Be Prepared With These Accounting Interview Questions and Answers
The job market can be tough, and therefore, every job seeker needs to have a bulletproof resume to bolster their chances of being invited to a job interview. However, getting invited to a job interview is not a guarantee that you will get the job.
If you want to land the job, you also need to ace the interview, and one way of increasing your chances of success during the interview is to prepare for some of the questions the interviewer might ask.
This is especially important if you are interviewing for an accounting position, since some accounting interview questions can be quite tough.
If you have an upcoming accounting interview and want to walk into the interview room well prepared, we have compiled for you a list of some of the accounting questions you might be asked, as well as some great answers to these questions. Below are the questions.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN ACCOUNTING?
With this question, the interviewer wants to get a sense of you as a person and understand what motivates you.
Do you love working in accounting? Are you in it just for the money or do you have something deeper to draw from?
Accounting may not sound like the most exciting profession to most people, but that’s not the attitude an accountant should have. For an accountant, accounting should be as thrilling as firefighting is for a fireman.
When answering this question, you want to give a story that explains to the interviewer what inspired you to get into accounting.
There is no right answer for this question. It all depends on how you answer it and the passion you demonstrate.
Remember, your prospective employer cannot afford to keep hiring new people every now and then. Hiring is an expensive affair, and therefore, the best case scenario for them is to hire new employees as few times as possible.
For that reason, the company will aim to hire not just the best, but also the most passionate and dedicated, and one who is likely to remain with the company for a long time.
When they ask you why you are pursuing a career in accounting, one of the things your prospective employer is trying to find out is whether you are going to quit your job a few months after being employed to pursue some other line of work.
This question also seeks to find out whether you are someone who loves the job and is going to do their work passionately, rather than someone who merely tolerates the job for the paycheck at the end of the month.
Below is a good example of how you could answer this question:
“I have loved math since I was in high school. Numbers fascinate me because they are always precise and direct, with no room for ambiguity. I love that the rules are so well-defined. With numbers, one is always on solid ground. When the numbers fail to line up, I enjoy doing some troubleshooting to find the discrepancy. This fascination with numbers is what led me to the field of accounting, and ever since I chose accounting as a career, I have not had any regrets.”
WHAT ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?
As an accountant, you are going to be working with various accounting software a lot, since automation makes work easier and faster. You will be expected to have some familiarity with accounting software.
When the employer asks this question, he or she wants to see how plugged in you are with current practices.
Therefore, you should do your homework on this before going to the interview.
Even if you do not know how to use any of the software, it’s a good thing to have some knowledge about some of the most popular accounting software.
Based on how you answer this question, your employer will find out if you have any experience as an accountant.
Do not pretend to be an expert if you have no familiarity with the software.
This could backfire on you if the employer decides to give you a practical test on the software.
Instead, you should answer truthfully about your level of experience with the accounting software, but demonstrate a deep curiosity and desire to learn.
If the employer sees your dedication and desire to learn, they might be willing to give you the job and train you accordingly.
Below is an example of how to answer this question, assuming that the only accounting software you are conversant with is QuickBooks.
“The only accounting application I have worked with at the moment is QuickBooks, which I enjoyed using because of its effectiveness, accuracy, ease of use, and speed. I am open to learning how to operate other accounting applications.”
HAVE YOU EVER HELPED REDUCE COSTS AT A PREVIOUS ACCOUNTING JOB? TAKE US THROUGH WHAT YOU DID
Being an accountant is not just about balancing the books. You also have to add value to your employer by helping them save money.
As an accountant, due to your deep familiarity with the numbers, you will be able to see inefficiencies others in the company cannot see, things that are draining money without giving much return.
This is one of the major reasons why employers hire accountants.
Naturally, at the job interview, your prospective employers will be keen to know if you are this kind of proactive accountant who will help them save money.
Answer this question by describing a time when you successfully helped your employer reduce costs through your personal innovation or diligence.
If you have the financial details of that success, remember to take them with you to the interview, just in case your interviewer wants you to elaborate.
Here is an example of how you could answer this question:
“In my previous job, during a routine analysis, I noticed that the company was spending money on transactions that were not tax deductible, yet these transactions could be replaced with other equal transactions that were eligible for tax deductions. I presented my findings and recommended that the company shift to the tax deductible transactions. My proposal was accepted, and as a result, the company saw 5% in tax expenses.”
WHAT DO YOU DO TO ENSURE ACCURACY?
