Accounting is a competitive field. Employers often have many qualified candidates to weed through, so it’s important to be well prepared for your interview. This guide is divided into technical, behavioral, and general accountant interview questions, all of which will assist you in identifying which areas you might want to work on before your interview.
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What Is an Accountant?
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An accountant, sometimes referred to as a bookkeeper, is a professional responsible for recording business transactions, creating financial reports, and issuing financial statements. Most accountants are in charge of the financial documents of a business. However, it is important to note that the roles and responsibilities of accountants vary based on the organization.
Accountants are required to have the skills needed to perform their duties. Some of these skills include analytical, communication, computer literacy, and math skills. Additionally, accountants are often required to be familiar with accounting software and pay very close attention to detail.
Answers to the Most Common Accountant Interview Questions
Most accountants fail to get their desired accounting position not because they are not qualified but because they overlook the interview process. Preparing for the interview is an important part of getting an accounting role in any company.
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The lack of proper preparation for accountant interviews renders many professionals jobless in the field. This article gives you insight into common interview questions you can expect, and some of the ways you can prepare.
Top Five Technical Accountant Interview Questions and Answers
You can use these top five technical questions and answers to get a better sense of what hiring managers are looking for in applicants. They use these technical interview questions to find experts in the field who can add value to their company.
How do you develop business metrics?
A hiring manager asks this to determine how you assess the general financial health of a company. Key stakeholders rely on business metrics to inform their decisions with regard to the finances of the company. You must be well versed with basic elements of financial metrics to answer this common accounting interview question.
When you answer this question, you’ll want to make sure you include accounting terms like liquidity ratios, asset efficiency ratios, or financial leverage ratios. Liquidity ratios are key in evaluating the ability of the business to fund its operations. Financial leverage ratios help stakeholders understand the financial risk of the company. To evaluate how efficiently management is using assets, accountants rely on asset efficiency ratios.
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What’s the difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable?
This question tests your technical knowledge of the accounts the company has. The recruiters expect an in-depth explanation of the key difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable. Accounts payable refers to the money owed to creditors and suppliers in the general ledger. Whereas accounts receivable refers to the money owed to the company by clients.
You can mention that accounts payable refers to the current liability of the company. Whereas accounts receivable refers to the current assets. It is important to further explain how a failure in payment of either account can result in bad debts. You can also mention the significance of an intangible asset in this question.
The recruiting team may expect you to give examples of liability accounts and tangible assets. You can also add information on the types of accounts in a company. Explain that double-entry bookkeeping involves the production of financial reports from income accounts, expense accounts, asset accounts, and capital accounts.
Are you familiar with different financial statements?
The recruiting team is keen on employing a candidate who can easily communicate financial jargon to stakeholders. This is why they ask applicants if they are conversant with financial statements.
Companies require accountants to exercise in-depth accounting knowledge when using balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements to provide insight into the business’s financial performance.
To answer this common accounting interview question, you can discuss the role of each financial statement and its relevance in accounting. Make sure to include how a financial statement touches on a business’s assets and liabilities in the long run. It is also important to showcase how these documents contribute to the accounting book value that informs stakeholders’ decisions.
Can you describe the entire accounting process?
The interviewers ask this question to determine whether you are familiar with the accounting cycle. This question is an excellent way of determining your knowledge of the best practices for different types of accounting.
The accounting process includes the identification, analysis, and recording of the accounting events of a business. It’s an eight-step process that starts with a transaction and finishes with the completion of a financial statement.
Make sure you mention each step of the cycle. You can go a step further by mentioning the relevance of each step. If you have in-depth knowledge of any type of accounting, such as management accounting, financial accounting, and cost accounting, you can include it in your explanation. You’ll want to explain the branches of accounting that you’re familiar with at this point, and differentiate between a budget cycle and an accounting cycle.
Has artificial intelligence had an impact on accounting?
Interviewers ask this question to test your knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI) in accounting. Through it, they determine whether you can combine technical expertise in AI to optimize mundane tasks. Since accountants handle a lot of repetitive activities, they need to ensure that their financial reports are timely and consistent to meet the needs of the stakeholders.
To answer this question, you can explain how AI has increased output quality by reducing human errors in accounting. Make sure to mention that there is real-time data processing, and through Natural Language Processing, reporting is now faster and less expensive. You can also mention the downsides of AI includes, such as legal risks and cyber security concerns.
Top Five Behavioral Accountant Interview Questions and Answers
Behavioral interview questions are an excellent way for recruiting managers to understand the demeanor of an applicant. They rely on the answers to these common questions to gauge how professionally an applicant is able to operate under stressful circumstances.
How long have you worked during tax season?
This question gives them an idea of whether you know what to expect during really busy times, and if you’re up for the challenge. For example, during tax season, accountants are in demand and may work 70 hours a week to ensure everything is completed on time.
