The ultimate guide to accounting interview questions (and questions to ask!)
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So you scored an interview for your dream accounting firm. To get ready, you'll need to learn how to answer all the most common accounting interview questions.

Some interview questions will be about your personal characteristics, while others will be more technical. To get hired, you’ll need to knock all of them out of the park.

The kind of accounting questions asked in interviews can include:

  • Which accountancy software are you most comfortable with and why?
  • Can you explain the differences between private and public accountancy?
  • You need to assess the health of a company, but you're only allowed one statement. Which do you pick and why?
  • Why do you want to work at this company?
  • In your opinion, what are the most significant challenges that accountants face?

With this guide, you’ll be able to answer each of these and more.

Four methods for answering accounting interview questions

The accounting job market is very competitive. If you want to do well in an accounting interview, preparation is critical. This is why it’s important to think about accounting interview questions and answers before your interview.

Preparing answers is about more than just developing some stock answers and reciting them in the interview. You need to think systematically about the questions make sure you are making the best possible case for yourself when you answer. Hiring managers want to assess your experience and other relevant qualities.

Many job interview questions prompt a story-like response. To make sure your response is succinct and focused, it can be helpful to use an established format when you think about your answer.

The distinctions between each method may seem too subtle to be important, but the specific choice of words is an important part of helping you come up with useful answers. You need to find the method that inspires you and helps you think of relevant situations. Once you’ve found a framework that works for you, you’ll be able to come up with better answers to interview questions.

Here are a few of the most common methods used to structure an answer to an interview question:

The STAR technique

The STAR answering technique is a four-step method to answering an interview question. It allows you to structure your answers in a focused and straightforward way. The STAR method consists of:

  • Situation: Briefly describe the context of the situation. It could be a goal you needed to achieve, the team you were working with, or any other context needed to understand the story.
  • Task: Then, explain what your responsibilities were with that situation. Your goal and the goal of your team should be clear.
  • Action: Describe the steps you took to overcome the obstacle or achieve the goal.
  • Result: Explain how your actions resolved the situation and what you achieved. This outcome could be a goal or target, something you learned, or a disaster that you averted.

The SOAR Method

A variation of the STAR method, the SOAR method is:

  • S ituation
  • O bstacle
  • A ction
  • R esult

In practice, this method works the same way as the STAR method. The difference is that instead of describing your Task, you describe the Obstacle you were working to overcome.

The CAR method

One criticism of the STAR method is that the distinction between Situation and Task can be unclear. If this is the case, you might prefer the CAR method. The CAR method is:

  • C hallenge
  • A ction
  • R esult.

It is similar to the STAR method, but the Situation and Task steps are compressed into Challenge. This could help you frame the story keep your answer concise.

The PAR Method

The PAR method is:

  • P roblem
  • A ction
  • R esult

This method is very similar to the CAR method, but it may be easier for you to think of a Problem than a Challenge.

Four steps to get ready to answer accounting job interview questions

Much like your resume, your interview answers should be tailored to the position. As you prepare an answer to each question, make sure you’re ready to highlight the skills and experience that are relevant to the specific position you’re interviewing for.

To do this, you should make sure you understand the company and the role. As your interview approaches and you prepare your answers, take some time to do the following:

1. Research the company

Do as much research on the company as you can. Find out about their history, leadership, and recent news. Additionally, read employee reviews to find out more about the organization's culture. Your interview answers should show that you’re a good cultural fit and that you share the company’s goals.

2. Study the job description

Go over the job description with a fine-toothed comb. You need to know exactly what skills and experience the company is looking. With that knowledge, you will be able to figure out which of your abilities you should highlight and predict some of the questions they will ask you.

3. Prepare answers to common questions

Some interview questions show up in nearly every interview. For example, you will almost certainly be asked to "tell us about yourself." Prepare answers to this question and more so that you won’t be caught off guard in the interview.

4. Practice saying your answers out loud

Practicing saying the answers that you have prepared out loud is a great way to get ready for your interview. It allows you to refine your delivery and make sure your answers are as effective aloud as they are written.

To do this, record yourself with a camera, practice in front of a mirror, or do a mock interview with a friend. The more time you invest in interview practice, the better. Your answers will improve and your confidence will grow.

Accounting interview questions

Which accounting software do you have the most experience with?

Interviewers often ask this question to learn what accounting tools you use. These details should already be on your resume, but the interview allows you to expand on your experience. The way you talk about the software you use can demonstrate your competence, expertise, and understanding.