Accuracy is key in accounting. You cannot afford even minor mistakes as they can lead to huge losses of money at scale.
The accountant must be incredibly scrupulous and obsessive about the details, ensuring everything is accurate and just right.
Since we are all human, it is easy to sometimes forget small details.
However, as an accountant, you cannot afford to miss anything.
By asking this question, your prospective employer wants to know that you are the kind of accountant who is always keen about every detail, that you are passionate about accuracy and have come up with strategies to ensure you are always 100% accurate, lest you lose the company millions.
Below is an example of how you could answer this question:
“To avoid the risk of making errors in entering accounting data, I automate the data entry process using tool XYZ. Once I complete an accounting project, I also double check my work to ensure that no errors have slipped through the net.”
HOW DO YOU HANDLE EXPLAINING A COMPLEX ACCOUNTING ISSUE TO A PERSON WHO HAS NO ACCOUNTING BACKGROUND?
Accounting can be very opaque and hard to understand. When accountants are talking shop, lay people will find it difficult to understand.
Even people who have degrees in business but didn’t specialize in accounting may still have a problem understanding the deeper concepts of accounting.
This is why accountants are valuable to organizations – just like lawyers, they have mastered a field that is inaccessible to most, but which is absolutely necessary.
However, employers will be more attracted to you if you show you possess the ability to translate complex accounting concepts into language a layman can understand.
This is a skill that will come in handy in the organization when you are interacting with people from other departments or with your boss who may not have an accounting background.
The interviewer may give you an example of an accounting problem or concept they consider complex and ask you to explain it to them as if they had no accounting background.
Ability to communicate clearly and break down complex concepts into language the other party can understand will determine if you would be good in an advisory role, such as direct contact with clients or with people from other departments.
When responding to this question, demonstrate and emphasize your communication skills, storytelling ability, and willingness to be a team player.
Below is an example of a great answer to this question:
“I understand that accounting can be a complex subject to people who have no accounting background, and therefore when explaining complex accounting issues to such a person, I like using analogies to make it easier for the person to understand the concepts I’m talking about. In addition, I try as much as possible to avoid using accounting jargon, since doing so makes it harder for the person to understand these issues.”
HAVE YOU EVER USED AUTOMATION OR WORKFLOW STREAMLINING?
Why slog through a monotonous task when you can delegate the task to a computer application?
Automation has enabled accountants to focus on the more demanding and non-monotonous areas of their work. It has also helped with improving accuracy.
Your prospective employer will want to know how comfortable you are with automation, since organization will keep doing more and more using software tools as technology continues to become more sophisticated.
Think back to times during your career as an accountant when you have used automation or workflow streamlining to make your accounting process more efficient.
If you can answer this question affirmatively, it shows that you have enough experience in the field, that you are open and determined enough to look for ways to improve your accounting processes, and that you are tech-savvy enough to use these automation tools.
A good example of a possible answer to this question is:
“At my previous job, I synchronized the company’s bank accounts and corporate credit card systems with the accounting solution, thus decreasing the amount of time I had to spend typing manually. I spent the extra time I now I had analyzing accounting discrepancies and doing follow ups on employee expense reports.”
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A TIGHT DEADLINE IS APPROACHING AND YOU HAVE MULTIPLE ACCOUNTING PROJECTS TO WORK ON?
Deadlines are common in most jobs and therefore, this is a question that will apply in many careers.
Accounting projects often have a strict deadline and you are likely to be working on several projects at the same time.
When the interviewer asks this question, they are trying to gauge your ability to prioritize tasks and tackle high-pressure situations. In other words, are you a responsible person who has a can-do attitude? Are you able to follow through and complete your various tasks?
Time management skills are exceedingly critical, and the employer is attempting to figure out if you can be trusted to manage your own time and work effectively with minimal supervision.
Are you able to prioritize the most important accounting decisions?
Navigating tight deadlines and multiple projects is an important skill and the employer wants to see how much you have internalized it.
Below is an example of how to answer this question:
“If I realize that I have multiple projects with looming deadlines, the first thing I do is to review each deadline, and then prioritize the projects by its deadline, while at the same time considering how important the project is. I then work on the highest priority projects first before moving on to the other projects. To avoid finding myself in a situation where I have to deal with multiple projects with tight deadlines, I always start working on projects as soon as I can.”
HOW DO YOU DETECT FRAUDULENT ENTRIES IN A LEDGER OR JOURNAL?
Embezzlement and frauds of all kind may be happening within a company, losing the employer lots of money.
