10 Questions You Need To Be Ready For In An Accounting Job Interview

Job interviews are challenging.

And so they should be in my view.

It’s a big investment decision.

The key to success in job interviews is being well prepared.

Accounting job interviews are no different.

So what are 10 questions you need to be ready for in an accounting job interview.

#1 Tell me about your experience and why it’s relevant to this role

A classic opening question to get you talking and get you relaxed.

And one that many struggle with.

I regularly see people going off at a tangent, rambling and trying to cover every base.

The secret to answering this question is to ask yourself what from all of my experience is really relevant to this role.

Think what’s really critical to success in a role.

#2 Why do you want to work for us

If you’re an accountant you probably are applying for several roles.

Of course every hiring manger will hope that their organisation is the one you want to work with.

Especially if you are a strong candidate.

Don’t go over the top with your answer.  Highlight 3 key reasons why you want to work for the organisation.

#3 What attracts you to this role

This is a variation on #2 above.

It dig downs deeper and asks you about the specific role.

What the hiring manager is wanting to get an insight into is how this role fits with your career aspirations.

Again focus on 3 key reasons.  If they want more they will ask a supplementary question.

#4 Describe our financial performance in your own words

You have looked at their accounts right?

It never ceases to amaze me that some people haven’t.

This question catches out the candidates who haven’t done their research.

It tests communication skills in relation to financial information.

It tests whether you can pull out the salient points.

#5 How would you question

They are going to want to test your technical ability.

A how would you type question is a great way of doing this.

It should be a simple one to answer, especially as it’s a technical.

But that’s not my experience.

I’ve seen people with 20+ years experience flounder with this type of question.

Obviously the how to questions depends on the role.

If for example you were hiring someone at an accounts assistant level you might ask how would you do a bank reconciliation.

If you were appointing a finance manager you might ask them how they would do a variance analysis.

If appointing a financial accountant you might ask how they would approach year end accounts.

If appointing a finance business partner you might ask how they would approach planning and budgeting.

As a candidate you should know the likely areas where you will be tested technically.

#6 What will you bring to the team if you got the job

In any team there is going to be a mix of skills, knowledge and experience.

What are you bringing to team that’s going to make a difference.

The key to answering this question is to use statements rather than words.

Single words can sound like a checklist.

Statements are much more specific.

So instead of experience say

10 years experience in financial management in large complex organisations looking after large budgets.

10 years experience in finance in small sales based organisations.

#7 What’s your strengths

Talking positively about yourself is something accountants can struggle with in my experience.

When answering this question you want to be exuding confidence.

You also want to focus down on your key strengths, particularly those that are highly relevant to the role.

Set the scene by saying something like.

I believe I have many strengths and here are 5 that are highly relevant to this role.

#8 Tell me about a time when you made a mistake

This can freak out poorly prepared candidates.

Everyone makes mistakes.

You know that.  The hiring manager knows that.

What a good hiring manager is looking for is evidence that you learn from mistakes.

So yes talk about the situation and what you did.  But make the major focus of your answer on what you learned.

#9 Give me an example of

Another great question to learn more about you as a person and your style of operating.

Some potential questions you might be asked include.

Give me an example of when you explained something complex effectively.

Give me an example of when you made a process improvement.

Give me an example of when you improved working capital.

Give me an example of when you met a deadline despite having multiple demands on your time.

Give me an example of when you influenced or persuaded a budget manager.

Give me an example of when you dealt with a team member who wasn’t performing.

For that reason you need to have a bank of examples that you can draw on in the interview.

#10 Why are you the ideal candidate

When I was recruiting in the NHS, the last question I always asked went along the following lines.

Imagine you had arrived today and you were told by my PA the interview couldn’t go ahead due to a major incident.

The PA asks you to tell her in 2 minutes why you are the ideal candidate. 

What would you say.

About 1 in every 10 candidate gave a good answer.

So be ready to sell yourself because this question is an invitation to sell yourself.

In truth the possibilities for questions are endless.  Being prepared for every eventuality will help reduce the risk of you not performing to your potential on the day of the interview.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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