When Building a Team of Star Accountants, Personality Counts

A cartoon of a team of accountants climbing, lifting, and standing on interlocking gears

In addition to assessing an accounting candidate’s hard skills and credentials, it's vital for a manager to look at the job seeker's personality when building a team.

Why is personality so important? Given that managers in some offices spend as much as 18 percent of their time managing conflicts between team members, according to an Accountemps survey, imagine how much more work gets done when there is harmony among colleagues.

Here are some ideas for finding the right personality fit for your team.

Ask smart questions to reveal personality traits

Most hiring managers use creative interview questions when building a team to see how a candidate will fit in, their propensity for collaboration or independence, work ethic and motivators.

The following are some useful questions that can reveal personality better than the standard "What did you like or dislike about your previous job?" You can tailor them to suit the needs of your particular accounting team.

  • "Tell me about a time when something didn't go well, and how you handled it."
  • "If you got this job, loved the work and got the starting salary you want, what other offer from what type of company would make you leave?"
  • "Can you describe one time you achieved something using unconventional or creative methods?"

Open-ended questions prompt creative, thoughtful answers from candidates. They allow candidates to talk about their motivations, what frustrates them and what is important to them.

Sometimes you might need to ask the same question in different ways to really extract the truth of an answer because smart candidates will likely anticipate some of these questions and frame their responses in a way that puts them in the best possible light.

Why personality matters, even after building a team

Managers should also consider personality even after a team is assembled — for example, when redistributing responsibility among existing staff members. If you know one employee is a natural leader, you might put him or her in charge of the next project. Or you might nudge an introverted team member by allowing the person to deliver an upcoming team presentation.

Team members don't need to be best friends, but mutual respect and the ability to work cooperatively are essential to an accounting department's success. When building a team, remember to look for personalities that will mesh into a cohesive and cooperative group.

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