One of the entry level jobs in an accounting department of every big corporation, accounts payable clerk may seem a rather boring role. But it is the first step on your career ladder in the organization, and before you can become an accountant, and take care of more interesting duties daily, you will spend your time completing payments and controlling expenses by receiving, processing, verifying, and reconciling invoices.
Let’s have a look at some questions you will typically face in your interview for this position. Remember that it is a big corporation job, and except of technical questions (that relate to your actual work), you will deal mostly with some personal and behavioral questions (that test your personality, motivation, and attitude to work). Because they will teach you how to do everything else… Let’ start!
Why do you want to work as an account payable clerk?
Not a single person in the world dreams about having this job, and you should not try to convince the interviewers that you always wanted to process invoices at work, and that you want to do it for the rest of your life… But you should show some enthusiasm in your answer. You can say that you want to become an accountant one day, and consider this a good first step of your professional career.
Or you can say that you want to understand the functioning of the business, and hope to have different entry-level roles within their company in the next few years. Account payable clerk is one of them.
I always wanted to work in a big corporation, since I know the sky is the limit here, and career growth opportunities are endless–if one proves his skills in the job. However, fresh of college I cannot dream of working n FP&A or as an accountant straight away. I know I have to start somewhere, build my name in the company, prove my motivation and skills. Accounts Payable is an ideal role to do that, and I see it as a starting point for my career in this company, and in this field of business. What’s more, I believe I have all the skills necessary to do this job well.
Why do you want to work for us? Many corporations in the city recruit new clerks?
Most likely you do not care. Perhaps you even applied for a job with more companies, and will interview with them later on. But you should try to convince them that they are your first choice. Even if it is not true…
Refer to something that resonates with you. It can be their field of business (marketing, auditing, management, outsourcing, etc), it can be their goals and values, the system of work and working environment, career growth options they offer, etc. Browsing their website should help you to find at least something you can refer to in your answer.
I have several reasons for that. First of all, I prefer working in marketing, since I know advertising is here to stay and prosper, and I see a bright future for your corporation. Secondly, I have a friend who works here, also on an entry level position, and she told me only good things about your company, the teamwork, employee benefits, the way people support each other here. Last but not least, the corporate values you present on your website resonate with my personal values, and I feel to be a good match for this working environment.
Special tip: If you experience anxiety, or simply do not know how to answer questions you may face in this interview, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 sample answers to all questions you may face in your interview (including 30+ scenario based questions) will help you stand out and sign a coveted employment contract…
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Try to connect your future with their business. Obviously nobody knows what will happen in five years time. You may live in another country, be married (or divorced, if you’re married already), and have a completely different job, or you may even run a business and make big money each month :).
But big corporations invest a lot into the training of their new hires, and they hope to keep the best talent onboard. I suggest the following: Browse their website and try to find the organizational structure (hierarchy) of the company. Find a job which you can realistically have in five years time, and refer to it in your interview answer: “It would be great to work as an XYZ in your company…”.
In my opinion, the world is too unpredictable now for one to have long term plans. Just look at the recent pandemics, and how many dreams it has ruined. Then you have inflation, war, and so on. But I do not want to be negative, I just prefer to live in a present moment and give my 100% every day in whatever I do. If I should say something, however, I’d love to work in FP&A department of your company in 5 years time. And you can be sure I will give me 100% to this goal–if you hire me now, of course.
This job requires a fair amount of data entry, and it can become boring. How do you plan to motivate yourself in work?
You have a few good options here. First one is saying that you have your goals, know what you want to achieve in both personal and professional life, and understand that this step (job of an account payable clerk) is necessary on your journey. The awareness of your goals and the bigger picture you carry in your mind will help you to stay motivated.
Second option is saying that you actually prefer routine work, that you aren’t the most creative fellow out there, and exactly that’s why you opted for a job with a big corporation (which always requires much less creativity than the job in a small business, where you respond for a variety of tasks).
Third alternative is saying that you do not consider the job repetitive, or boring–there are always some new vendors, you have to communicate with other people in the team, and problems arise on daily basis, different issues you have to address…
To be honest, very few people go to work because they completely love their job. Most people work because they have bills to pay and kids to feed, and I am no different. Now it doesn’t mean that I am not looking forward to this job, and to the interactions with my new colleagues, with other accounts payable clerks. I am looking forward to it, but I am also not naive and know that on some days the job will be boring and repetitive. But I know why I wake up to work every morning, and I also know what I want to do in the future, and this job is a step I have to make, in order to reach my future goals. Keeping them on my mind will help me overcome any crisis of motivation.
* Do not forget to check also: Accounts receivable interview questions.
What accounting software are you familiar with?
Say how long you have been working with the software. You can even say why you prefer it to other, competing software packages available on the market.
You can also add that you are a quick learner, and that user interface is somehow similar with each accounting software, and that you are sure you will quickly learn to work with the program they use in their work. Show them that you are not afraid of the challenge, and will do what you can to master your job quickly.
We worked with XYZ Accounting at school for half a year, and in my free time I tried several other software products for accountants. However, I am a quick learner and at the end of the day the user interface is similar in almost all of these applications. Hence I am not worried that I will struggle to learn to work with the software you use in your corporation.
Describe how you would solve an invoice discrepancy.
This will actually be your job–to receive, process, verify, and reconcile the invoices. Show the interviewers that you know what to do in a case that something’s not right about the invoice.
The best course of action is contacting a vendor (your point of contact with them, or a person who sent you an invoice), and pointing out the discrepancy clearly, asking them to remedy it as soon as possible. Of course you won’t send the money unless the invoice meets all legal criteria…
If I find some discrepancy on any of the invoices, I will contact the vendor immediately, or my point of contact in the company. Ideally it should be the person who created the invoice, but sometimes it isn’t clear and we have to call at random. Once I have the responsible person on the call, I will point out the discrepancy, and ask them to remedy it. Of course unless the invoice meets all legal criteria and is 100% correct, I won’t proceed with the payment.
Other questions you may face in your Accounts Payable Clerk interview
- Describe a time you had a disagreement with someone.
- Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.
- What steps would you take before issuing a payment to vendor?
- Your superior scolds you for working slowly, comparing you to your colleagues in an accounting department, who, according to his words, work faster. What will be your reaction?
- How do you ensure that you make no mistakes in your work?
- Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
- Describe a time when you faced a tough situation in your personal life. How did that affect you in your job?
- Describe the most difficult decision you’ve ever made.
- Tell us about a time when you were overwhelmed with work.
Conclusion, answers to questions
Most big corporations run extensive training programs for new hires, and they won’t torture you with difficult technical questions in your Accounts Payable Clerk interview. Unless you have to pass an accounts payable test, for which you can prepare here, polishing your skills and getting ready for the tricky test questions…
But they know that you have to know something when you graduated (from economics, management, or accounting), and they will focus mostly on understanding your motivation, career goals, and especially your attitude to various situations that happen in the workplace.
They will assess these things with personal and behavioral questions. If you are not sure how to handle such questions, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Multiple brilliant answers to all tricky interview questions, including answers for people with no previous working experience, will make your life much easier in your accounts payable job interview. Thank you for checking it out!
Special Tip: You can also download a full list of questions in a one-page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
May also interest you:
- Accountant interview questions – Questions you may get in your interview for an entry level accounting job.
- Account executive interview questions.
- How to get a job with no experience.