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Interview Questions

24 accountancy job interview questions
A guide for both employers and candidates

The job interview – a pivotal event for both parties – the practice and the candidate.  Get it wrong on either side and the consequences can be hugely damaging – for either party.  A satisfactory outcome is vital for all concerned.  A successful interview doesn’t have to mean there’s the offer of a job at the end of it.  It could just as easily be a decision by one or both parties that an appointment would not be for the best.

The right questions and the right answers

The key to a successful interview is two-fold.  The right questions need to be asked and the right answers need to be given.  In today’s blog, we’ll look at the questions the potential employer should be asking and why.  This article will also be useful for candidates, helping them to understand what a prospective employer will be looking for.

Of course, you wouldn’t ask all the questions suggested here.  You’ll want to consider the precise position you’re seeking to fill and the particular skill-set you’re looking for.  For example, if the role is in admin, you might be less interested in client-facing issues, but more focused on working style.  You’ll still want to know about teamwork.

It’s not only about the answers

As you work your way through the questions, pay attention to the candidate’s communication style and body language.

Be ready to ask a follow-up question, if you don’t receive the answer you were looking for.  Don’t be afraid to dig deep.  Your accountancy practice is about numbers and people.  Making the right appointment is critical to its future success.

During the interview, encourage the candidate to be honest, and to expand on their answers.  Give them every chance to either show you how great they are and how perfect they might be for the role.  Equally, give them the opportunity to demonstrate that they and your practice would be ales than perfect fit.

The questions

in no particular order of importance.

Question
“Describe an occasion in your current or last job when you really made a difference?”

What are you measuring?
Self-awareness.  Your practice needs people who think deeply about the part they play within your practice, who understand their role and how they can drive your practice forward.  Examples might include –
Were they key to increasing client referrals?
Were they instrumental in redesigning client onboarding processes?
Remember to ask for concrete examples.

Question
“Tell me about an occasion in a past job where you made a professional mistake.”

What are you measuring?
Self-awareness,  experience levels, accountability.  We all make mistakes.  What is important is how people react to them.  You need to listen carefully to how the candidate explains their handling of the error.  What did they learn from the experience?  If they fail to identify a mistake, then tread carefully.  Do you want someone in your practice who lacks self-awareness or a sense of accountability?

Question
If you receive a client enquiry that’s outside your area of expertise, what would you do?

What are you measuring?
Self-awareness, client focus, teamwork.  The answer the candidate gives will give you an idea as to how much of a team player the candidate will be – how much respect they will afford to their colleagues.

Question
“Describe the types of accounting systems, apps or software of which you have experience?”

What are you measuring?
Technology skills and awareness of systems.  The answer to this question will give you an idea of how detailed the onboarding process will be, in the event that you appoint the candidate.

Question
“How do you go about learning new technology?”

What are you measuring?
Technology skills and awareness of systems.  Willingness to upskill, initiative.  Is your practice technology-savvy?  If so, you’ll doubtless be taking on new systems in the future.  You’ll need staff with an interest in learning and working with these new technologies.  You’re looking for candidates who take an interest in the latest developments.

Question
“What accounting reports are you familiar with?  Which ones are you competent at preparing, comparing and analysing?”

What are you measuring?
Accounting ability and experience.  Don’t assume that the candidate has any particular level of experience.  This question will reveal plenty about a candidate’s previous experience and whether they possess the skills you’re looking for.

Question
“Tell me about a recent occasion when you provided a fantastic client experience.”

What are you measuring?
Client focus.  A vital question, especially for client-facing candidates.  You’re asking the key question about how the candidate assesses the service they give.

Question
“Tell me about the biggest problem you’ve solved for a client?”

What are you measuring?
Client focus, problem-solving skills.  How good is the candidate at thinking originally and working through tricky problems?  You’ll learn about how far they will go to provide exceptional service.

Question
“If tomorrow was your first day working with us, what would be your first suggestion to help us grow the practice?”

What are you measuring?
Innovation, assertiveness.  An interesting question.  Maybe you’ll be looking for an answer along the lines of, “Well, I certainly wouldn’t expect to march right in on my first day and start suggesting changes.  I’d look, listen and ask questions first.  On the other hand, you might be interested in a candidate who does come up with suggestions.  This might indicate a willingness to contribute, but also shows that the candidate has carried out some prior research.  Perhaps the answer you’re looking forward will vary according to the level of post for which you’re interviewing.