The best way to answer this question is to start with the platform you are most experienced in, and then offer other relevant programs you've used. In your research for the job, you should try to learn what software the company uses and, if possible, learn how to use it before the interview.

Example Answer:

"I have five years of experience using FreshBooks in my current job. Additionally, I'm familiar with Sage and Bullet from previous positions. When I was researching for this interview, I noticed that you use Wave. Bullet is very similar to Wave, so I'll be able to adapt easily."

What is your preferred accounting software? Why?

This accounting interview question helps the hiring manager understand your preferences and style. You can use questions like this as an opportunity to communicate how you work and what you are good at.

You can also establish your expertise by discussing what the software can do. Describe the features that you love and what they help you achieve. Your software knowledge can demonstrate why you would be a valuable member of the team.

Example answer:

"When I started in my current position, the company used FreshBooks. I was proficient in Sage at the time, so I was a little sceptical of using a new tool. However, once I used FreshBooks, I saw its potential. FreshBooks is very intuitive and has excellent order management features. Additionally, its invoice tracking and automation tools save a lot of time, which allows me to concentrate on my other responsibilities.”

What is more important when choosing accounting software: price or functionality?

Accounting interview questions like these don't necessarily have a "right" answer because your response will be largely contextual. However, they have a hidden function. Your answer can tell the hiring manager a lot about your worldview and your decision-making skills. It helps them assess both your methods and whether you will be a culture fit.

There are two approaches you can take with this question. The first approach assumes you've done some research on the company already. Who are they? How fiscally conservative is the company? Is the current focus on aggressive expansion, or are they trying to reduce overheads and spending?

The second way that you can answer this question is to make a case for both approaches. Let the hiring manager see your systematic approach to both sides of the debate. Make it clear that you understand that the most expensive option won't always be the most functional, and the most functional option for a particular workplace doesn't have to mean excessive spending.

Example Answer:

"I think that the best way to answer this question is within the context of a particular organization. For starters, accountancy software doesn't have to be a trade-off between price and function. If a firm understands the requirements and workflow, they can find excellent options with the features they need.

Additionally, with the rise of customizable software and no-code tools, we don't have to rely on developers to decide our workflows. There are so many programs out there now that businesses can find the software that is ideal for their industry or requirements without having to assume the top-shelf option is automatically the most suitable."

Accounting interview questions: Cash

Explain the differences between public finance accounting and private finance accounting.

Many accounting questions asked in an interview will raise subjects that are relatively basic and open-ended. These questions are an opportunity for you to show your competence with the essentials and even deliver a few insightful answers.

The interviewer expects that you'll be able to answer these questions quite easily, so a straightforward response is a missed opportunity. If a hiring manager asks you this question, you can use it to demonstrate specific knowledge and previous experience.

Example Answer:

"A private accountant typically works within one company. Private accountants need to understand, for example, the legislative frameworks that apply to financial statements. Additionally, they need expertise in data and analytics to ensure accounts are in order.

On the other hand, public accountants work independently or in a third-party company and deal with a wide variety of businesses and individuals.

I've performed both roles at various stages of my career. Each position has its own pros and cons. I'm thankful for my time as a public accountant because dealing with so many clients and different industries gave me significant oversight into diverse business practices and approaches."

What are the three financial statements?

"What are the three financial statements?" is another one of the accounting interview questions that are designed to evaluate your knowledge and style.

It's best to take a systematic approach here and clearly define the three different statements: balance sheets, cash flow, and income statements.

Example answer:

"The three different financial statements are balance sheets, cash flow, and income states. While financial statements vary depending on the company, they all represent similar information.

A balance sheet describes a company's assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity.

A cash flow statement outlines where the company's income comes from and includes financing, investing and other operational activities.

Finally, an income statement lists out company expenses and revenue."

You need to assess the overall health of a company, but you can only choose one statement. Which do you choose, and why?

Hiring managers could ask you this question to evaluate your understanding of accounting. However, it will also be an example of your decision-making and analytics skills in general.

While it's not exactly cut and dry, most employers consider the cash flow statement as the most important. Cash flows are a great way to track inflows and outflows.

Although, it's worth noting that an income statement is an excellent measure of an organization's ability to generate profits. Even if you choose cash flows, it's worth touching on the relative benefit of each statement.

Example Answer:

"If I were limited to only one statement to assess a company's financial health, my choice would be the cash flow statement. This statement would give me the clearest understanding of how much cash the company is generating. However, without the other statements, it would be challenging to have an opinion about the business’s ability to generate a profit."

Have you ever developed your own accounting processes?

These kinds of accounting interview questions are a good way for hiring managers to test your problem-solving abilities. They are also a chance for you to impress them with your ability to take the initiative.

