Talk of two candidates prior to their interviewIn a typical accounting job interview, you will deal with a combination of screening, behavioral and technical questions, and with a couple of simple accounting tasks.

Your answers to the questions help the HR managers to asses your communication skills, motivation, as well as your readiness for the job, while the way you address and solve the practical tasks tell them more about your accounting skills.

Let’s have a look at some typical questions they will ask you:


What was the toughest accounting task you had to solve in your career so far?
People with real experience in accounting will always remember  tough tasks they were confronted with in the past. You should talk about the task you solved successfully, and you should mention the lessons you learned while solving the task.

If this is your first job application, however, you can talk about a difficult exam from school, one that you struggled with. Your attitude matters more than the situation you narrate. Show the interviewers that you are a human being, that you struggle sometimes, but that you always try to find the way out, and consider every difficulty an opportunity to learn something new and improve your accounting skills.


What do you consider the key skills of a great accountant?

A good accountant should definitely pay attention to detail, have good mathematical skills, analytical thinking, and an ability to think one step ahead.

You can also mention responsibility, avoiding mistakes, or an ability to explain financial terminology in a simple way. And if you do not have one of the skills, tell the interviewers that you try improving on that, as a part of your constant effort to become a better accountant.


How do you ensure you make no mistakes in work?

People make mistakes. But when we speak about accounting, a mistake can prove costly for the employer. Try to show them that you do your best to avoid making mistakes.

You can say that you double check everything, that you use both software and calculator to verify your records, and that you always consult the important decisions with other members of the financial department ( use the last part only if you apply for a job in a middle-sized or big company, one that runs a financial department).


What software packages for accountants are you familiar with?

Clever accountants work with software applications, becasue they are more accurate, faster and simply more reliable than traditional “pen and paper” methods. Therefore, it is good to suggest that you have some experience with accounting software.

If you can, pick a well known and country specific software, for example the Canadian Quickbooks Online For Accountants–should you apply for a job in Canada. In some cases it is possible to try the trial version of the software before your interview, which is a good thing to do, if you still have enough time to do that.

When you hear an expression creative accounting, what do you imagine?

Some of us imagine illegal practices. Some other accountants imagine unorthodox methods of cutting tax expenses, and saving money for their clients and employers. Anyway, the right answer is definitely that for you, creative accounting means saving money for your clients, applying unorthodox but 100% legal methods of creative accounting.

If you can, elaborate on your answer with an example of an application of creative accounting from your former jobs.


Practical tasks in an interview

They may give you a simple case study to solve, or they may ask you to work with an accounting software they use in the company. The tasks will not be very difficult–they just try to see your methodology of work, and if you understand the very basics of accounting.

Nevertheless, I suggest you to polish your skills, doing a couple of calculations and exercises before an interview (cash flow, balance statement, VAT calculation, gross and net paycheck, etc).


Many more questions and answers

If you still have some time to devote to your interview preparation, I strongly recommend website. Caren Mayers, a professional interview coach with years of experience in finance recruitment is the author of the website, and she will show you all you need to ace your interview.

Alternatively you can check more articles on Interview Penguin: