What questions should you expect? How to make a long lasting impression on your interviewers? And what decides the winner at the end of the hiring process?
Simply, how to prepare for this challenging experience, and walk away with a new job contract? We try to answer this question on our website that specializes only in accounting interviews.
Written by Caren Mayers, Recruitment Consultant at Financial Recruitment Agency HW Search & Professional Interview Coach. Welcome!
What questions should you expect?
The principal part of your interview will consist either in behavioral questions, or in practical exercises. The interviewers in smaller companies will usually test you with a series of short case studies (VAT calculation, balance sheet reporting, cash flow analysis, etc), trying to understand whether you can do the job, or can just talk about doing it.
In big corporations, however, you can expect a more traditional approach to interviews. You will have to answer personal, behavioral, and technical interview questions, and often also complete a personality test.
But they will not use many case studies, becasue they do not care much about the actual level of your accounting experience. If they hire you, you will learn everything you need to know in their training program.
In both big and small companies, as well as in recruitment agencies, they will use some typical interview questions to understand your personality, communication skills, and motivation.
“Why do you want to be an accountant?”, “What characterize a good accountant?”, “What do you think is a goal of an accountant in our company?” are some examples of these typical questions.
Other things do also matter
Brilliant interview answers form a foundation stone for your success. But you shouldn’t forget that interviewers observe many other things while talking to you, for instance your non-verbal communication, your methodology of work, your way of thinking.
List of typical accountant interview questions
Note: Click a question to see an in-detail analysis of a particular question and sample answers.
Show us that you enjoy doing what accountants typically do, that you find the job interesting. Tell us that you can bring some value to our team, with your skills, experience, and personality.
Do not connect your choice with the past. To say that you want to work as an accountant because you have graduated from the field, would indicate a must. But we want to hear about your desire to have this job.
Remember: You should know why you want to become an accountant. If you did not know the answer, HR managers would hardly find the reasons to hire you. Refer to your skills, abilities, career plans, and love for the job of an accountant…
You probably do not care much about them–their name, who they are, what they do… You submitted a few job applications, one company invited you for an interview, and so you go and interview for an accounting job with this company, hoping for the best.
There is nothing wrong with your attitude–most job seekers have the same one. Once you interview for a job, however (and for any job, not only for a position of an accountant), you should try to convince the interviewers that you applied on purpose, that you prefer to work for them, and not for one of their competitors.
Visit their website, read more about their products, their vision and goals, employee benefits, etc. Try to find things that resonate with you, and talk about these things in an interview. Show them that you care, that you did your homework.
You should choose a problem which you eventually managed to solve, and describe what you did to address the problem. Whether it really was the most difficult one you have ever encountered doesn’t really matter, since the interviewers can not tell.
If you apply for your first job, you can talk about a difficult task you had to solve at school. It is your attitude to problems, and your way of addressing them, that matters to the interviews. We do not care much about the particular situation you narrate in your answer…
Everyone makes mistakes, even the best accountants in the world make them. But you should try to convince us that you take all possible measures to minimize the risk of making an important mistake.
To such measures belong: double checking your records, consulting someone with more experience when you are not sure about a transaction, letting your sub-ordinate or colleague to do the same things you do (speaking about the most important records), and comparing their results with yours, consulting the accounting standards and national laws if other solutions fail, etc…
The HR managers and interviewers should know that accounting is a complex field that never stops evolving, and changing. They can give you a practical question, to see whether you understand the standards, but they should not ask you to tell them the content of IAS 19, or of any other part of accounting standards.
The key is to show us that you are aware of the standards and laws, that you can read and understand them, and apply them in your practical work. Show us that you know where you can find the information, and that you can work with the information…
Do you just sit in your nice office, waiting for an order from the boss, never doing anything outside of your basic working duties? Or do you belong (or want to belong) to exceptional accountants, who strive to help their employer to reduce costs, and spend a lot of time exploring possibilities of reducing them?
Companies prefer to hire people with the second attitude, those who do not think only about their paycheck. Show us that you have guts, that you are not afraid of unorthodox approach to accounting, that you want to apply creative accounting, helping the company to reduce tax expenses, in a legal way…
The most common way of cost reduction consists in managing the purchases in time, trying to benefit from various methods of depreciation in relation to the profit or loss of the current and past fiscal year. Obviously, there are more advance methods of cost reduction, and we elaborate on them in our eBook.
Anyway, you should speak with enthusiasm about every situation when you helped your employer to save some money. Show us that you care, that you consider this aspect of the job important.
And if you apply for your very first position, try to come up with some ideas on reducing costs, some ideas you plan to apply in your job…
The user interface differs from one software application to another. Working with Zoho Books does not guarantee you will manage to work with Quick Books, without a need to spend hours learning the software.
Therefor I suggest you to stress your strong computer skills, saying that you believe you will learn to work with any software they use in their company. You can also say that you are eager to learn, and enjoy working with new software applications…
Other questions (answers only in the eBook)
- What characterize a good accountant from your point of view?
- Describe a stressful situation in work, and how did you handle the pressure.
- What do you think is a goal of an accountant in our company?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What motivates you to do this routine job?
- Describe a time when you had to explain a complex accounting issue to someone without an accounting background. How did you ensure your audience understood you?
- What do you hate the most about doing this job?
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the other job applicants?
- Practical exercises
Do the questions differ in various companies?
Obviously, the interview process differs in various companies. On the other hand, if someone tries to recruit a corporate accountant, they will not give the job applicants questions that were intended for managers, or for bank tellers…
Even if they use slightly different questions in each company, the same strategies and attitudes will lead you to a new job contract in every single accounting interview. It’s a matter of understanding the way of thinking of the interviewing panel, and of meeting their expectations in an interview.
Job interview is not a monologue. And it shouldn’t become one.
You should ask them some questions about their working environment, accounting software they use, career growth possibilities, next step of the recruitment process, etc. Simply anything sensible, anything that will show them that you care and want to learn more about them.
Talk of two people
At the end of the day, every job interview is just a meeting of two (or more) people – You and the interviewer(s). Try to approach it in a way in which you should approach every other meeting – show positive attitude, praise the other person, listen to what they have to say, show enthusiasm for the topic of the meeting (getting employment with them), etc. You should simply try to build a good relationship with your interviewers.
We hope that our answers to interview questions help you to gain confidence, and prepare for the interview. But if you still find the preparation challenging, you can have a look at my Accountant Interview Guide. The eBook offers brilliant answers to all twenty most common accountant interview questions, practical exercises, winning interview strategies, and much more…
We wish you good luck in your interview!
Caren Mayers, Interviewer at HW Search, author of the content.