Interviewing potential job candidates is a tough gig. Not only are you trying to find someone with the technical skills needed to get the job done, but you’re also looking for someone who can mesh well with the rest of the team. You’re looking for someone with sound ethics who works well under pressure and a dozen more desirable traits.
So how do you ask questions that really get to the information you seek? You can ask about their biggest weakness or where they see themselves in five years, but those questions are trite, overused, and job candidates typically have well-rehearsed answers ready. Instead, check out the best interview questions to ask accounting and finance pros – and some ideas about the kind of answers you’re seeking.
How do you minimize the risk of errors in your work?
Everyone makes mistakes, but small errors in accounting and finance can lead to significant financial issues. Accounting and finance professionals should have routines in place for double checking their work.
What accounting software have you used in the past?
No doubt about it: the accounting industry is in the midst of major change, most of that hinging on technology. Your job applicant doesn’t need to have experience using the particular set of software applications you use, but they should have some technological competence and a willingness to learn.
What is the difference between AR and AP?
This question will weed out candidates who lack basic accounting knowledge. You’d be surprised at how many people apply for jobs and, on paper, have a decent amount of experience, but soon reveal themselves to be lacking the most basic technical skills.
Tell me about a time you set a challenging goal and what you did to achieve it.
Many accounting and finance employers are moving away from measuring productivity by number of hours worked and moving toward results-driven measurements. You need someone who understands setting goals and systematically working toward them. Even if their answer includes personal goals, people who set goals in their personal life are more likely to set – and achieve – goals in their professional lives.
What kind of things do you not like to do?
This can be a tricky question, and you may have to ask it a few times in different ways to get an honest answer. But once you do, it can reveal a lot about whether the candidate is a good fit for the position. Does an applicant for an Accounts Receivable position dislike following up with customers? Does the candidate for a client-facing position hate small talk? Does your finance candidate dread digging into the details? These could be red flags if the tasks they dislike most are main components of the position.
When you have competing priorities, how do you strategize to get everything done on time?
Trying to juggle multiple deadlines and expectations is a given in the accounting and finance world. The applicant will need to be able to communicate with their supervisors to prioritize tasks and strategize to get work done on time.
How do you keep up with changes in the industry?
Accounting and finance are ever-evolving due to new legislation, pronouncements, and standards. While it’s impossible for one person to keep up on everything happening in the industry, they should have some method for staying abreast of current changes. Do they subscribe to industry publications, read newsletters, or take part in continuing education and professional groups? If they make no personal effort to keep informed, it could be a sign that their professional growth has stagnated.
Effective interviewers will have several questions in their arsenal to screen applicants, but don’t be afraid to go off script! Sometimes the most revealing aspects of an interview are uncovered during an off-the-cuff conversation.
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