If you aren’t new to the field of public accounting, you already know how tough tax season can be for an accountant. Your answer should include some details of what accountants endure during tax season, but you should mainly focus on the coping mechanisms you use to ensure you’re providing quality work. Your answer should be comprehensive and honest.
Have you ever made a mistake in accounting? How did you handle it?
Here, the hiring manager wants to determine your level of honesty, how you respond to accounting errors, and your ability to bounce back. As you already know, accountants deal with different documents at all times. Common accounting errors are normal.
To address the question, mention a scenario where you made an accounting error. Explain why you made the mistake and how you addressed it. Make sure that you give an honest answer and be prudent in outlining the lessons you learned from the situation, as well as the steps you’ve taken to avoid repeating it.
Have you ever explained a difficult accounting concept to a client or stakeholder?
This question lets them know whether you can communicate complex accounting concepts in simple terms. Accounting professionals must be able to simplify complex topics, as business owners rely on their expertise and expect relevant information conveyed in a way that is easy to digest.
In this case, explain a personal experience that touches on the subject matter. Make sure your answer is thorough and showcases how your specialized knowledge impacted the people on the receiving end. It’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, as well as your soft skills.
Have you ever had to beat a tight deadline?
Hiring managers want to establish your time management and organization skills. They also rely on the answer to determine your work ethic and whether you work well under pressure. This will undoubtedly be one of the most important answers you give.
Use this opportunity to demonstrate how you handled a project that was impossible to finish in a short period of time. Make sure you tell a legitimate story as the recruiting teams often conduct background checks. You might also want to consider expanding on how you manage your time and organize projects to ensure you meet your deadlines.
Have you ever faced a major setback in accounting? How did you handle it?
Interviewers use this question to gauge your level of honesty, self-awareness, and what you consider a failure. It’s important to remember that they’re fully aware that setbacks exist and are likely to occur during your employment with them.
Instead of denying that you’ve experienced any setbacks, use a real experience you’ve had, and explain how you approached it. To answer the question, use the STAR method in your approach. This stands for “situation, task, action, result”. This method will help you to answer the question directly without veering off the topic.
Top Five General Accountant Interview Questions and Answers
To learn more about your accounting experience, hiring managers use general accountant interview questions. How you answer them will help them gauge your exposure in the accounting field and your ability to carry out the tasks at hand.
Most accountants don’t expect their answers to general questions to have a significant impact on an employer’s decision. However, that is not the case. Your answers to these questions will heavily influence the final decision. To make sure you get them just right, follow the sample answer provided for each question.
How many industries have you worked in as an accountant?
This question helps them determine your level of experience and your accounting background. They also want to gauge the vastness of your accounting skills. Through this question, they can also assess accounting managers’ exposure to accounting tools.
You must remain honest in your answer. Be sure to highlight the variety of tools and skills you’ve gained through the industries you’ve worked in. If you have worked in several industries, you’ll want to name all of them, and briefly mention significant takeaways.
Do you have experience with accounting software?
The interviewers need to establish whether you have general knowledge of the industry. They need to determine which types of accounting software programs you are familiar with and whether your software skills are relevant to their procedures.
Don’t worry, this is not a trick question. If your experience differs or if you are not yet familiar with the accounting programs use at a particular firm, be honest and let them know. Most employers are more than willing to train the candidate they favor in accordance with their standards and procedures. An honest answer is unlikely to hurt your chances of getting the job.
To answer the question, you can mention several accounting systems and software relevant to the practice. Make sure you also mention their functions and benefits, which may include automating invoices, creating a balance sheet, tracking expenses, reconciling financial statements, creating reports, and keeping abreast of the tax obligations.
Which is the most prevalent challenge in accounting?
Hiring managers want to establish whether you are conversant with the looming challenges that you’ll face in your position. They want to establish your critical thinking process and whether you will be able to tackle the problems you face head on. This question is also a great way to determine whether you keep updated on new technology and developments in accounting.
To answer this question, mention some of the challenges you have faced in your career as an accountant. You can mention the cash flow statement, tax law changes, regulatory changes, payroll management, or budgeting. You can also discuss some personal challenges you have faced on the job. It would also be a good idea to address the solutions and methods you use to mitigate such problems.
Why did you choose a career in accounting?
This general accounting question has varied answers depending on the applicant. They usually ask this question to learn more about you and your career goals and identify any positive or negative qualities in the candidate.
This is a very personal question and there is not really a wrong answer. It’s a good idea to determine how much you feel comfortable sharing with the interviewer before you begin the interview.
Why do you want to join our company?
This is an excellent opportunity to display your knowledge of the company and explain how you can contribute to them. You can mention the company’s history, major achievements, and values.
