Are you looking for a job in accounting? If you’re already a graduate or will be graduating soon, and you haven’t already bagged yourself a place in an accounting firm, you’ll have to face a fair few interviews over the coming months.
And that means fielding some potentially tricky interview questions. So, as people who have interviewed a fair few candidates in our time, we thought we’d put together a list of potential interview questions:
Why do you want to become an accountant?
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. The natural reaction for new graduates is to say that their accounting degree gave them a passion for tax or that they’ve always been good with numbers. For seasoned accounting professionals these things can sound trite and naive, much like when professors read personal statements from secondary school leavers! Look for a specific example of what you want to achieve by being an accountant: do you want to reduce the tax burden for small business owners, become a financial manager and this is a stepping stone or is it that the financialization of the UK economy has only left you with a few realistic options for a long, prosperous career, accoutancy being one of them?
Describe a tough accounting problem you’ve solved?
If you have no practical experience of accounting then this one is going to be rather tricky to answer. Try to think if you’ve used any of your knowledge to help a friend or family member arrange their tax affairs better. You could have taught someone about inheritance tax or how to claim for tax credits, for example.
Obviously if you’re not new to the profession, you should be able to draw on a whole host of example. The more complex the better!
How would you minimise the risk of day-to-day errors in your position?
Accountancy is all about attention to detail. You’ll often be doing a lot of complex calculations and everything will need to be in order, especially if you’re handling a large account.
Outline methods that you would use to safeguard against errors, from the standard of keeping two sets of books to more advanced Excel techniques. Outline how you can check over work for errors, both manually and automatically.
Why should we hire you?
This will depend on your experience and skills of course, but try to find concrete examples of where you’ve used accounting knowledge to achieve a positive outcome. Hopefully you’ll have done some work experience but if not look to your soft skills or any significant academic achievements.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the accountancy industry today?
This doesn’t have to be a modern problem: it could be an age-old issue with accounting, such as tax evasion, or it could be security of bookkeeping as accounting moves to more cloud-based solutions. You’ll need to be seen as looking at industry-focused current-events.
The only way you can do this is by reading as much industry news as possible, and forming your own opinion on where problems lie. So look to Accountancy Age, Richard Murphy’s blog, the Financial Times, The Economist and try to get a feel for the global financial system if you’re going for interview at the Big Four.
Don’t forget, you’ll probably be asked for an opinion on topical accounting stories or much-debated , whether that’s FIFA and KPMG, the Tesco scandal, or tax planning schemes.
While we’re sure at some companies you might get those weird questions like “who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman” or “How many traffic lights are there in the UK?”, but most off the time we accountants like to keep it pretty normal!