The interview process can be stressful, regardless of whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional. When you first decided to become an accountant, you were most likely focused on further developing your numerical skills rather than your jobhunting expertise.
One of the best ways to ace an interview is to prepare ahead of time, and we’re here to help.
Accounting interviews will include questions about the financial knowledge you’ve gained through your education and experience. You may also be asked questions that can help your potential employer gauge your soft skills and how well you’ll fit in at their company.
While questions may vary from company to company, these top 10 accounting interview questions will help you prepare in advance and ace your interview!
1. ‘Why did you choose accounting?’
It’s wise to have a standard response to one of the most common accounting interview questions. Talking about why you love the logic of accounting or how your father inspired you to pursue this career is only part of the answer, however.
Your potential boss wants to ensure that your background and motivations match the company’s goals.
If you’re applying to a small firm as a tax accountant, you might focus your response on your desire to help individuals and families save money. Meanwhile, you’ll want to choose a different response if you are interviewing with a top accounting firm, such as:
‘I found out early on in school that I had an affinity for complex calculations. I loved the challenge of tough tests and math team competitions. I chose to go into accountancy at college because I wanted to do something valuable and productive with my skills. The idea of using my intellect, creativity and attention to detail to help some of the most influential companies in the world to succeed financially is extremely appealing to me.’
2. ‘What accounting software have you worked with?’
Hiring managers want to know that you can move seamlessly into your new job role. Take cues from the job ad about what accounting software knowledge they are looking for. If it mentions technology you are unfamiliar with, you should learn more about it as part of your pre-interview prep.
An important job interview tip is to always tie your answers to your experience. Don’t just mention software names as if you are reading a grocery list. As in this example, give more detail to prove you have successfully utilised relevant accounting technology:
‘In my first job, I worked in the accounts receivable department and used the Invoiced software extensively. Part of my promotion was my ability to generate so many useful reports using the Invoiced system, such as the fastest or slowest customer to pay their bills.
In my next two positions, I worked with both SAP and Oracle. At my current job, I recommended adding Oracle’s Essbase analytics software. I think it would be helpful for your company as well, as it’s better for financial planning than a basic ERP.’
3. ‘How do you present financial information to managers and clients who don’t have a background in accounting?’
Your job will include a lot more than just precise calculations. One of the most important skills accountants need is the ability to communicate with a wide variety of people. Explaining your work is a vital way to earn trust from your clients, managers and colleagues.
Explain your process of sharing information with others and address the type of clients you expect to encounter in the job you’re applying for. For example:
‘I try to tailor my style of discussion to each client. A restaurant owner starting up his third business will be a lot more familiar with financial jargon than someone who’s just bought their first franchise. I take a little extra time to explain terms if I need to, or I use more everyday analogies to help the client better visualise the information.
In my experience, clients get overwhelmed if I throw too much information at them at once. When presenting a long-term strategy report, I like to put together a PowerPoint presentation that puts the numbers into context. I also give the client a portion of our scheduled time to look over a summary report, so they have some time to absorb it and ask informed questions before I leave.’
4. ‘How do you verify and maintain accuracy in accounting?’
You may sound confident telling the hiring team that you never make mistakes, but a single statement won’t convince them. Even the tiniest errors in accounting can have huge consequences, so employers will want to know that you have a plan in place. Explain your process with an emphasis on your dedication to accuracy. For example:
‘I try to address all three aspects of maintaining accuracy in my accounting. First, I do everything possible to avoid errors. I minimise distractions at work and automate repetitive tasks to avoid losing focus. Second, I use all the resources and technology available to discover errors or discrepancies. In my previous job, I implemented the Fyle software to more easily conduct corporate credit card reconciliation with employee-entered expense reports.
Finally, I gather and interpret all data necessary to resolve the discrepancy. This may include consulting other departments, and potentially, my supervisor to ensure I have the correct information.’
5. ‘Explain the purpose of each of the three financial statements.’
A potential employer will want to make sure you know the basics of the job you are applying for. A hiring manager will typically ask you a more straightforward definition question like this one, while the head of the financial department will likely test you with more complex queries.
General questions can trip up interviewees if they haven’t prepared ahead of time. If you’ve been in your accounting career for several years, you know exactly how to do your job but may be out of practice articulating the rules. Take some time before the interview to rehearse a concise and confident response like this one:
‘The balance sheet contains detailed information on the company’s assets, liabilities and shareholder’s equity. The income statement shows the company’s revenue and operating expenses over a specific period. Cash flow statements show the inflow and outflow of cash in three separate activities: operating, investing and financing.’