You can also mention how the company’s work environment and vision align with what you’re seeking in a workplace. You should also touch on how your skills can impact the future of the company.
Tips to Prepare for an Accountant Interview
1. Demonstrate Your Value
Although there are many accounting jobs, accounting is a competitive field, filled with many impressive candidates. Hiring managers are scanning the expertise and knowledge of candidates to decide who will be the best fit. For this reason, it’s important that you are confident in demonstrating your value to the company.
Accountants play a vital role in financial institutions. Make sure you research the company you’re applying for and are aware of any existing gaps where your expertise can shine. You can use the job description as a point of reference in your preparation, but be sure to include any of your additional skills or experiences that will boost your appeal.
2. Research the Company
You don’t want to walk into an accountant interview without knowing the ins and outs of the hiring company. Do diligent research to learn about the company culture, work environment, and values. Find out what the company requires to increase profitability, and how you can add value to the existing accounting team.
3. Learn More About the Field
Are you familiar with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation? The FASB and IFRS Foundation establish the financial accounting standards in public and private companies. They also tackle the accounting standards in non-profit companies. You must familiarize yourself with these two bodies that are part and parcel of the accounting profession.
It is also important to familiarize yourself with any new accounting trends. Learn about the role artificial intelligence plays, forecasting tools, digital transformation, or changes in tax policy. Updating yourself on these vital aspects will set you apart from other ideal candidates.
What Skills Should I Put on My Accountant Resume?
The skills you put on your accountant resume should reflect your technical ability to handle the day-to-day activities of an accounting job. Hiring managers rely on applicant tracking systems to establish which resumes get to proceed forward for interviews. You must input the right skills to land your dream job.
Standards of Accounting
You’ll want to include Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in your resume. This will showcase to employers your expertise in the best accounting practices. Compliant accountants are familiar with principles of regularity, consistency, sincerity, permanence of methods, non-compensation, and continuity.
Hiring managers are keen on employing accountants who have integrity. They conduct background checks because of the highly confidential information that you and other accountants handle. Make sure you mention knowledge of the basic rules of accounting and accounting ethics.
Data analysis skills are crucial in this field. The main job of an accountant is to help companies discover valuable insight from their financial data. You must be able to make improvements to increase efficiency and mitigate risks. Through your knowledge in data science, you will use taxation questions to determine behavioral patterns in the market.
Recruitment teams consider data analysis one of the top skills for accountants. With strong data analysis skills, you can handle large datasets and increase the profitability margin. Through the accountant’s expertise, the managers can develop business models that ensure the company’s growth. This is why data analysis is a top skill in accountant resumes.
Being proficient in accounting software is definitely something you want to mention on your resume. Some of the most popular accounting software include QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, Wave, and Sage 50cloud Accounts. Ideally, you would be proficient in at least two of these accounting software programs.
Hiring managers will consider your software proficiency when determining if you have the skills required for the position. If you aren’t familiar with the software that the hiring company uses, keep in mind that most employers will be happy to train you in new software, especially if you meet all other criteria.
How to Find Accounting Jobs
Finding accounting jobs can be a bit challenging for new accountants. However, there are some excellent websites that you can visit to start your career in accounting. These accounting forums, communities, and boards can help you develop a professional network and land a job as a financial accountant.
iHireAccounting is one of the most popular job boards for employers, which makes it a great employment resource for job seekers who are interested in accounting or finance. This job board does require payment, which varies depending on how much access you want. Additionally, the site offers career and employment services to both employers and employees.
The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) is very well known in the accounting community. The association partners with the American Institute of CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to ensure the prosperity of businesses and economies across the globe. With over 696,000 members and professionals in public and private accounting, there are a plethora of job opportunities to choose from.
AccountingCrossing is an accounting platform with nearly 100,000 current job opportunities. They allow employers to post job vacancies and scour through the resume database. Meanwhile, job seekers can apply for positions, receive career advice, and have access to related resources from the site. For basic access, AccountingCrossing is free.
Accountant Interview Questions FAQ
The most common accounting mistakes are errors of omission, failure to follow procedures, negative working capital, accrual journal entry, and failure to back up accounting software. You can use these points to improve your practice and even mention them during an accounting interview when asked.
Yes, you can become an accountant without a degree. Education paths such as community college, bootcamps, vocational schools, and certification programs offer training in accounting. However, it is important to note that to become a certified public accountant, you will need a bachelor’s degree.
The biggest accounting challenges are financial reporting, capital flow, upskilling, tax liability, and expense management. You may find recruiters asking about these things to test your knowledge of the accounting industry and determine your expertise in tackling the challenges.
During accountant job interviews, it’s important to make sure that the company you’re applying with meets your needs and is a good fit for you. Some good questions you want to consider asking include: What is your leadership or management style? What major clients do you have? Does the company provide professional development training? What is the work environment like? What is the company culture like?
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