It is the accountant’s job to sniff out anything that seems suspicious in the business’s accounting records.
This is how you bring extra value to your employer.
As an accountant, you should be vigilant so as to detect fraud and thus protect the finances, values, and reputation of the company.
The employer wants to see if you have thought keenly about fraud detection and if you have come up with strategies to help you tell, with a reasonable level of accuracy, when fraud is being perpetrated.
The employer also wants to determine your level of familiarity with fraud detection tools, your ethics, and your understanding of common fraudulent behavior
In answering this question, you should demonstrate your ability to combine the use of software features and your own well-honed judgment to detect fraudulent or unusual patterns.
An example of a good answer to this question would be:
“Most enterprise resource planning platforms have automated features to monitor fraud, and I always use these features to detect any anomalies or inconsistencies that might be indicators of fraud. Once a transaction is flagged, I then conduct an in-depth investigation to find out whether I am actually dealing with fraud or not.”
WHAT METHODS DO YOU USE TO ESTIMATE BAD DEBT?
The interviewer wants to hear what methods you have used with previous employers to estimate bad debts.
If you are a recent grad who hasn’t yet had much experience in the field, you can use your theoretical knowledge to come up with an educated answer to this question.
Even better, you can do the research and go to your next interview prepared.
Your response will demonstrate to the interviewer how much understanding you have of the most commonly used methods.
It is a way to gauge your level of experience.
If you have experience with different methods of estimating bad debt, here is a good example of how you could answer this question:
“I am conversant with most methods of estimating bad debt, including the aging method, the allowance method, and the percentage of credit sales method.”
You can then give a short description of each method.
DO YOU HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE DOING XYZ?
This is a question that might recur in many forms during the interview, and the approach to answering the different forms of this question is similar.
When you encounter this question, don’t answer with “no” or say that you have no experience with whatever you are being asked. No is such a final word.
It indicates an unwillingness to learn and a lack of openness, and that is definitely not the image you want to portray.
The best way to answer this question when the answer is “no” is to talk about what you can already do that is closely related to the skill and how this will help give you a better insight when learning the skill, enabling you to learn faster.
The point is to demonstrate to the interviewer that you are a proactive person and that you are ready to learn, that you will put in the time and effort to learn what you already don’t know.
Saying no gives them a reason not to hire you, and you never want to give an interviewer that, since what they are usually doing is looking for a reason not to hire you so that they can narrow down their long list of candidates.
When not knowledgeable in the skill they have asked for, think for a related skill and say something like:
“My experience may be limited in XYZ, but I am an expert at ABC, which is quite similar to XYZ and so it won’t be much of a struggle for me to learn the skill fast. I am a fast and constant learner who is always looking for ways to update my knowledge with what is current.”
This question is also about demonstrating your knowledge.
Even when you don’t have experience in XYZ, you may at least have some theoretical knowledge of the topic and you can find a way to demonstrate that in your response.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHICH IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE ACCOUNTING FIELD?
Why are you an accountant? Are you in it temporarily or are you in it for the long haul? When one is in a career for the long haul, and when one is passionate about their career, they will pay attention to the things happening in their field.
They will think about the future of their line of work, try to identify some challenges that they might face in future, and start thinking about what can be done to avoid or overcome these challenges.
By asking this question, your prospective employer wants to know if you are someone who is passionate about their career, one who pays attention to what is going on, and one who thinks about the future of their line of work.
The interviewer wants you to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of your profession and a commitment to it.
They want to see how aware you are of the industry’s challenges.
Having an opinion on such a matter reflects well on you because it indicates that you care enough for your job to have an opinion.
It is good to note that this is a broad question and there is no one right answer.
It all depends on how you express yourself and build your case for why you think the challenge you’re talking about is the biggest one facing the field.
Below is an example of a great answer to this question.
“I would say that the greatest challenge in the accounting field has been and will continue to be the constantly changing tax codes. This means that, as an accountant, you have to constantly familiarize yourself with new tax codes that might not be in use in the next couple of years. However, this is part of what being an accountant entails, so we just have to embrace it.”
These are some of the questions that you are likely to be asked in an accounting interview.
As you can see, these are generally a mix of questions that help the interviewer find out about your personality and character, your accounting skills, experience, and work ethic.
Preparing how to answer these questions will allow you to present yourself in the best light and increase your chances of getting the job.
For best results, you should combine these questions with other common interview questions that you are likely to encounter regardless of the position you are applying for.
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