6. ‘What’s the difference between deferred revenue and accounts receivable?’
Follow-up interview questions will delve deeper into the nuances of accounting. It’s normal to be nervous about being quizzed about your job knowledge, but you can prepare for it. Ask a friend or colleague with financial experience to practice answering questions with you.
Unless you’re taking a timed online test, don’t feel pressured to rush your answer. Take a moment to evaluate the question in your mind to be sure you understand it completely before answering:
‘Deferred revenue is payment received from customers before goods have been delivered or services performed in the future. Accounts receivable is the money owed from customers for goods and services already provided.’
7. ‘What experience do you have in accounting in our industry?
While basic accounting principles remain the same, the hiring manager will want to know that you understand the particular needs of their industry. This is an easy interview question if you have extensive experience in that field, but you’ll have to get more creative if your career has been more varied.
Include any industry experience, even if it’s not an exact match to the job you’re applying for. For your other jobs, explain how the skills acquired will easily transfer to the role they’re offering, as in this sample answer:
‘My last two accounting jobs were in the retail sector, and I believe my experience there will be useful when assessing expenditures and ways to cut costs. My first job after college was actually as a night auditor for a local hotel chain. I provided customer service and processed invoices, reconciled accounts, and distributed employee checks and other financial tasks. This job gave me a lot of insight into hotel operations and valuable experience in multi-tasking and working independently.’
8. ‘Why are you interested in this company?’
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a job interview is to research the company you’ve applied to. Anything you learn about the firm’s services, products, clients, employees and mission will help you tailor your interview questions accordingly.
Remember that employers are looking for someone interested in more than just a paycheque. Talk about your connection to the company’s mission. Explain how your set of skills and experience will help them achieve their goals. For example:
‘I admire the outstanding reputation your company has, with your commitment to ethical sourcing and green technology and public transparency with your business practices and partnerships. My certification with AICPA shows my commitment to their code of professional conduct. My accounting work with two national charities has given me experience in ensuring accuracy and strict compliance with state and national laws. I would be proud to help you maintain your standards of honesty and ethics in your financial department and ensure continuing public trust.’
9. ‘What impact do you think automation and AI will have on the future of accounting?’
Most jobs have changed due to upgraded technology, and some careers could be eliminated in the near future. This is one of the most common interview questions for accountants because automation has significantly impacted the field.
The best answer to this question addresses the benefits of technology to assist your efforts rather than replace them. Stress your adaptability, as in this sample response:
‘I believe technology develops exactly at the rate that we need it. Accountants, particularly at a large company like yours, must analyse, interpret and report vast amounts of data. Automation takes over repetitive tasks like auditing for errors or performing the monthly reconciliation. This frees the team up to work on more interpretive tasks that require the human touch and keeps them more engaged and productive. I’m always interested in learning about new technology that can help me work faster and more easily evaluate all aspects of the company’s financial health.’
10. ‘How do you organise and prioritise multiple tasks?’
This is one of the top accountant interview questions because juggling multiple duties with various deadlines is a defining factor of the job. The best answers to this question will address your organisation, time management and teamwork skills. Try to illustrate how your experience has factored into your process, as in this sample answer:
‘I use multiple to-do lists to help keep my ongoing projects and daily tasks organised and my progress easily tracked. I mark each entry as high, moderate, or low priority. This can be based on deadlines, my supervisor’s instructions, or the needs of the client.
I learned right away that some clients declare every assignment as urgent, whether it is or not. If, say, their quarterly tax filing is still over a month away, that won’t make the high priority list. I will, however, set a due date for myself to complete the task to assure the client still receives the excellent service they expect.
I also coordinate with my team to prioritise any reports that they need to complete their tasks. I communicate with my supervisor regularly to stay on top of potential delays or an unexpected issue that must go to the top of the list.’
It’s not always easy to answer interview questions, especially when you have no idea what they may ask next. Be confident in your expertise, and take a few moments to consider a question before you answer.
Practising some standard responses ahead of time will certainly help you prepare! We hope this list of the top accounting interview questions was useful.
Which of these questions have you had to answer in past interviews? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 8 June 2015.