Controllers are finance experts in charge of a company’s accounting. If you are applying for jobs as a financial controller, you should know that during interviews you will face questions that are both complex and technical. However, you can ace any interview and impress your recruiters if you practice the right questions beforehand.
If you are looking for controller interview questions and answers, you’ve come to the right place. Below you will find a comprehensive list of the most common interview questions for controllers, covering technical and behavioral aspects. We also throw in some tips on how to prepare for the interview and deliver compelling answers.
What Is a Controller?
A controller is a finance professional in charge of overseeing a company’s entire accounting operations. They create budgets, regulate company funds, study financial forecasts, and develop internal control policies and procedures.
Controller jobs range from entry-level to more advanced positions. Larger corporations generally offer it as a senior position because they want someone with a solid educational background and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification.
Due to the complexity of corporate budgets, big corporations usually prefer candidates with years of experience and extensive knowledge in budget management, tax compliance, and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
According to Glassdoor, these professionals bring home handsome salaries. The average salary for a financial controller is as high as $105,000. In addition, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics says that job opportunities for these professionals are set to grow by 17 percent in upcoming years.
Answers to the Most Common Controller Interview Questions
Companies hiring financial controllers look for individuals with specific qualities such as self-motivation and skills in strategic planning and communication. Your first opportunity to demonstrate these qualities is during your interview. You can practice these common controller interview questions to impress the hiring manager.
Top Five Technical Controller Interview Questions and Answers
Technical questions during these interviews tend to be very specific and cover topics such as accounting and financial software, financial management strategies, negotiation skills, or details about your previous work.
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They may also present you with situational questions to assess your problem-solving skills and experience in financial planning. Below you will find five technical controller interview questions together with information on the best way to approach them.
What financial software do you use?
The interviewer wants to know the financial apps or software you are familiar with. Your answer will give them an idea of how you manage data, make financial projections, and perform data analysis. The best way to answer this question is to specify the software you use and briefly tell them how each program helps you make data-driven decisions.
Describe a typical day working as a financial controller
The intention of this question is to assess how productive you would be on a daily basis if you get hired. The interviewer is also testing you on whether you know the primary responsibilities that this role entails.
One way to answer this question is to name your core responsibilities as a controller: ensuring proper accounting practices and setting up financial reporting controls. You can discuss a past financial project and how you coordinated with the accounting department to properly document financial transactions.
What would you do if you find discrepancies in a financial document produced by a member of the executive team?
This question is tricky because it targets your ethics, honesty, and problem-solving skills. One way to answer is to say that you would review company policies on employee conduct. Most likely, you would inform human resources of the discrepancy. If the offense is significant, the board of directors would need to be notified to take appropriate action.
How do you deal with wasteful spending in a company?
This question also assesses your problem-solving skills. You can discuss a previous work experience where you stopped or redirected wasteful spending into something more beneficial for the company. If you have no such experience, describe what you believe is the best approach to minimize wasteful spending.
How do you stay up-to-date with financial trends and new software technologies?
In this question, interviewers want to know how you feel about learning. They want to see how motivated you are to keep abreast of financial trends and whether you can bring the company’s accounting operations in line with these trends. Answer by discussing current economic trends and how they affect companies. Mention also any professional certification you have and what this credential shows.
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Top Five Behavioral Controller Interview Questions and Answers
Behavioral interview questions aim to understand how well you will fit into the company’s work environment and company culture. One of the best ways to handle behavioral interview questions is to use the situation, task, action, result (STAR) method.
In the STAR interview method, you tell a story about a work situation you have experienced related to the question. You then provide details on the required tasks, the actions you took, and the result of that action.
Do you prefer to work alone or as a team?
There’s no wrong answer to this question. Most applicants will say that they prefer to work with a team to show their flexibility and ability to cooperate with other employees. However, some will say they like working independently but can work with others if the work requires it.
How did you prepare or deal with organizational changes in your previous jobs?
Interviewers want to hear examples of actual situations in which you changed accounting and financial protocols or applied risk management techniques. Give them examples of the methods you used to minimize risks and protect the company’s investments and budget.
How do you keep your financial team motivated?
As a financial controller, you will oversee the operations of the entire accounting department. Accounting jobs can be monotonous and repetitive. This question allows you to explain to the interviewer how you keep your team members on their toes, motivated to work daily, and focused on their goals. Discuss your leadership style in handling different personalities and delegating work to increase productivity.
How do you resolve conflict with a boss or coworker?
The key here is to avoid criticizing the person you had a conflict with, and instead, focus on the argument and how you resolved it. Emphasize that listening and understanding the other person’s reasoning and perspective are essential to settle the issue. Stress that compromise is an important part of conflict resolution.
Tell us about a time when you needed to learn new software or products for controlling duties
In this question, the interviewers want to know about your ability to learn new technologies and financial reporting software to help the company keep up with the latest trends. It shows them your flexibility and ability to adapt to changes. To answer this question, tell them about a tool that you recently learned and how you picked it up.
