Top 10 Interview Questions for Accountants
When you're interviewing for an accounting position, the interview questions will vary depending on the job. However, some of the more common accounting interview questions and answers are presented here for your review.
Accountants have important roles in virtually any business, organization or government agency that handles money. Companies that aren’t large enough to hire in-house accounting staff often hire accountants as outside contractors. Accountants also work for financial advisory firms, for banks, or as tax advisers.
Accounting Interview Questions
You should never try to present a false front during a job interview because, among other issues, your interviewer might notice and decide that your lack of candor is a red flag for deeper problems.
However, you can increase your chances of interviewing well and getting hired by practicing some typical questions.
How to Answer 4 Common Accounting Interview Questions
Typical Accounting Interview Questions You May Encounter
Give yourself a leg up on the competition with these questions that you are likely to be asked, and their insightful answers:
1. What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing the accounting profession today?
There is no one right answer to this question, but you should be able to demonstrate knowledge of and commitment to your profession by having a well-thought-out and intelligent answer. The interviewer wants to see that you are familiar with the industry and its challenges and that you care about your job enough to have an opinion.
Sample Answer: "Recent changes to the tax code are one big challenge for the industry since we have to scour through all the new rules and guidelines and adjust accordingly. Of course, responding to new tax laws is familiar to the accounting industry. Another pressing issue for everyone in the field is technology. Readily available online accounting services can make the role of a seasoned professional seem less essential, which means as accountants, we have to offer clients something a computer cannot."
2. Which accounting applications are you familiar with?
There are countless accounting software packages out there, and you can’t possibly know them all. That said, if you only know how to use one software package, that could look bad, even if the application itself is well-regarded. Know enough about the tools of your profession to have an opinion on which are good, and which are not so good and be ready to defend your answer. Know about recent developments in relevant software, even those you don’t use regularly.
Sample Answer: "I'm most familiar with ABC Company Name's accounting software, since it's what I used day-in and day-out in my last position. I've also used X and Y accounting applications in other roles. And, after a former co-worker recommended it, I recently started an online course in how to use the Z application for businesses."
3. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of different accounting packages you have used in your most recent accountant jobs.
Be prepared to share specific examples of the pros and cons of the accounting software you’ve used.
4. Describe any accounting process that you’ve developed or sought to improve.
If you’re still early in your career, you may not have developed any processes yet, but you should be ready to demonstrate that you can innovate. Think about something you’ve helped change or develop over the past few years.
Sample Answer: "In my role at ABC company, I discovered that the process for handling company travel reimbursements for the sales team was so difficult and time-consuming that everyone's expense reports came in late. I assembled a team to evaluate the process and streamline where possible. We were able to use an application that we downloaded on all company-provided phones, and since we transitioned to this new process, reports are timelier."
5. Describe a time when you helped to reduce costs at a previous accounting job.
All accountants should be able to reduce costs. That’s a major part of why employers hire them. Describe a time when you reduced costs unexpectedly through your personal innovation or diligence. Have the financial details of your success available in case your interviewer asks you to elaborate.
Sample Answer: "Often duplicated services and unused licenses to software programs that charge a per-license fee (regardless of whether the licenses are in use or not) can eat up a significant amount of budget. I led an audit of our software, spending time with each department to understand what programs and services were in use. We discovered that several departments had purchased programs that did essentially the same task and that we were paying for more licenses than we were used. I did an analysis to uncover that streamlining our programs could result in a 15% savings in this area of the budget, and presented my findings to the executive board."
6. Describe a time when you had to use numerical data or a graph to convince a manager.
Discuss how data or a chart or graph helped you make your case, and how the outcome worked in the organization’s favor.
7. Describe a time when you had to work exceptionally hard to provide great service to a customer or client. What did you do and what was the outcome?
Share information on what you did to provide service and how you accomplished it. Make it clear that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.
Sample Answer: "One story really comes to mind here — in my role as an accountant for ABC Company, which served small businesses, we had a new client come through who'd recently transitioned from a full-time job to starting his own small business. His business was doing well, but it was clear bookkeeping was not his passion and he found all the processes overwhelming. It would have been easy to sell him a package he couldn't use on his own, and lock him into an annual subscription. Instead, I provided four training sessions on the software so he could independently track his sales and expenses.
Since then, he's recommended us to other small businesses, who all signed on to our services because of his praise."
8. Describe a time when you faced a particularly demanding deadline to prepare a financial statement or report. How did you react? What was the result?
If you don’t have a professional example to share, a relevant experience from college might work. Regardless of the example you pick, do not exaggerate or over-dramatize for effect. Your interviewer will notice and might decide that you’re being less than honest.
Sample Answer: "The most difficult deadline I can remember was preparing the year-end FY report at ABC industries because there is so much prep work involved and there are many dependencies on other team member's providing data from their departments. The good news is, everyone knows how important it is to create and present the findings in this report. My co-workers were really good at sticking to the deadlines I established for turning in information (and I built in a few extra days of wiggle room just in case, too)."
9. How do you ensure that you don’t forget details and ensure accuracy when you prepare monthly journal entries, record transactions, etc.?
Almost everybody forgets small details sometimes — except accountants, who can’t afford to. What do you do to make sure you don’t forget or unintentionally alter important numbers? If you happen to be a savant who doesn’t need any special method, be sure to explain this so that your interviewer knows you are not simply trying to make yourself look good.
Sample Answer: "Next to my computer monitor, I have a sticky note that reads "Check — then double check." It's a reminder to me to track all the smallest details and to always confirm my work is accurate. I do a few things to ensure I do not forget details: first, I automate tasks as much as possible. Also, I use calendar reminders and a good old-fashioned list to make sure that I remind myself to do tasks so that nothing is lost in my inbox."
10. Describe a time when you had to explain a complex accounting issue to someone with without an accounting background. How did you help your audience understand the situation?
Your ability to communicate with non-accountants may be very important, especially if you will be in an advisory role with direct contact with clients or with team members from other departments. When responding, emphasize your communication skills and storytelling talent, as well as your ability to work as a part of a team.
Make Sure You're Even More Prepared
Even though you’re trying to get a job as an accountant, your interview will probably include a number of typical job interview questions. Review those questions and look at the sample answers. Then practice answering interview questions so you’re ready.
Be Ready With Questions to Ask the Employer
Finally, don't forget to be prepared with a list of questions to ask your interviewer — it shows you’re truly interested in the company and the new job. Make sure you craft a list interview questions to ask the employer, and be aware of the questions you shouldn't ask an interviewer during a job interview.