Knowing the right accounting interview questions to ask job candidates can mean the difference between hiring a superstar and bringing the wrong person on board at your small business. We’ve identified 10 good queries to pose to job candidates the next time you have an accounting or finance role to staff.
Assessing an Applicant’s Skills
When you’re trying to gauge a candidate’s technical skills, it’s often best to ask straightforward accounting interview questions. But you can also learn something about applicants’ soft skills with these types of queries.
Here are four interview questions to ask that will help you evaluate a person’s core competencies:
1. How do you stay up to date on current accounting laws and regulations?
Given the rate of change in the accounting and finance industry, it’s crucial to hire accounting and finance professionals who make a point of staying informed. Top candidates will be able to tell you how they monitor the latest developments, whether it’s through subscriptions to industry publications, memberships in professional organizations, or attendance at accounting conferences and webinars.
2. What are the top three skills every good accountant has?
In response to this interview question, applicants will typically name what they think are their three best attributes. Look for candidates who focus on a mix of hard skills, such as knowledge of big data concepts, and softer attributes like business acumen, communication skills and customer service skills. Top applicants will include examples of how they’ve demonstrated and developed these skills in past jobs.
3. What types of accounting software have you used in previous jobs?
Include this in your list of accounting interview questions to ask because you’ll learn whether a candidate already knows the system you use at your firm or whether training during the first days on the job will be required.
Obviously, it’s preferable for a potential hire to be familiar with your software. But don’t automatically discount those who aren’t; instead, ask them a follow-up question about how easily they learn new technology so you’ll have a sense of their ability to get up to speed.
4. Give me examples of the types of reports you generated in your last job.
Like the previous question, this query will provide insight into a candidate’s experience and whether it fits well with the job duties of the open position. If you’re looking for someone to generate income and cash flow statements, for example, it’s good to know how — or if — a candidate has prepared these types of reports in the past.
Determining the Fit with Your Accounting Team
Candidates who have all the necessary technical and soft skills must also be able to prosper in the work environment at your company. Accounting interview questions that query applicants about a variety of potential scenarios they are likely to face on the job can help you better assess their fit for your office.
Here are a few good interview questions to ask to assess how a candidate is likely to handle various on-the-job situations and his or her potential fit with your existing team:
5. Tell me about a time when you made an accounting error and explain how you handled it.
Look for candidates who admit that they occasionally make mistakes but quickly move to own up to the error and correct it as best they can. Be wary of any candidates who say they’ve never made a mistake.
6. Tell me about your experience presenting financial data to non-financial staff.
These days, accounting and finance professionals have to discuss financial data and reports with coworkers outside their immediate department on a regular basis. So, it’s important to hire professionals who feel comfortable with this task. This interview question can help you understand more about their communication skills and experience in presenting information.
7. Describe a time when you met a particularly tight deadline and explain how you did it.
Accounting and finance professionals often have to turn out important reports quickly. The answer to this question will demonstrate how a candidate responds to deadline pressure and stress.
8. What’s the toughest accounting challenge you’ve solved?
You’ll get a good sense of a potential hire’s approach to problems if you make this a standard accounting interview question to ask applicants. Top candidates will use it as a springboard to display their creativity, skills and experience when it comes to resolving tricky accounting issues.
9. Tell me about a time when you worked with a team to revise or improve an accounting process. What role did you take, and how did the team work together to get the job done?
Teamwork is more important than ever for accounting and finance professionals, who frequently must work extensively with colleagues within and outside of their department. When you ask this interview question, listen for signs that the candidate will be a strong collaborator — or even a future leader.
10. Why did you choose accounting and finance as a career?
We included this on our list of accounting interview questions to ask every time because it can reveal a lot about a job seeker’s core intentions for pursuing a position with your firm. Look for candidates who show passion for the accounting and finance industry, not just the stability or potential salary a career in finance often promises. You’ll have an easier time developing and retaining professionals who truly love what they do each day.
Hiring is one of the most important things you do as a small business manager. Of course, every job opening and interview is different, and you should adjust your list of interview questions to ask accordingly. But when you use accounting interview questions like these as a jumping-off point, you’ll get a good picture of each candidate’s skills and aptitudes, which in turn will bring you one step closer to building the ideal team for your business.
Get more small business recruiting advice by reading Accountemps’ list of 10 Hiring Tips Every Small Business Owner Needs.
Interview Image via Shutterstock