Think about the STAR method mentioned earlier when structuring your story. Set up the situation and detail how your process addressed the problem. Be sure to include any tangible benefits for the company that resulted from the process, such as increased efficiency or profits.

Of course, not everyone is going to have an answer to this question. If you don't, you shouldn't worry. Instead of answering with a simple “no,” try and think about different situations where you displayed original or creative thinking.

Example Answer:

"In my current position, we were manually processing our PayPal payments. There were a couple of issues with this, most notably human error and time-inefficiency.

I suggest switching to more modern software that would allow us to automate the recording of incoming statements. QuickBooks had integration with PayPal, so this allowed us to always be up to date, be more accurate, and freed up the team from repetitive tasks."

Explain how you have reduced operational costs as an accountant.

Employers expect that accountants will have oversight of the company's finances. From this vantage point, they'll be able to understand and identify areas — or staff members — that are not producing an acceptable return on investment.

Accounting interview questions like these are an opportunity to demonstrate your business sense and ability to reduce costs. Again, the STAR method could be helpful here to structure your answer in a logically satisfying way. Outline how you have used your analytical skills to recognize inefficiencies. Then explain the measures you recommended and the outcome or savings that resulted from this intervention.

Example Answer:

"In my most recent position, the departments were siloed. As a result, many teams were signed up to similar subscription services without the others knowing. When I realized this, I spoke to each department manager and asked them to list every paid subscription their team used.

From here, I audited the list and cross-checked for duplicate accounts. As it turned out, there were about half of a dozen subscription services that had multiple accounts. We consolidated the accounts and cut back our subscription costs by 4% and saved $2,500 per month without affecting our service or productivity."

What is your process to prevent or reduce human error in your work as an accountant?

Like other accounting job interview questions, this question helps to evaluate your skills for the role. Specifically, learning about your ability to prevent human error is an excellent way to test your eye for detail and organizational skills.

Human error causes 41% of financial mistakes. Understandably, employers are conscious of transgressions that affect their bottom line. Therefore, they value accounting staff who take a forensic approach to the numbers.

The STAR method, or one of its alternatives, is your friend here. Human error has many causes, like employee burnout, poor reporting, or a lack of common sense! When you are answering accounting interview questions like this, it's a good opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of accounting processes and sell yourself as a strong candidate.

Example Answer:

"In my role as head of accounts, I realized that there was a strong correlative link between human error and stress. Likewise, busier periods also resulted in more mistakes. I took a two-fold approach to these issues.

Firstly, I evaluated each staff's workload. Then, I conducted meetings with them to assess their stress levels. From here, it became clear that the workload was leading to adverse effects during our busy periods. To counter these issues, we worked out how we could delegate work better.

Secondly, I looked at the type of accountancy work that featured the most errors. I discovered that repetitive data entry tasks were the most common candidate. To solve this issue, we began to automate some of the more mundane accountancy tasks.

Between these two measures, we have managed to reduce errors significantly, resulting in a 15% drop in complaints."

What do you believe are the biggest challenges that accountants will face over the next few years?

Many accounting job interview questions don't have a correct answer. However, for hiring managers, the answers are essential to evaluate your competency and even your temperament. Because these answers have a level of subjectivity, they can be indicative of your relationship to the industry, especially your ability to handle challenges.

Again, this is a chance for you to display a thoughtful, informed take on the industry and even offer a few solutions or tactics you employ to mitigate specific issues.

Example Answer:

"Automation and cloud-based AI systems are one of the biggest challenges that accountancy staff face, but not always for the first reasons people think.

While AI will replace many of the repetitive tasks that accountants have to do, it won't necessarily be at the cost of our jobs. Accountants will spend fewer staff hours on menial tasks but more hours on forecasting and analytical responsibilities.

The challenge here for many accountants will be to upskill to take advantage of these new possibilities. Automation will allow accountants to embrace the intangible aspects of human intelligence that robots cannot replicate. Imagination and general intelligence will need to find a way to adapt to this new way of working.”

Why do you want to work here?

"Why do you want to work here?" is another one of these accounting interview questions that require you to do your research. Specifically, it would help if you found out a bit about the company's brand, values, mission, and goals. This knowledge will allow you to understand the type of person they are looking for and highlight situations where your values align.

It’s important not to lie in an interview. But if you are motivated purely by money and answer that way, it will suggest to the hiring manager that you won’t be a good culture fit at the company.

Hirers understand that candidates often have several job offers on the table and they know that people come to work because they have bills to pay. But you should still have an answer that highlights the goals that you share with the company and reassures them that you won't leave at the first opportunity.