Top 5 General Controller Interview Questions and Answers
During your controller interview, you may face questions that are more general in nature. They seek to measure your soft skills, and your answers will say a lot about your personality, work ethic, and communication skills. Below you will find general questions often asked in interviews and tips on answering them.
Tell us about your previous work experience
When the hiring team asks about your previous job experience you can share a concise account of the most relevant job experiences you have had up to this point. Make sure to highlight achievements as well as challenges and how you approach them. If this is your first job in the field, you can discuss roles you held in other industries or sectors.
Why did you apply for this job at our company?
When interviewers ask this question, they want to know if you are invested in the company. They need to see if you have done your research, how much you know about the company, what the job entails, and whether you see yourself working for them long-term. This is an excellent opportunity to tell them about your long-term career goals and how they fit with the job you are applying for.
What significant challenges do you foresee in the financial industry? How do you think it will affect companies like ours?
This is a general question often asked to gauge your understanding of current financial trends and how you can apply it to risk management within a company. Your answer should show awareness of your responsibilities as a financial controller and whether you are able to adapt to trends and changes to protect the company’s assets.
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Describe a work-related project or accomplishment that you are proud of
With this question, the interviewer wants to know what success looks like for you and how much work are you willing to put in to achieve it. The interviewer is assessing your motivation to achieve your goals and what this means in terms of the value you will bring to the company.
Do you have any questions?
Many applicants would answer “no” to this question, which is the wrong response. When an interviewer asks you if you have any questions, this is an opportunity to show them you are engaged and interested. Ask relevant technical questions related to the company, job duties, and work culture. Show them you want to learn more about the company and that you are truly interested in being part of it.
Tips to Prepare for a Controller Interview
1. Research the Company
One of the best tips we can give you to prepare for your interview is to read as much as you can about the company. Visit its website and read its press releases to learn about its current projects. Likewise, make sure to read the job description thoroughly so that you are completely clear on the job requirements and the skills that the hiring manager is looking for.
2. Take Stock of Your Achievements
During the interview, you want to bring up as many of your achievements as possible to impress the interviewer. Interviewers are looking for quantifiable achievements that show the value you can bring to the company. However, it can be difficult to think of your achievements on the spot. That’s why it is wise to make a list beforehand and memorize it for the interview.
3. Prepare Questions
Often, you will be given a chance to ask questions during the interview. It is best to prepare questions relevant to the company and the work culture. You can ask about general work policies, commonly used software or platforms, and growth and learning opportunities within the company.
What Skills Should I Put on my Controller Resume?
Companies want people with a strong track record in the field and a degree in accounting, business, or related subjects. In addition, to become a financial controller, you need a wide range of abilities, from leadership and interpersonal skills to experience handling financial accounts. The skills and credentials listed below should appear in your resume if you are applying for a controller job.
Earning your certified public accountant (CPA) license can be critical when it comes to landing a well-paying controller job. Big companies prefer to hire finance professionals with a CPA license because they have a broader understanding of financial management. Additionally, this credential shows a commitment to the profession.
Financial and Regulatory Compliance Expertise
Your resume can easily be shortlisted if you have experience in financial compliance. Professionals with skills and experience in compliance are instrumental in helping companies meet their financial obligations and ensuring they stay clear of any legal trouble.
Financial Reporting Skills
Putting together a financial report is one of the most fundamental skills corporate controllers can have. Putting together financial reports is a grueling task that requires extreme attention to detail and the ability to meet deadlines. Companies are looking for candidates who already have experience preparing these reports so that they can get them done with speed and accuracy.
How to Find Controller Jobs
Controller jobs are very much in demand because all companies need someone to oversee financial management. You can easily find controller jobs through a basic internet search. For a more specific search, visit the career page of a financial company you would like to work for or go to a job portal. You can also seek the services of a recruitment agency.
LinkedIn is a trusted employment-oriented online platform used by millions of professionals and companies around the world. You can create a personal profile and browse jobs that match your qualifications. It won’t be hard to find companies hiring candidates with your skillset.
Accountants One is a recruiting company focusing mainly on accounting and financial job placements. If you browse through their job site, you will see many opportunities for accountants, financial analysts, and controllers.
Deloitte is a multinational company offering professional accounting, auditing, tax services, and consulting services. They are considered one of the top companies to work for based on compensation and working environment. Deloitte regularly hires for a slew of mid to senior-level controller positions.
Controller Interview Questions FAQ
A controller is in charge of overseeing the entire financial operations of a company and making sure it complies with tax rules. The job may include auditing a company’s financial operations, coordinating accounting efforts, managing the company budget, and preparing financial reports.
A controller should have expertise in generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), financial compliance, and financial risk management. Competency in key software programs and tools is also important.
You need to show the interviewer that you are confident with your financial skills. Give them specific examples of your achievements in a previous company. Show genuine interest and passion for your work by mentioning facts about current economic trends.
To give a good first impression, make sure to be polite and courteous. You can start by greeting the interviewers in a formal manner and thanking them for the opportunity to meet with them.
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