If you’re applying for an accounting position and want to improve your chance of getting hired, you need to be ready to answer a number of questions.
This comprehensive list of accounting interview questions will help you prepare and make a great impression.
1. Have you ever created your own process for accounting?
Accounting is an important role within a company, and many are looking for innovators. Employers want people who can actively improve existing accounting processes. A question like this lets interviewers see if you have the creative mind and problem-solving skills to address the company’s issues.
Reflect on your experience and provide details on the processes you created. Highlight how they benefited your past employers. If you don’t have a direct example, you can talk about how you changed and improved processes to improve efficiency.
2. Can you provide an example of a complex accounting issue you resolved and how you went about it?
This accounting interview question is all about testing your problem-solving skills. To be a successful accountant, you have to navigate complex challenges regularly. Your response is an opportunity to prove that you aren’t afraid of hurdles and have the innate skills to overcome anything.
Provide real-world examples whenever possible. Explain the problem, explain what you did, and emphasize the positive outcome that came after.
3. Can you give an example of a time when you delivered outstanding customer service to a client?
Most people think that accounting is all about technical skills and knowledge. While those are big factors to your success, you must also provide great customer service. This question is about showing that you know how to interact with clients while taking care of their needs. Keep in mind, sometimes we have internal customers too.
Consider your greatest customer service moments and discuss when you went above and beyond to meet a client’s needs.
4. What attracted you to our accounting firm?
Here’s a question you’ll hear regardless of the position you’re trying to get. Employers want to know why you want a job at their firm. Your answer unveils your motivations and shows that you’ve done your research.
Before your interview, learn as much as you can about the company. Find a few key talking points that initially compelled you to comply. It can be the company’s mission, its approach to accounting, etc.
5. Can you share your experience in developing or tracking business metrics?
As an accountant, you’ll work with businesses to track many key metrics. That can include monitoring gross margins or tracking the cost of bringing in new customers, and knowing how to monitor those metrics is essential.
Hiring managers ask this accounting interview question to gauge your understanding of these critical skills. They want to know that you clearly understand business metrics and will have no problem completing the relevant work.
6. In terms of accounting software, do you place more importance on cost or functionality?
There are many types of accounting software available. The best way to answer this question is to emphasize that cost doesn’t always reflect functionality and efficiency. While you may have your preferences, hiring managers want to hear answers that emphasize both cost and functionality.
For example, you can talk about the importance of finding software that fits your budget and meets your business’s core needs.
7. What methods do you employ to evaluate the reliability of financial data you receive?
An accounting interview question like this gives interviewers more insight into your standards. Higher performance standards are always preferred!
Think about how you evaluate financial data. You may have processes to reduce errors and maintain good quality control. Whatever the case, talk about it and emphasize the importance of reliability.
Your goal is to show great attention to detail and care about accuracy.
8. How would you define working capital?
This question appears simple, but it’s something interviewers ask to gauge your understanding of accounting. It’s a simple definition, but you can provide examples to put your knowledge on full display.
In short, working capital refers to the money a business has available to use on day-to-day expenses. It’s the company’s overall assets minus its current liabilities.
9. How would you distinguish between auditing and accounting?
Here’s another interview question for accountants that lets you show your understanding of this industry. While accounting and auditing are both important, they are two different processes.
Accounting is a continuous process that involves keeping track of transactions and preparing financial statements. Auditing comes after. It’s a periodic process that involves critically examining financial statements to verify accuracy.
10. Have you ever mentored another accountant?
There’s no better way to improve your own skills than by mentoring others. Employers love to hear that candidates have some mentoring experience. Not only does it usually mean their skills are excellent, but it also shows that they know how to work with others.
Talk about previous mentorship experiences and lean into what you did to help the person who shadowed you. If you don’t have any experience, be honest. You can discuss a moment when someone mentored you.
11. Can you explain the key differences between cash and accrual accounting?
These forms of accounting differ in what you include for financial statements and monitoring processes.
With accrual accounting, you include funds the company hasn’t yet received. A business could accept deferred payments. When you do accrual accounting, you include everything owed to the company, even if they receive it later.
