Hiring is a high-stakes endeavour. 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 all of your interview questions count when you're trying to fill accounting jobs. 

Here are six critical topics followed by sample interview questions to ask accounting candidates:

1. Accounting laws and regulations

Sample interview question: How do you stay current on the laws and policies? While it’s difficult to remain completely up to date on all of these, this question will give candidates an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and outline their approach for keeping abreast of notable developments in the world of Canadian accounting. For example, have they attended a conference or seminar recently? Do they belong to any professional organizations such as the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) or the Credit Institute of Canada (CIC)? Do they subscribe to any industry publications? This question helps you determine their overall commitment to the ever-evolving world of accounting and finance.

2. Deadlines on the job

Sample interview question: Can you tell me how you handle tight deadlines? 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. Problem-solving abilities

Sample interview question: Can you describe a workplace situation you've encountered that was especially challenging? 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. Motivation and fit

Sample interview question: 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 the candidate has researched your company. The answer to this question may also tell you whether the interviewee is a good fit for your organization’s culture.

5. Any red flags?

Sample interview question: 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. Technology comfort level

Sample interview question: 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.