Do not be fooled by the fancy job title or elaborate job description. Accountant Assistant is more or less an office clerk, and you will spend the majority of your days with data entry and other basic tasks.
I do not want to indicate it is a bad job though. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you weren’t lucky enough to study at the university, or found it hard to succeed in interviews for real accounting jobs, position of an accounts assistant can serve as your springboard which will allow you do get better jobs in the near future. In this article we will look at 13 questions you may face while interviewing for this position. Enjoy!
Can you please tell us something about yourself?
You should not sound overqualified, at least not at this point. Try to tell them a sort of a story in which you explain your education, interest for accountancy, past jobs you had (anything related to office work or accounting), or perhaps future jobs you want to have, and the role this job application, this position of an accounting assistant, plays in the entire process.
The key is to start your interview with enthusiasm and with a good energy in your voice. Interviewers are perfectly aware that this isn’t your dream job, but they should still get an impression that you want to do it (at least at this stage of your career), and do not apply only becasue you can’t get anything else, or struggle with money.
Why do you want to work for our company?
Big corporations and specialized accounting firms (both small and big) are typical employers for this position. If you interview in a big corporation, you should emphasize the career growth options. Surely, you start as a “mere assistant”, but you know that once you prove your skills and get a chance, you can get much higher within the structures of the company. Maybe you can lead the entire accounting department one day. Who knows?
In big corporations you can also praise the diversity in the workplace, job stability (such companies rarely get bankrupt), or anything else that caught your eye. If you got a recommendation from someone already working in the company (your friend for example), you can also mention it.
In specialized accounting firms the situation is different. You can still refer to great reputation of the company (if it has such), but job stability or diverse workplace is not often the case.
But you can learn much more working for a smaller company or consultancy (even as an assistant), since they will allow you to handle a variety of tasks, and you may actually have more direct contact with the clients, which will never be the case in a big corporation. This reason will make sense for most interviewers.
How do you imagine a typical day in your job of an accounting assistant?
The key is to not get carried away at this point. If you start talking about creative accounting, or responding for balance sheet and profit and loss statement, they won’t hire you.
Talk rather about administrative duties. Helping with data entry, verifying numbers and invoices, handling email correspondence, or basically helping accountants (one or more) with anything they may need in their daily work–tasks that don’t require strong accounting expertise.
They key is to have a realistic idea of the job, and to present it with some enthusiasm in your interview. As I already mentioned at the beginning, job descriptions for accounting assistants are often unrealistic (companies try to make the job sound more interesting than it really is, trying to attract more job applications), and you should not trust them completely. Use your common sense, and come up with a realistic answer. Assistants are not accountants…
What computer programs (or accounting software) do you have experience with?
No need to worry, you don’t need any experience with elaborate accounting software to succeed in this interview. You may work with such software in your job, but you’ll get an excellent training, and learn how to handle it (that’s actually one of the benefits of this job).
You can talk about your experience with MS Office, or any similar software common in your country. Try to always say how long you’ve been working with the software (“I’ve been working with Ms Excel for twelve years, almost on a daily basis”), and you can also explain how it helped you with your job or studies.
What’s more, you can ensure your interviewers about your computer skills, and that you typically learn to work with any new software quickly.
May also interest you: Behavioral interview questions – you may deal with some in your accounting assistant interview.
What motivates you the most in work?
Clerical and administrative jobs are often routine, and they can get boring quickly. Many things can help you to avoid a crisis of motivation, however.
You can say that you enjoy being a part of a diverse and hardworking team (this answer works perfectly in big corporations), and feel responsible, not wanting to let your colleagues down. This attitude motivates you to try hard, even when the job is repetitive.
Another idea is referring to your goals–both private and professional. You surely want to achieve something in life, and a position of an accounts assistant is not your final destination. Unless you work hard (despite of struggling with motivation), you won’t move up the career ladder.
Or perhaps you have a family or someone you love and want to provide for. Also that won’t be possible unless you have a good and secure job. To summarize it, your goals (which you can elaborate on in the interview) help you to stay motivated.
Here is an invoice (or other financial document). Look at it and tell us whether you can spot any mistakes.
They may purposely make some mistake, such as omitting certain information that has to be on each invoice, from a legal perspective. It can be an address of a supplier, tax number, invoice number, date, signature (normal or digital), and so on.
Study the document carefully and try to spot any missing information. Do not focus on grammar or syntax errors–these aren’t important in accounting at all. Numbers matter.
Special Tip: I suggest you to study some invoices you got from your suppliers (mobile operator, electricity provider, etc). Inspect the documents, look at each section and what information they include on it. This should help you to spot any missing information later, when the interviewers show you some invoice in an interview…
What would you do if you disagreed with an opinion of your superior or supervisor?
Everyone can make a mistake and your role is not to blindly follow the directives of your superiors. Actually one of the reasons why accountants have assistants is that assistants do a second check, verifying the accuracy and authenticity of various documents.
Ensure the interviewers that you are not afraid to share your opinion. If you disagree with something, or think that your superior made a mistake, you will tell them, you will discuss the issue with them.
At the same time, you plan to respect the line of hierarchy in the company. You will share your ideas with them, but the accountant has to make a final decision whether to record some transaction and in which way. It is their responsibility, not yours.
Other questions you may deal with in your accounting assistant interview
- Where do you see yourself in five years from now? Do you want to work as an accountant in the future?
- Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues in your last job. How did you solve the conflict?
- Tell us about a time when you showed initiative at work.
- In your opinion, what characterizes a great accounting assistant?
- Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve the problem.
- How would your former colleagues describe you?
- How do you define success?
- What do you consider your biggest weakness?
- Aren’t you overqualified for this job?
- Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond.
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed.
Conclusion, next steps, answers to all questions
Interview for a position of an accounting assistant belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You won’t face any technical questions (or short case studies, as you may face in an interview for a job of an accountant).
But you have to show realistic expectations (not looking for something this job cannot offer), strong motivation to learn, and also right attitude to certain situations that may happen in your work (disagreeing with your manager, having a conflict with a colleague, etc).
If you experience anxiety, or do not feel ready for the questions from my list, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to ten sample answers to each tricky interview question (including 31 dreaded scenario-based questions) will help you get ready for this challenging interview, and outclass your competitors–since you will know something they won’t know… Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck in your interview!
* You can also download all questions (without answers) in a simple one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
May also interest you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Do not let your anxiety to kill your chances in this interview.
- How to dress for an interview – Choose the right cloths and impress.