Cash accounting doesn’t include those deferred payments. It’s not counted as revenue until the company has the cash on hand.
12. Tell me about a time when you fostered teamwork and cooperation in the workplace?
Teamwork is important in the accounting world. Hiring managers ask this question to learn more about how you work with others and what you do to foster collaboration.
Reflect on past experiences and provide a real example. You can discuss what steps you take to include others, how you improve communication among team members, the importance of active listening, etc.
13. How do you work to minimize human error?
Like the question about financial data reliability, this one helps employers gauge your attention to detail. In accounting, human errors can be detrimental.
The best way to respond is to highlight your organizational skills and understanding of internal controls. You can discuss Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAPs) and go over your steps to reduce errors as much as possible.
14. How would you gauge if a company can meet its short-term obligations?
Here’s another question that gauges your skills and accounting knowledge.
The best way to determine if a company can meet its short-term obligations is to look at its working capital. Also known as the current ratio, you find the figure dividing the company’s current assets by its current liabilities.
15. Can you explain the difference between public and private accounting?
Interviewers may ask this question to ensure that you understand what different types of work entail and what responsibilities you may have. The best way to respond to this accounting interview question is to define these two terms and provide examples of how they differ.
Private accounting refers to when an accountant works for a single company. You can discuss responsibilities, such as implementing accounting processes, evaluating spending, etc.
Public accounting is when you work with multiple businesses and individuals. In this case, your responsibilities could include providing auditing services, preparing financial statements, etc.
16. When purchasing equipment for a company, how do the three financial statements get affected?
This question lets employers gain more insight into your understanding of financial statements. When a company purchases new equipment, the three statements affected are cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements.
Interviewers may make this question more complex by including thresholds, such as time of acquisition and financing factors.
17. What are the five common errors in accounting? Have you committed any of these errors? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
The five common errors in accounting include:
- Entering line items into the wrong account
- Considering income as an expense or vice versa
- Transposing numbers
- Omitting a digit or decimal point
- Duplication and missed entries
You can be honest about whether or not you’ve made these mistakes. But if you talk about those mistakes, discuss what you learned and how you’ve stopped yourself from making them again.
18. Do you possess any unique accounting qualifications or skills?
There are many accounting specializations and unique qualifications available. If you have any of them, employers want to learn about them!
Added qualifications can improve your chances of getting a job. That’s especially true if they’re relevant to the role. If you don’t have any extra qualifications, you can discuss the steps you’re taking to get them in the future.
19. Why is fraud more likely to occur with a journal entry compared to a ledger?
An accounting interview question like this helps hiring managers test a candidate’s knowledge and skills around fraud analysis.
Journal entries have fewer controls than ledgers. An official ledger has controls that detect issues like human error and fraud. Because journals lack those protections, it’s easier for someone to commit fraud.
20. How do you stay current on the latest accounting laws and regulations?
Accounting laws and regulations are ever-changing. To remain successful in this field, you must stay abreast of what’s current. No employer wants to hire an accountant who isn’t updated on laws and regulations.
You can talk about attending regular conferences or subscribing to professional publications. Memberships in professional organizations are also a plus.
21. Which accounting software platforms do you have experience with?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Several accounting platforms exist. Whether you prefer Quickbooks or Hyperion, you can talk about what you enjoy most from those platforms.
The most important thing is to emphasize that you’re adaptable and willing to learn. The employer may have its preferred software, and you must show that you can learn quickly without hiccups.
22. What tactics did you use in your past roles to detect fraud and ensure security?
Fraud detection is crucial in accounting. With this question, interviewers aim to learn more about what you do to ensure security. It’s about proving your attention to detail and ensuring you take steps to prevent fraud.
The best way to respond is to go over your methods. Provide examples and offer proof of how your tactics work.
23. Can you share some challenges you faced while leading others through an analysis project?
Leading a team through a complex analysis project isn’t easy. However, worthy candidates can lead a team effectively and use many strategies to handle tough challenges.
When you answer this accounting interview question, provide real examples. Be comprehensive in your response, detailing what you did to handle the situation. Interviewers want more insight into your thought processes, so focus on your critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities.
