Best Practice Interview Questions for Your Accounting Interview
Do you have a big interview coming up? One of the best things that you can do to prepare for your interview is to practice popular accounting interview questions. It’s hard to predict exactly what you’ll be asked on an interview, but it’s expected that in almost every interview you’ll be asked a version of “tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume”. (Check out this article for tips on how to answer those questions)
I connected with several top accounting recruiters for their advice on how to prepare.
“GET TO KNOW YOU” INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
It’s also common for recruiters to ask about your interests and motivators. Common early interview questions include:
- Why did choose accounting as your major?
- What interests you about working here or Why do you want to work for our company?
April Todd Shaw, an executive finance and accounting recruiter with Parker + Lynch shared her favorite open ended question is, “What do you expect to gain from your next opportunity?” because this answer provides an idea of how driven they are and how much forethought was put into this interview.
April also said that she likes for candidates to walk her through their career experience. She often asks, “what are three primary responsibilities in your role and and how do each of these responsibilities contribute to the accounting and finance organization overall? ” She really likes this question because it provides an opportunity for the candidate to show how they are able to articulate their responsibilities.
TECHNICAL ACCOUNTING INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
It’s not uncommon for a recruiter or hiring manager to ask technical questions to test the candidate’s level of knowledge.
Michael Koozer, a finance and accounting recruiter based in Columbus, OH shared with me that his favorite question to ask new graduates is, “Whats the difference between debits and credits? “
Other common technical interview questions include:
- “What is the difference between accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP)?”
- What is the disadvantage of double entry system?
A hiring will likely also ask you about the accounting systems you’ve used in the past. Before you go into your interview, look at the job description or get some intel on the company to find out what accounting system they are using. Be aware that if the company is using SAP but you’ve only used Quickbooks and JD Edwards, the hiring manager might be concerned about the system learning curve. It’s a good idea to state that you are technically savvy (if you actually are!) or that you plan on taking a Quickbooks course before starting to familiarize yourself with the software.
BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Behavioral interview questions are also very common in an accounting interview. When I was in corporate recruiting, a behavioral question we always asked was, “Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma at work, and how did you handle it?”. Accountants, unfortunately, are sometimes asked to do things that are unethical. We were looking for people willing to do the right thing—always.
April Todd Shaw shared that she likes to ask interview candidates to, “describe an opportunity you had in your role to go beyond your primary responsibilities to make or save the company money or even achieve a goal.” This question gives the recruiter or hiring manager an opportunity to gather an understanding of their ability to be a valuable asset in their roles and set themselves apart from other candidates.
Other popular accounting behavioral interview questions include:
- Tell me about a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands. Give me an example. (Theme: deadlines & stress at work)
- Tell me about the most difficult or uncooperative person you had to work with lately. What did you do or say to resolve the situation? What was the outcome? (Theme: conflict)
- Give me an example of a time when you had to go out of your way to help someone. (Theme:customer service)
- Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn? 7. What’s the most recent mistake? (Theme: Failure)
STUDY THE JOB DESCRIPTION
Beyond preparing for standard interview questions, it’s also important to study the job description for clues as to the types of questions that you could get asked during the interview. The job description will help you understand the pain points of the job and specific qualifications that they may be looking for. Let’s take a look at two real job descriptions to show you what I mean:
GEICO JOB DESCRIPTION
The image above is a real Geico job description that I found off on LinkedIn. I studied the job description for unique aspects of this role. For example—notice that they use PeopleSoft Cash as their accounting software. If you are interviewing for this position, it’s likely that you could be asked about your experience with PeopleSoft.
The job description also talks about the fact that this candidate would be responsible for responding to Field Representative inquiries. They will likely focus on customer service and communication skills during the behavioral portion of the interview.
THE CHEWY JOB DESCRIPTION
The image above is a real job description that the Chewy Company based in Miami, FL posted on LinkedIn for a “Finance Manager, Reporting and Controllership”. After reviewing the job description, you can assume that they will ask interview questions like, “Tell me about a time that you lead a continuous improvement initiative. What was the initiative, how did you get stakeholders involved and what was the outcome”. They will also likely ask about your experience leading senior level discussions around company performance. An example question could be, “Tell me about a time that you had to push back on a peer or colleague for administrative expenses or poor budgeting.”
GREAT EXAMPLES OF FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS AFTER YOUR ACCOUNTING INTERVIEW
At the end of the interview, you should have the opportunity to ask the recruiter or the hiring manager follow up questions. This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your interest in the position and also mutually interview the person interviewing you. Here are some great questions that you can ask:
- What type of opportunities does your company have for professional development and training?
- What are the major projects or initiatives your team is working on today?
- What is an initiative that company management/leadership has been focused on over the last year and how has that affected you and your teams?
- What are the characteristics of a successful employee in your organization?
- Why is this position vacant?
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