The past year has been tough for employment across the board, and accounting positions are no exception. The future is uncertain in this field as well as many others. Businesses are asking themselves, will there be an office? Will you hire remotely? How will work be shared?
Accounting interview questions are more important now than ever. Clients are serious about their finances and bringing on the right team will make or break that relationship. It is up to you as a hiring manager to have great questions ready to go for every candidate, so they can prove themselves as a valuable potential member of your company.
In this article, we will break down the most important accounting interview questions you need to ask this year, so you can find the best team and build a company you are proud of.
1) How did you handle the past year?
Working remotely during the pandemic provided challenges to accountants at all levels. You should listen to hear how unexpected changes altered their accounting workflow and how they overcame the struggle.
You are seeking adaptable candidates who can handle major life events without letting deadlines fall by the wayside.
2) Can you explain accounts receivable and accounts payable?
While this seems like a simple accounting interview question, it is deceptive. Basic financial literacy skills should always come first in this job.
Your candidate should be happy to easily give you an answer, not act like they are above the question. Ultimately, you want to hire someone who can explain accounting to both executives and kindergartners.
3) What accounting software do you have experience with?
You want to get a baseline of what technological skills your interviewee has. There is myriad financial accounting software out there, and they can be quite different from one another.
If the candidate used different software in their past jobs that you are not familiar with, ask them to elaborate further on the details until you understand.
You also want to determine if they can quickly pick up new software, so you can save training time in the future.
4) How do you follow changing rules and regulations?
This question addresses how fast the accounting and financial industry's laws change. You want to hire a candidate who is at the forefront of new accounting information outside what the job formally requires.
Do they read accounting books? Attend seminars on the latest changes? An informed employee will always have the skills to bring more revenue to your business.
5) List the types of reports you generally make
Whether you are looking for an accounting applicant to manage cash flow reports or stockholder equity reports — you want your candidate to have experience in that field.
While there is plenty of crossovers in these reports, the major difference is between internal-facing reports and external reports. A good candidate knows how to show information to shareholders in one way, but also can present to internal company meetings in more detail.
6) What is the worst mistake you’ve ever made on the job?
This interview question is meant to assess how they handle accounting failure and learn from it. You are not meant to shame them, but ascertain what they feel was their most important learning moment.
Even the worst mess-ups leave room for growth and often a better and more self-aware employee comes out of failure.
7) What are the most common ways that fraud spreads in the accounting business?
A real professional will most likely have some first-hand experience with fraud. This is how you can separate recent graduates from those with on-the-job training.
A good answer to accounting interview questions like this should not be ripped from a textbook. Skills like this can only be gained from personal experience.
8) How have you led an accounting team to success?
Interview questions that identify hard and soft skills show you several aspects at once of your candidate. Finding someone who can easily work with and lead others is always going to one of the most important parts of the hiring process.
You should also expect a list of metrics and deliverables from past jobs in the candidate’s answer. Working well with a team is only valuable if you can prove it brought in money and was good for business.
9) What makes an accounting professional stand out?
This question does not have any right answer; however, a mixture of analytical ability and math skills along with excellent communication skills are usually good signs for the job.
Being a mathematician does not translate to someone fit for the job. While crunching numbers is important, soft skills are paramount to make a cohesive team.
10) Why did you decide to enter the financial accounting job sector?
While, in general, this industry is not a passion fostered from the early days of childhood, more than a modicum of excitement is recommended. Ask accounting interview questions that explore what path they took to end up in this field.
Be curious about their school experience and ask how their degree, whatever it may be in, influences their day-to-day responsibilities in their job. Even those with seemingly unrelated areas of study can have skills that fit your business.
11) When does goodwill increase?
While goodwill is an intangible financial asset, it is a key part of your business and your candidate must understand how subsidiary purchases can greatly add to a company's assets.
Asking very specific accounting interview questions like this forces the candidate to lay their knowledge on the table.
12) What has been the hardest (and easiest) thing about working from home?
Learn how flexible your candidate is working from home and if they actually prefer it over going into an office every day.
If you are thinking about combining remote and office work as the world opens up, you want to bring on people who thrive in both environments.
13) What needs to be improved in the financial sector?
This high-level accounting interview question considers how the candidate looks at accounting as a whole business.
Accounting interview questions that ask about the big ideas give you a sense of how your candidate is paying attention to the world.
14) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It is smart to ask accounting interview questions that cast a wide net. Ambition can be a great motivator for good work.
Someone who answers “filling out more financial statements” might not work with the same zeal and vigor as a candidate that is eager to start their own firm.
But be careful — don't hire someone who will leave your business at the first hint of a new opportunity.
15) Do you have a CPA?
The Certified Public Accountant license proves your candidate is endorsed and committed to accounting.
Those who already have their CPA will stand out from the crowd with their true accredited financial literacy skills.
16) How would you organize a hectic day?
Time management is especially important in financial management and accounting, as new information comes in daily. Mastery of time management skills is the only way to handle busy schedules.
Not getting stressed and successfully compartmentalizing when faced with a heavy workload is a part of overall necessary soft skills.
17) Why do you want to work for our company?
This rather blunt interview question will make your candidate reveal how much research they've done on your company.
Hopefully, they will break down what attracted them to this job and get specific about the opportunities your business provides.
18) Can you give me some examples of budgeting methods?
A good accounting candidate should be able to easily answer this question and explain the financial benefits and drawbacks of incremental budgeting, activity-based budgeting, value proposition budgeting, and zero-based budgeting.
19) How can our company improve its finances?
This question is another chance to see how much research the candidate has done. While some aspects of your company's financial records are private, there are usually public records available. Going that extra mile of research demonstrates their commitment to thorough work.
A great accountant can go beyond just patching up issues but can create systems to increase overall cash flow.
20) What is your favorite thing to do outside the office?
Understand that it is a skill to unplug and relax. Having a passionate hobby outside a finance job will balance out the stresses of work and employees who can maintain a work-life balance are more likely to be satisfied in their position. Plus you might find something unexpected in common during the interview!
Pay attention to their communication skills as they discuss a passion outside of work to determine how they really speak and act without pressure to impress.
21) Can you talk me through project implementation?
Implementing an accounting system is an integral step for any company looking to grow.
Your business will undoubtedly change over time, and you want to work with an accountant who is ready at the drop of a hat to start new and complex financial projects.
22) How is automation affecting accounting?
Great candidates know that automation will not take their job off the market but is actually a great virtual assistant for removing human error.
Business adapts to new technologies and accounting is no different, it is time to embrace the tools that are built to help streamline the work.
23) Can you explain negative working capital?
Negative working capital is a common issue in many companies where liabilities exceed current assets. An accountant with tested skills will see this coming before it starts to keep your business in the black.
This interview is their chance to demonstrate an ability to stop problems before they even come up.
24) Do you have any questions for me?
The only answer to this interview question that raises a red flag is “no.” A curious and engaged candidate will want to know more about your experience and more about your business. This question also opens up the interview into a conversation where you can get to know each other more deeply.
They might be nervous to ask deep probing questions, so give honest answers to their queries, and you'll end up learning even more about who is sitting across from you.
25) Why should I hire you?
Of all accounting interview questions, this is a great one to end on. The candidate is put in the spotlight to show their self-confidence and clearly break down why they are a cut above the rest and deserve a job in your business.
Communication skills will be put to the test here, the candidate should manage to explain their accounting accomplishments without boasting.
Once you've asked the tough accounting interview questions and feel ready to move forward with hiring your candidate, it's time to offer a job. All that's left is running a background check.
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