24. Which ERP systems are you familiar with?
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are what companies use to manage their business operations.
Don’t be vague with your response. Talk about the systems you have experience using. Be specific with your answer.
Hiring managers want to learn about what you’re comfortable using so that they can understand how much training you’ll need to utilize existing ERP systems if offered the job.
25. Can you discuss how you managed to lower a company’s operating expenses in the past?
Knowing how to lower a company’s operating expenses is a valuable skill. Any way you can save your clients money and boost the bottom line is worth discussing.
Like other questions, this one is about problem-solving and creative thinking. Refer to real scenarios from your work history. Discuss what you did and how your work made a difference.
26. Could you explain the primary types of financial statements?
Questions like this gauge your accounting knowledge. You can use many types of financial statements, and what’s best will depend on the company.
Common financial statements include a balance sheet. Balance sheets outline current assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity. There are also cash flow statements detailing where a company’s money comes from.
Finally, you can bring up income statements. They detail expenses and revenue.
27. Explain the difference between deferred revenue and accounts receivable.
Deferred revenue refers to money a company receives before providing its product or service. For example, a customer may prepay for something. However, the company hasn’t fulfilled its part of the exchange.
Accounts receivable are the opposite. It’s when a company provides its product or service, but the customer hasn’t paid yet. It’s considered accounts receivable until the customer fulfills their invoice.
28. What three soft skills do you believe are essential for an accountant to have?
There are many soft skills an accountant needs. Interviewers ask this question to learn more about what you bring to this position and what you believe is most important to the job.
You can discuss skills like time management, attention to detail, communication, problem-solving, etc. The best approach is to respond with the skills you have, allowing you to show how you demonstrate the skills you need to succeed.
29. What does PP&E represent, and how is it recorded?
Here’s another interview question for accountants that helps employers understand your core knowledge.
PP&E stands for property, plant, and equipment. It’s an acronym that refers to physical assets.
Typically, you’d record PP&E on a balance sheet while accounting for factors like depreciation and added capital.
30. How do you manage stress?
Accounting can be a stressful job. Hiring managers ask about stress management to ensure you have what it takes to navigate the challenges of the job without losing your cool.
There’s no right or wrong answer, but you must discuss what steps you take to ensure that stress doesn’t affect your performance and productivity.
31. How do you handle tight deadlines?
When an interviewer asks this question, they want to know about your time management skills! Accounting can involve many distinct tasks with strict deadlines.
Your response should cover your approach to time management and task prioritization. Provide real examples that show how your techniques benefit you and your past employers.
32. Have you obtained your CPA?
A certified public accountant (CPA) license isn’t always required. However, it can give a competitive edge because it proves you have specific competencies.
If you don’t have your CPA, be honest. You can discuss your plans to get your CPA. You can also bring up other credentials, such as a CFA, CMA and more.
33. Can you identify a major challenge that individuals in the accounting profession often face?
Accounting interview questions like this assess your knowledge of the current accounting landscape. A solid response covers common challenges, proving that you understand what hurdles you’ll need to overcome if given the job.
Consider reading recent accounting publications. You can solve existing problems, such as staying current with changing regulations and utilizing emerging technologies.
34. Can you share a recent challenge you encountered and what you did to overcome it?
This question complements the previous one. Like many other questions during your interview, this one aims to shed light on your ability to overcome challenges and solve problems.
Refer to a real scenario you recently experienced. Detail the issues at hand, discuss how you approached them, and end with a positive outcome. You can also refer to the lessons you learned and how you’ve avoided similar challenges since.
35. What is the accounting equation?
If you can’t answer this question confidently, it’ll be a major red flag for hiring managers. The accounting equation relates to the balance sheet and is an important foundation for this industry.
The accounting equation shows how a company’s liabilities and equity relates to its assets.
36. If a company processes payments through three bank accounts, what is the minimum number of ledgers it requires?
When an interviewer asks this question, they’re testing your knowledge of ledgers. It’s an opportunity to show that you understand how bank accounts relate to the lines of business.
Each bank account should have three ledgers for proper accounting and reconciliation. That means you’d have a total of nine ledgers to cover the three accounts.