Example Answer:

"I'd love to get this position because, at this stage of my career, I am looking to join a company that encourages career growth and progression.

I would bring with me a good amount of experience in the industry. I have a deep understanding of accounting software and practices that could increase efficiency and profitability for your company.

Additionally, your commitment to investing in eco-friendly causes caught my eye. I have a significant interest in environmental causes and would like to work for a business that shares these values."

What was the biggest challenge you faced in the accounting field, and how were you able to overcome it?

Some accounting interview questions listed here seem superficially related but ask different things. Here, the question is designed to assess your industry knowledge and your approach to problem-solving.

Problems and challenges will arise in the course of your accounting career. You need to assure the hiring manager that you can overcome anything that comes your way.

Example Answer:

"When I started as an accountant, the biggest challenge I faced was staying abreast of laws and regulations. Compliance and reporting rule changes and income tax code levels across federal and state levels change often, so accountants need to have the best, most up-to-date information.

I subscribed to several industry news sources and publications to solve this issue and stay ahead of the curve. This way, I am forewarned about any upcoming changes and can keep my finger on the industry pulse. The internet, blogs, and social media are great ways to stay connected to what is happening. As such, I am always armed with the latest news, trends, or changes that affect my trade."

What is your experience with ERP systems? If you have any, which ones are you familiar with?

Many large organizations use enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) in their day-to-day operations. While these solutions do focus on accounting, they also provide assistance with project management, procurement, risk and compliance management, and more.

Accounting interview questions like these are often used to judge how easily you can be trained for your new role. You could be replacing an outgoing employee who specialized in ERPs, or it could be an area that the business is planning to expand into in the future. Your knowledge of specific accounting areas like ERPs is an important part of what makes you a great candidate.

Example Answer:

"In my current role, I work with a variety of different software solutions. Currently, we use Netsuite, but in the past, we used Microsoft GP.

Of course, part of being an accountant is working with a variety of systems from time to time. As a result, I've learned to adapt quickly to new programs. I already have a good grounding in the concepts and principles of ERP, so, if required, I could get up to speed with any new software quickly."

Accounting interview questions and answers: Calculator

Explain the differences between account payable and accounts receivable.

You should expect a variety of accounting interview questions that probe your knowledge of the industry and test your ability to explain concepts clearly and concisely.

Example Answer:

"Accounts payable are considered liabilities. They are the amount of money a company owes because it has bought goods on credit from a supplier or a vendor.

Accounts receivable are the opposite. They can be considered company assets because they track goods or services the company has sold to a customer.”

Tell us about a time when you had to use a graph or other numerical data to convince a manager?

The best accounting interview questions tell a hiring manager a lot about your approach to work. This question has a lot going on. It tests your (a) analytic skills, (b) relationship to authority (c) how you deal with conflict.

Answering accounting interview questions like these will give you a chance to show your fiscal responsibility too. Get it right, and it'll be an absolute homerun!

Example Answer:

"My current employer has a lot of long-standing vendor relationships. One such arrangement was with a third party that provided paper products. Despite an organizational drive toward digitization, each year, the cost of these services was going up.

I made this point to my manager. However, they were reluctant to dissolve the relationships because they liked the reliability of the service. I felt that my responsibilities as an accountant dictated that I needed to make a case clearly.

I put together a chart that detailed the year-over-year increase. Additionally, I researched alternative suppliers and tabled their bids for services. Once this was complete, I showed my manager the raw figures that suggested we could cut costs by almost 50%. Soon after, they acted on my advice."

Five great accounting interview questions to ask when it's your turn

Near the end of the interview, the hiring manager will allow you to ask a few questions of your own. Preparation is crucial here.

These questions are a chance to learn more about what the job entails and the philosophy of the people that work there. Additionally, it's another chance to make a good impression by asking questions that show a curious mind and an understanding of the company.

The best accounting interview questions to ask are related to the specifics of each company. They can display the research that you have done or underline your understanding of the company's core principles.

Sometimes it's hard to know what to ask, but it's best not to pass up the opportunity. Here are some of the best general accounting interview questions that will work if you can't think of many yourself.

  1. What does a typical workday look like in this accounting position?

  2. What accounting technologies, if any, are the company planning to introduce in the future?

  3. What does the ideal candidate for this position look like to you?

  4. What is the most significant accounting challenge facing the company? How would my role help to solve these issues?

  5. What is the company's policy or career development or continuing education?

James Clift

Written By

James Clift

Co-Founder & Director

James is an entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

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