6 Essential Interview Questions to Ask Accounting Job Candidates

Hiring is a high-stakes endeavor. Bringing aboard the wrong job applicant is a costly mistake that wastes time, money and resources. That’s why it’s so important to make each and every interview question count. Here are six critical interview questions to ask accounting candidates:

1. How do you stay current on accounting laws and regulations? While it’s difficult to remain completely up to date on all accounting laws and policies, this question will give candidates an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and outline their approach for keeping abreast of notable industry developments. For example, have they attended a conference or seminar recently? Do they belong to any professional organizations such as the AICPA? Do they subscribe to a variety of industry publications? This question helps gauge their overall commitment to the ever-evolving world of accounting and finance.

2. Can you tell me how you handle tight deadlines on the job? This is a good example of an open-ended question. It requires an interviewee to reveal insights into his or her work style and personality. You will also likely learn about the prospective employee’s overall ability to prioritize, a critical skill for all accounting professionals.

3. Can you describe a challenging workplace situation that you have encountered? How did you go about solving the problem? This question gives the candidate the opportunity to discuss a number of situations that could range from an invoice dispute to a client miscommunication. The answer will tell you a little about the candidate’s thought process, problem solving skills, customer service orientation and ability to think on his or her feet.

4. Why do you want to work here? If you want to know how proactive the candidate is, this is one of the best interview questions to ask. You will find out whether or not the candidate has researched your company. The answer to this question may also tell you whether or not the interviewee is a good fit for your organization’s culture.

5. I see that you've been unemployed for the past few months. Why is that? What have you been doing since then? Being out of work shouldn’t be an automatic red flag. Give the candidate a chance to explain any gaps or extended periods of unemployment. Interviewees who have used the time wisely (e.g., volunteering, skills training, attending industry events) demonstrate motivation and a commitment to professional development.

6. How comfortable and adept are you with technology? While accounting software varies from company to company, this question will give you an idea of how open the candidate is to learning new systems. Companies today face mounting pressures to meet corporate governance regulations and to secure financial data. As a result, you need accounting and finance professionals who have strong technical know-how and the ability to quickly adapt.

These six questions can reveal key insights into both hard skills and soft skills that will help you pinpoint the right candidate for the job.