10 Essential Accounting Interview Questions and Answers

Accountant discussing budget

You’ve decided you want to pursue a career in accounting, and you've landed an interview. Now what?

There are a variety of opportunities for accounting professionals, and it can be hard to know exactly how to prepare for your interview. We can help!

We’ve put together the following list of 10 accounting interview questions for your review. Take the time to study our sample questions and answers (and come up with your own answers), and you’ll be well on your way to getting that job offer!

Table of Contents:

  1. Why are you pursuing a career in accounting?
  2. How do you manage your time throughout the workday?
  3. Tell me about a time when you had to be flexible in the workplace.
  4. What would you do if a client asked you to create an expense record for which there was no supporting documentation?
  5. Tell me about a time when you worked with peers to achieve a fantastic result. What was your role?
  6. How do you prefer to communicate with those around you in the workplace?
  7. Tell me about a time that you provided exceptional customer service to a client.
  8. When performing routine data entry, how do you guard against making mistakes?
  9. What accounting skills/certifications do you have?
  10. What do you do when you don’t immediately know the solution to a problem?

 

1. Why are you pursuing a career in accounting?

This is an accounting interview question you should absolutely expect. Employers want to know why you want to work in this field. There’s no right answer to this question, so just be honest.

Here’s one way you might reply:

“I’ve always enjoyed math and numbers. I particularly like the way accounting requires that the numbers line up, and when they don’t line up, I enjoy troubleshooting to uncover the discrepancy.”


2. How do you manage your time throughout the workday?

The subject of time management skills will likely surface as one of your accounting interview questions. All accounting offices are challenged daily by competing priorities. Hiring managers need to know that you’re able to adjust to new priorities and ensure that the most critical tasks are completed when promised:

“At the beginning of every day, I take 15 minutes to review my agenda and the work that needs to get completed. Then I schedule my time accordingly. If there are any questions as to the priority of a task, I have a quick alignment conversation with my manager. If new priorities arise, or if something urgent threatens my initial plan, I’ll have another quick conversation with my manager to ensure we’re on the same page.”


3. Tell me about a time when you had to be flexible in the workplace.

Employers want to know that you are adaptable when going about your day-to-day work. Flexibility indicates that you’re able to jump in at a moment’s notice to help out a teammate, or deliver an unexpected task when your manager requests it.

Show them your flexibility with an answer like this:

“I was head-down in data entry for a client when a peer asked for my help to complete a company critical project. It was the end of the month, so I couldn’t abandon my data entry work. But I knew that my teammate wouldn’t have asked for my help if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. I re-prioritized the rest of my day and made plans to stay a couple extra hours in the office to ensure both tasks got completed. I don’t mind putting in extra time when it helps the company with their best clients, and I know my teammate really appreciated it.”


4. What would you do if a client asked you to create an expense record for which there was no supporting documentation?

Honesty and integrity are two essential qualities when working in an accounting firm. You must have both to be successful, and a hiring manager will try to uncover how you would handle a potentially difficult situation. Keep your answer brief, but leave no doubt as to how you would handle this type of situation:

“I would politely decline to comply and share my reasoning. Expense records feed into tax records, and those records are legal documents that have to be supported by a paper trail.”


5. Tell me about a time when you worked with peers to achieve a fantastic result. What was your role?

Being results-oriented is another desirable trait in an accounting employee. Employers want to know that they can rely on their employees to get their assigned work done, and done well. Don’t be afraid to brag a little in crafting an answer something like this:

“Two years ago, my College Student Association peers and I organized a charity food drive. My best friend and I had the idea to do something meaningful for the community. We co-owned the entire project, marketing it to every outlet we could think of, and when the drive was complete, we’d collected more than $10,000 worth of food for our local food bank. We were ecstatic!”


6. How do you prefer to communicate with those around you in the workplace?

In this day and age, there are multiple ways to communicate in the workplace. Knowing when to use different forms of communication is an indicator of a strong communicator.

Here’s an example:

“It depends! If it’s a quick question, I tend to use instant messaging. But if it’s going to take longer than a minute to respond, then I’ll send an email. If it’s a sensitive conversation, or one that could be misunderstood, I’ll set up a face-to-face meeting or make a phone call.”


7. Tell me about a time that you provided exceptional customer service to a client.

This is another common accounting interview question. Customer service skills are invaluable in an accounting role. You’ll spend a lot of time with the numbers and making sense of them, but ultimately, they are connected to people who need to be coached and educated on how best to manage their books. Learn how to use the STAR method to answer behavioral interview questions.

You might try an answer like this:

“This example was from my previous role as an assistant at a senior living facility. A resident was waiting in the lobby for a family member who was going to take her to a doctor’s appointment. The family member called to say he was having car trouble and wouldn’t be able to make it in time for the appointment. I knew that the resident was waiting anxiously for test results from her doctor, so I offered to take her myself so that she wouldn’t have to reschedule the appointment. The resident was extremely grateful when I was able to drop her off in time to make her scheduled appointment.”


8. When performing routine data entry, how do you guard against making mistakes?

When working with numbers it’s important to pay attention to detail. Human error happens, so it’s crucial that you have safeguards in place. Other than listing the skill on your resume, this is your chance to tell a story that illustrates your ability to work at a high level of accuracy:

“I try to minimize distractions in the workplace, but I also have simple data validation checkpoints built into my workflow. The validations ensure that if I make an error somewhere, I don’t get too far into the work before I am able to catch it and correct it.”


9. What accounting skills/certifications do you have?

Depending on your experience, and the specific job you’re applying for, this may or may not be relevant. Answer truthfully, but indicate willingness to fill in any gaps if the employer requests it:

“This will be my first accounting role, so while I have taken several accounting courses, I haven’t yet pursued any certifications. I’m excited to learn about what you would recommend I pursue first!”


10. What do you do when you don’t immediately know the solution to a problem?

Resourcefulness is a desired characteristic for today’s employees. Busy managers often value employees who are willing to take a first pass at solving a tough problem. Show them that you can handle unfamiliar situations with an answer like this:

“I research the answer! I love to figure out solutions to problems using a variety of different methods. These could include online searches, peer-to-peer coaching, or simply refreshing my memory using old textbooks.”

 

Are you ready with your own answers to all 10 accounting interview questions? Go prepare a few more and practice! Preparation is the key to nailing your interview. Isn’t it better to spend a few extra hours preparing to rock the interview than to spend a few more weeks landing the next one? Good luck!