Question
“Tell me about your dream job?”

What are you measuring?
Ambition.  Is their ambition personal, for the practice, or a healthy combination of the two?  This question is especially valuable for less experienced candidates or graduates.  You’ll gain an idea of their goals and interests.  Will they stay with your practice for the long haul (which, in itself, may not matter to you)?

Question
“Describe the perfect working day”

What are you measuring?
Interests, style of working.  This will give you an idea of a candidate’s working interests and passions.  You’ll learn how they like to operate and work.  Will they be a good fit for your practice?

Question
“What matters to you outside work?”

What are you measuring?
Work-life balance. 
You shouldn’t be looking for a workaholic.  Your most effective employees are those with a healthy balance between work and play – people who are able to switch off from work and relax.

Question
“Describe an occasion when you’ve been unlucky or been the victim of injustice.”

What are you measuring?
Teamwork, ownership.  Everyone has suffered injustice at some time or other.  How they responded reveals a lot about their character.  You’re looking for You want people who take ownership of their difficulties and who don’t automatically blame others or dwell on past misfortunes.  You’re looking for positive people.

Question
“You’re planning to hold a dinner party.  You’re going to invite three people – alive or dead.  Who will they be?  Why?

What are you measuring?
Imagination, personality, ability to think on the hoof.  This question will teach you about the candidate’s passions and interests.  You’ll also find out how quickly they can think on their feet.

Question
“How would your last employer describe you?  How would they characterise your weaknesses?”

What are you measuring?
Truthfulness, self-awareness.  You need employees who are aware of their own qualities and limitations.  This will be an opportunity to assess the candidate’s body language.  How genuine do you think their response is?

Question
“What attracted you to this position?”

What are you measuring?
Suitability for the role.  You’ll learn about the candidate’s motivation for applying.  Is it the roe itself that attracts them, or simply the prospect of working in your practice?  Or are they perhaps just looking for any job in accountancy?

Question
“How are you most effective when working alongside your colleagues?”

What are you measuring?
Teamwork – a vital element to any successful accounting practice.  You need to assess how effectively the candidate works within a team.

Question
“What do you find most challenging about working as part of a team?”

What are you measuring?
emotional intelligence, self-awareness.  You need your people to appreciate their own weaknesses and strengths.  They also need to possess the emotional intelligence to empathise with colleagues.

Question
“Use three words to describe yourself.”

What are you measuring?
Self-awareness.  Restricting the answer to three words forces the candidate to think imaginatively and quickly.  Be aware that their answer might not be 100% honest.  The candidate will have one eye on the answer they think you want to hear.

Question
“Describe a challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.”

What are you measuring?
Perseverance, ownership.  You’re looking for upbeat employees – people who will reactively positively to obstacles and persevere when thing get tough.

Question
“Why should we offer you the job?”

What are you measuring?
Opinions what are the most important skills and aspects of the role.  The answer to this question will reveal precisely what your candidate believes they can contribute to the role.

Question
“Describe the most difficult client you’ve encountered.”

What are you measuring?
Client focus, skill at coping with difficult situations.  Your people will be dealing every day with challenging clients.  How they meet these challenges will reveal much about their suitability for the role.

Question
“Why did you choose accountancy as a career?”

What are you measuring?
Suitability for the role, motivation.  Are they interested in helping a practice to grow?  Do they get pleasure from number-crunching or did they pick accountancy because it was the only career they could think of?  You will be looking to see if the answer the candidate gives equates to the ethos of your practice.

Question
“Do you have any questions?”

What are you measuring?
You’ll be interested to learn how much they’ve thought about the role, how well they’ve prepared, whether they’ve researched your company, the website etc.

_________________

We’re specialist recruiters in the accountancy sector.  Whichever side of the interview fence you find yourself, we’re perfectly placed to advise and support you with the interview process.  Do call us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Telephone – 0333 577 7787

Email –  info@publicpracticerecruitment.co.uk

Or complete our submission form.

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