10 interview questions all accountants must know how to answer

  • interviews
  • March 03, 2017
If you’re looking for a new accounting position, then you probably have already fine-tuned your resume and updated your LinkedIn profile. But how many job seekers are ready to answer the questions at interview time?

Practice makes perfect if you want to ace your interview, and that’s where we can help. Here is what hiring managers are really hoping to learn about you when they ask these common interview questions.

1. Why did you leave each job or position on your resume? What were the reasons, both positive and negative?

This question helps managers get a full picture of the candidate's work history. What keeps the person motivated. Why, if he or she has, did the person jump from job to job? And what is the key factor when he or she leaves? Interviewers like to get at a person's loyalty and reasoning process. Does the person get easily bored or have difficulty getting along with others?

2. If you weren’t an accounting professional, what would you most like to do?

Hiring managers like to learn about a candidate’s passions. This question reveals whether an accountant is truly motivated by financial rewards, a challenging position, creativity or has an entrepreneurial spirit.

3. How do you ensure your work is error free?

It’s no surprise that hiring managers want to employ accountants with keen attention to detail. Small mistakes can lead to large financial issues. Hiring managers are looking for professionals who describe times when they've caught errors before submitting work, emphasizing the importance of checking work and establishing checks and balances within a team.

4. How do you ensure you meet deadlines?

Few professions are as deadline-driven as accounting. That's why hiring managers want assurance that potential employees are the type of professionals who turn in work early, recognizing that others depend on their work to be completed on time.

5. Do you possess knowledge of accounting standards?

Hiring managers want to know if someone has a baseline knowledge of accounting standards such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Candidates should explain the depth of their knowledge, and how it applies to their role in staying up-to-date.

6. You have advanced Excel skills. Describe what this means, including examples.

The best accountants use Excel to save time and reduce inefficiencies, and they use every available tool — formatting, formulas, macros and pivot tables. But what advanced Excel skills mean to one person can be quite different to another. So, interviewers ask for specifics.

7. Which enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have you used?

Most companies expect some ERP expertise including Hyperion, Microsoft Dynamics GP or Oracle Enterprise Manager. Entry-level candidates may turn this into a discussion of finance certifications and future training possibilities. For example, suggest an ERP system you would like to master. Discussion of these tools, how the applicant learned them and what applications your company uses will reveal how much training the applicant might need if hired.

8. Tell me about a time you had a difficult conversation with a manager or colleague in another department.

Accounting and finance professionals may uncover reporting issues that require difficult conversations with colleagues. With this question, the hiring manager is trying to understand how you would handle these types of challenging situations.

9. Describe a time when you helped to reduce costs at a previous accounting job.

The answer to this question will tell whether you strictly stick to your accounting job duties, or whether you have gone above and beyond by identifying solutions for the greater good of the company.

10. What challenges have you faced in leading a team through an analysis project?

Hiring managers ask this question to uncover leadership skills. Managers are looking for examples that showcase the applicant’s critical thinking skills and elicit a better picture of his or her leadership techniques.

Being prepared to answer these interview questions will help ensure success when vying for that coveted accounting position.

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