Each Senior Accountant or Tax Manager needs some assistants. Someone who will help them with the heavy workload, entering the records to accounting software, preparing simple tax returns, notifying clients about deadlines, and sometimes simply making a good coffee and having chat with them, when they feel like complaining about life and six figure salary.
Tax Associate is one of the typical entry level jobs in accounting, something you have to get through, in order to be able to apply for more interesting accounting jobs in the future, or to open your own office, and hire your own assistant. All big tax services firms like Ryan, KPMG, or PwC hire tax associates regularly. Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this position, which typically pays more than $50,000 annually in the US.
Why do you want to work as a Tax Associate here?
Try to answer both parts of the question. First one–why tax associate, is the easy one. You are just staring in the field, need to gain more experience, and see no better way of doing so than applying for this job. What’s more, you see your future in accounting and taxes, because death and taxes we cannot escape. The field is here to stay until people do business with each other and governments exist, and you want to enjoy your fraction of the pie.
Second part of the question is a bit more tricky. If you apply with a big company (such as PwC or KPMG), you can refer to great training program they have in place, and potential for further growth. In reality you won’t learn in a big company as much as you’d do in some small office, but you will earn more money.
Applying with an individual accountant or in a small consultancy, you can point out to their size and reputation. Working for a small place, you will definitely take care of a variety of duties. You will always be close to the action, even meet clients in person, and have an ability to consult senior accountant on a spot, anytime something is unclear to you. That’s the reason for your preferences, though you know you’d earn a bit more in a big corporation.
Can you tell us more about your experience in the field of accounting and taxes?
It’s typically hard to talk about experience when one applies for entry level jobs, for a simple reason–they do not have any. But this really depends on the point of view, because you do not gain experience in the office only.
Certainly you learned something at school, worked with some software programs, solved difficult case studies. Maybe you even helped your cousin or uncle with their accounting. Sure, you never had a job before, but you have experience with this or that and a lot of theoretical knowledge. Now it’s time to put everything into practice.
If you apply for this job in a big corporation such as Ryan, you can simply say that you have no experience. They have excellent training program in place, and they prefer to shape candidates the way they want. As long as you have a degree in accounting or taxation, and enthusiasm for the work, it’s good enough for them to consider you for the position.
How do you imagine a typical day in a work of a Tax Associate here?
The most important thing is to keep your expectations low. Remember that you are just starting out, and a word “associate” is in a job title for a good reason. If you started talking about acquiring big clients and doing some creative accounting, they would not hire you.
You can simply say that you expect to help with basic accounting duties, such as entering records to accounting software, filling simple tax returns, communicating with the clients, etc. This will be your daily bread in the big corporations. Alternatively you can say that you are ready to do anything your superior needs from you, and are aware that the duties can vary on different days.
How do you ensure you make not mistakes in your work?
A software will typically check it for you–if something you enter doesn’t make sense, it won’t let you proceed. But you should not rely on a software, at least not when answering this question in an interview.
Say that first and foremost you always concentrate 100% on the job. You won’t think about a dinner with your boyfriend or a match you want to watch in TV in the evening, or reminiscent about the past. No radio or smartphone, you will try to eliminate all distractions. Then it’s much easier minimizing the number of mistakes, as well as spotting them on the documents someone else prepared.
You can also say that you plan to double check every important record, and won’t pretend that you know everything. If you aren’t sure, you won’t take guesses. You will consult your superior for advice. Doing all these things, you minimize the number of mistakes.
But you are aware that you can still make some–it happens to the best accountants as well, and are ready to bear the responsibility for your mistakes.
A client calls and complains about the service they got from the company. How will you react?
Excellent customer service is an important part of this job. Companies pay big money to outsource their accounting, and they have to pay each month, regardless of whether their business thrives or stands on the brink of bankruptcy. Hence they have high expectations.
Ensure the hiring managers that you will take the feedback of the customers seriously. You won’t start an argument with them or get emotionally involved. You will simply calmly ask them to elaborate on the issue, to clearly explain what they do not like.
Listening to their arguments, you will try to understand where you made a mistake (or what they perceived in a wrong way), and do your best to remedy the situation, to make them happy again with the services.
Of course this may not always happen. You may lose the client, or they may complain about something ridiculous, trying to get a better price or whatever. However, it’s your effort that counts and matters for the interviewers. As long as they see that you want to go above and beyond for the clients and will try your best, they will be happy about your answer.
Tell me about the most difficult accounting (taxation) problem you solved.
They ask this question to assess your real level of experience, and to know what you can realistically help them with. Maybe you solved some difficult issue in the past, made some moves that belong to the sphere of creative accounting, and helped someone to minimize their tax expenses or achieve some other goal. If it’s the case, explain in detail what you did, and how the client benefited from it.
But it’s okay if you never solved any tricky accounting puzzle. At the end of the day, this is an entry level job. You are just waiting for such opportunities, and more than anything else, you want to learn from your superiors. Say that you believe you will once be able to deal with tricky issues, and save some clients big money. Until it happens, however, you are here to learn and help with basic accounting and administrative tasks, which you can handle with your education and skills…
Other questions you may face in your tax associate interview
- Where do you see your career heading in the future? Is there any particular position you’d like to have in five years time?
- Describe a time when you had to work on multiple projects (tasks) simultaneously. How did you prioritize?
- Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline with your work.
- What do you know about our company, and why have you decided to apply with us, and not with one of our main competitors?
- Describe a time when you showed initiative in work.
- Do you know anyone who works for us?
- Do you have any certification, or do you plan to get any in the future?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.
- What is the most important thing you learned at school?
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the many other people who applied for this job?
Conclusion, premium answers to all questions
Interview for a job of a Tax Associate belongs to difficult interviews. Tax Associate a popular entry level job, and big corporations receive dozens applications anytime they advertise an offer with this job title. Tougher competition means that you really need to stand out with your answers.
If you are not sure how to answer the questions from my list, or experience interview anxiety, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to basically all questions you may face in your Tax Associate job interview will help you streamline your interview preparation, find the right words in every moment of the interview, outclass your competitors, and eventually get the job. Thank you for checking it out!
What’s more, you should not forget to do a good research about your future employer. The more you know, the easier it will be to connect with the interviewers, and to make an impression. I wish you best of luck in your interviews!
Matthew Chulaw, Your personal job interview coach
May also interest you:
- Accounting interview questions – You may face some of them while trying to get any job in finance & accounting. Check them out and avoid negative surprises.
- Tax manager interview questions.
- How to overcome interview nerves – Get rid of stress you experience before the start of your interview, and show them your very best on the big day.