Most people make two devastating mistakes when being interviewed: failing to listen to the question and attempting to answer questions with virtually no preparation. Practicing for your interview is a key component in the application process and can make or break your chances for getting the job you want.
Below you will find fourteen of the most frequently asked interview questions, regardless of job classification. Study these example Q&A’s carefully and develop a strong response for each one; make sure to tailor your answers to your own work history as well as the position to which you’re applying.
Accounting Behavioral Interview Questions
Behavioral interviews involve the company asking non-technical questions about your past experiences in order to find out if you have the skills and personality needed for the job. Behavioral interviews are all about asking how you handled past situations as a predictor of how you will handle similar situations in the future.
The key to answering these questions well is to elaborate on the situation as much as possible by telling a convincing story. The story should provide context to the interviewer with regards to the situation you faced, steps you took in various stages of the scenario, and the specific outcomes and results from the event. This method is also known as the STAR Method, which can be broken down as follows:
- S – Situation: Outline the situation that you faced that best relate to the questions asked by the interviewer
- T – Task: Detail the task and the problem at hand ensuring to include details such as timeline, stakeholders involved, and effort level with respect to the skills you possess
- A – Action: Explain the action steps taken to solve the issue including challenges that arose from the work and how you worked to solve those challenges
- R – Results: Highlight the successes of your actions and tangible results from your actions including any milestones achieved (e.g. resolved major conflict, improved sales by 50%, or streamlined processes to save time and resources)
You should aim to know your stories by heart and practice refining your answers to the behavioral questions listed below. Make sure you prepare well ahead of time, so when the time comes for the interview, all you have to do is relax and show off all your experiences.
1) Why do you want to work here?
Because you have done your homework on the company, you know exactly why you want to work there. Just organize you reasons into several short hard-hitting sentences. Ex: “You make the best product on the market today. Your management is farsighted enough to reinvest the company’s profits so that you will soon be the leader in this category.” In addition, provide why you believe your past experience will translate well into the new role.
2) Why do you want to change jobs?
This is one of the first questions interviewers ask. Be sure you are ready for it! If you are currently in a dead-end position, locked out of advancement opportunities, explain this. The interviewer will understand. If your job has become routine, and void of learning experiences, say so. If you feel your present employer is losing ground to competition through no fault of yours, the interviewer will also accept that. Choose your words carefully; instead of saying that you hate your boss, try phrasing it as “unfortunately, the culture of our department has changed.”
3) What interests you most about this position?
Give a truthful but brief answer showing the interviewer your profound knowledge of the company. Be sure to highlight any details that may tie to the job itself or other aspects of the company (e.g. company culture, ability to showcase your great leadership skills, advancement opportunities)
4) What is your greatest strength? (Have at least 3 strengths to share)
Isolate high points from your background and build in a couple of the key value profiles from different categories. You will want to demonstrate pride, reliability and the ability to stick with a difficult task yet change course rapidly when required. You can rearrange the previous answer here. Your answer in part might be: “I believe in planning and proper management of my time but I can still work under pressure.”
5) What is your energy level like? Describe a typical day.
You must demonstrate good use of your time. You believe in planning your day beforehand and that when it is over, you review your own performance to make sure you are reaching the desired goals. No one wants an employee who’s not committed to a job well done, so you should sell you energy level.
6) How have you helped sales/profits/cost reductions?
Have your hero stories ready and be willing to prove that you have made significant contributions in one or more of these basic areas. Keep your explanations short and try to include specific amounts.
7) How many people have you supervised?
Similar to the “hired/fired” question, the interviewer is trying to determine the depth of your experience. Do not exaggerate!
8) What are the reasons for your success?
It is best to keep this answer very general, permitting the interviewer to probe more deeply. Offer a short list of positive character traits that describe YOU. Ex “I like to work hard.” “I get along with all kinds of people and I know how to listen.” or “I pay close attention to details; I know how to watch costs and keep difficult customers smiling.”
9) What would you like to be doing five years from now?
To answer this question, make sure you know exactly what can or cannot be accomplished by the ideal candidate in your shoes. Too many job-hunters butcher this question because they have not done their homework and have no idea where their career will lead them. If you see yourself at another company or in another department of the company you are interviewing with, then tread lightly.
10) How long will you stay with the company?
A reasonable response would be, “As long as I continue to learn and grow in my field.”
11) What kind of experience do you have for this job?
Summarize four or five key areas of experience you know you can bring to your new job. Demonstrate how each one will help the interviewer’s company solve their problems. For example, “My experience in new product introductions will be very helpful to your entire marketing effort” or “My industrial design background will strengthen yours sales-force capability in dealing with large clients.”
12) What training/qualifications do you have for a job like this?
Deliver a short, fact-filled summary of your two or three most important qualifications/strengths. “I have a background in accounting. I’ve demonstrated proven selling skills. I’m capable of handling several projects simultaneously.”
13) Why should I hire you?
The interviewer does not want a lengthy regurgitation of your resume. They do not want a barrage of facts and figures. They are interested in testing your poise and confidence. Be ready to talk about your skills, passion and how this job will help achieve your professional goals.
Accounting Technical Interview Questions
Technical interviews involve the company asking industry-specific questions to test your knowledge and understanding of the accounting field. Wherever possible, be sure to highlight any work experiences related to the questions asked to show that you’re able to translate your knowledge into quality work.
1) Outline and explain the three financial statements
Highlight the following: 1) The balance sheet highlights a company’s assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity 2) The income statement outlines the company’s revenues and expenses 3) The cash flow statement outlines the cash flows from operating, investing, and financing activities.
2) What is the difference between Accounts Receivable (AR) and Accounts Payable (AP)?
Explain that in essence, accounts receivable is the sum of outstanding balances owed to a business by third parties for goods delivered or services rendered, purchased on credit with terms of one year or less whereas accounts payable pays third parties or employees by scheduling and preparing checks, resolving purchase orders, insuring credit is received for outstanding bills, and issuing stop-payments or purchase order amendments.
3) When a company is using double-entry accounting, what elements of a given ledger must be equal?
The elements of a given ledger that should be equal are the debit (dr) and the credit (cr) and they should reflect the balance of the books.
4) Provide an outline of an accounting report that you have prepared in the past
Demonstrate your experience in ensuring the upkeep of various accounting principles, practices and procedures to ensure accurate and high quality financial statements and reporting.
5) What is your role within the month-end close process?
Leveraging tangible experience at your most recent firm, outline your roles and responsibility specifically related to the month-end closing process to demonstrate your full range of capabilities.
6) Describe a time when you’ve made an accounting error and how you handled it.
Highlight a situation where this happened at your previous firm (whether it was a small or large error) including lessons learned and how you took responsibility to resolve the problem.