37. Can you mention a few prevalent budget methods and their main features?
There are several budgeting methods you can use. Some of the most common include incremental budgeting, activity-based budgeting, zero-based budgeting, and value proposition budgeting.
The best way to answer this accounting interview question is to focus on the methods you’re most familiar with. Talk about their advantages and disadvantages, and provide examples of how you’ve used them to your and your past employer’s benefit.
38. What methods do you use to manage and prioritize your day-to-day tasks?
Here’s another question centered around time management. Hiring managers want to learn about how you approach your day. They want insight into how you manage your time, meet deadlines, and prioritize tasks to get everything done efficiently.
You can discuss various time management techniques. Focus on the ones you utilize most and how they work to your advantage.
39. What are the four types of special journals?
The four main types of special journals include:
- Sales journals
- Purchase journals
- Cash disbursement journals
- Cash receipt journals
When interviewers ask this question, they’re gauging your knowledge and testing your ability to stay organized and identify journaling mistakes.
40. In double-entry accounting, what components of a ledger should balance out?
This is a relatively easy accounting question that interviewers often use to ensure that you have a basic understanding of the job. If you can’t answer it, you’ll likely get taken out of the running.
To balance out, the total of debits and credits for a transaction need to be equal on the ledger.
41. Can you explain EBITDA and its relevance in accounting?
EBITDA is an acronym for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.” EBITDA is an important measure of an entity’s financial health. It provides insight into how a company earns money.
Like other basic knowledge questions, interviewers may ask about EBITDA as an early “qualifier” question. Explain the concept thoroughly to make a good impression.
42. What do you believe are the top attributes of an effective accountant?
You could talk about many skills, but hiring managers want to hear what you think is most important to success. A question like this unveils considerable information about your approach and motivations.
Think about what skills and attributes contribute most to your success. They can be hard or soft skills, but you must explain why those attributes matter.
43. Tell me about yourself.
This question can catch you off guard. While it seems simple and irrelevant, hiring managers use it to gauge your fit into the company.
It’s about seeing if you fit into the company culture and can succeed in this environment. The best approach is to focus on your work experience. Talk about your qualifications and what types of work environments you thrive in. This tell me about yourself question should align with the job you are interviewing for and be under two minutes long.
Of course, research the company before your interview to ensure that your answer aligns with the organization.
44. Can you differentiate between accounts receivable and accounts payable?
Another knowledge-based question, interviewers ask this to gauge your core understanding of accounting.
Accounts receivable are assets. It’s what a company receives in exchange for a product or service.
Accounts payable are liabilities. It’s what a company owes to another entity for products or services. For example, accounts payable could include rent payments for the office, software the team uses, office supplies, etc.
45. In what circumstances would you capitalize an expenditure instead of expensing it?
Generally, it’s best to capitalize a purchase if the company plans to use it over a long period of time. For example, buying new equipment the organization will use for years should be capitalized.
On the other hand, expensing a purchase is best if the company plans to consume it immediately. Examples of those purchases include employee salaries, office supplies, etc.
46. Could you describe an occasion where you exceeded expectations at work?
Employers love it when employers go above and beyond. Of course, it’s not about squeezing as much work out of a person as possible. Instead, it shows you’re dedicated to your job and willing to go above and beyond to ensure success.
Provide examples of when you went outside your scope of work to handle a problem. That could be staying late to take care of tight deadlines or doing extra work to ensure security on financial statements. Whatever the case, explain the situation and lean into what good came out of it.
47. Which accounting duties do you find to be the easiest? Which tasks are more challenging for you?
Accounting interview questions like this are similar to those about your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has areas where they excel and areas where they’re looking to improve.
Be honest about both. Talk about your strengths and provide examples of how you thrive doing certain work.
When discussing weaknesses, reflect on why those challenges are so difficult to overcome. Most importantly, discuss the steps you’re taking to improve and show that you don’t shy away from the hurdles that come your way.
Now that you’re familiar with the most important accounting interview questions, the next step is to start practicing your answers. Work through this list and identify any questions that trip you up so you can develop a perfect response!
If you do this, your chance of getting hired will skyrocket.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.