosophy made sense.  Initially, I thought I would go into speech therapy, but my openness to a different experience started me on a very unique path.  After school I was living in St. Catharines and wanted to return to Toronto.  A job opened up at a recruitment agency as a receptionist.  I applied and got the role.  The firm focused on recruiting lawyers and it was this job that really began my career in recruitment.

Question #2 – What Was so Pivotal About Your Time at the Recruitment Agency?
Well, my education and interest in the recruitment field eventually allowed me to transition into a role as a recruiter.  I started building relationships with HR people who needed advice on the roles they were filling.  It made me realize that I wanted to shift to the corporate world and become part of an internal recruitment team.

Question #3 – How Did You Make That Shift to Corporate?
I was tenacious and applied to Rogers twice before they hired me (laughs).  Initially, I was hired to recruit lawyers to Rogers, but my role grew and I started to recruit for corporate, communications, finance and marketing.  Eventually, I transitioned to LoyaltyOne because I felt that I could make a larger impact there (it was a smaller organization) and get my feet wet hiring analytics professionals.  I also have to give credit to a mentor, Tara Talbot, who opened the door for me to take a more generalist focus in HR at Workopolis.  I love working for an organization that is a thought leader in HR.  They really focus on creating an engaging culture for their people and this matters to me.

Question #4 – What Advice Would You Give to Someone Wanting to Enter the HR Space?
This is general career advice really.  Be open and recognize that there is more than one way to get to your next destination.  Be flexible and tenacious.  If an opportunity comes up that can move your career forward, even if that opportunity doesn’t appear the way you think it should, grab it, particularly if it’s offered by an organization who will invest in you.

Question #5 – What’s One Thing That You’d Want to Tell Other Internal Recruitment Teams?
Understand that the candidate experience during the hiring process is your number one priority.  People in recruitment who don’t get this are missing the mark.  It’s reaching out, returning calls, and encouraging your hiring managers to make a decision.  The candidate is our customer and even if you don’t select them for the role, they should still have had a positive experience.  You want them to speak highly about your organization.  One of their friends, or a person in their network, could be your next superstar.

Question #6 – Let’s Change the Focus Now. What Suggestions Would You Have for Finance and Accounting People When They Are Preparing for an Interview?
It’s really key to present yourself as in-line with your industry.  It’s also critical to understand the company’s culture so that you can present yourself accordingly.  Your answers to interview questions should be specific to the organization and not just general responses.  This shows an investment on your part.  Also, a strong candidate offers insight into how they made previous organizations better.  I like candidates who have challenged the status quo and created tangible benefits for their company.

As an HR person, I’m always asking myself if the candidate will be happy at my organization.  In other words, is the company’s culture and team’s working style going to fit with the person I’m interviewing?

Question #7 – How Can a Candidate Determine if a Company and Role is a Fit for Them?
Candidates need to do their homework:

  • This means talking to people who have worked for the company (or are currently working there).
  • It means asking questions during the interview that really dig down into the role.
  • Candidates should ask what it takes to be successful in the job. The hiring manager and recruiter should be able to clearly articulate what success looks like.  If they can’t, it’s a red flag.  Their answer will tell you whether or not you can meet expectations, or if you should withdraw from the process.  After all, job descriptions aren’t always an accurate reflection of what it takes to be successful in the role.
  • Get an understanding of their onboarding process and how they’re going to bring you up to speed.
  • Make sure to determine what growth looks like in the organization and how they invest in their people.
  • Ultimately, a candidate needs to determine what he/she values and make sure to ask questions about that.  Whether it’s base compensation, opportunities to grow or take on leadership roles, a candidate needs to understand that the company’s culture and values makes sense for their career objectives.

Pro Tip:  Ask yourself:  What has my experience been from the first moment I came into this organization until I got the offer?  If people aren’t meeting what they promised to do, it’s a real red flag.  There are far too many great opportunities out there to have a poor candidate experience.

Key Takeaways
It’s clear from a conversation with Marsha Forde that tenacity and a willingness to take an unconventional path to reach a career goal can win the day.  She offers constructive advice to those looking to enter the HR space.  She points out that those already in HR need to focus on the candidate experience during the hiring process.  To Marsha, candidates need to do their homework and make sure that the company with whom they are interviewing is a fit for their career objectives and core values.  It seems that this recipe of a mutual investment of time and energy on the part of the company and candidate is what can lead to hiring success.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.