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How to Prepare for an Accounting Interview - 10 Tips

Accounting is a fast-growing field, and competition is stiff as both college graduates and experienced professionals apply to in-demand jobs. Your resume will get you in the door with a prospective employer, but it’s the interview that sets one qualified applicant apart from the next. If you’ve landed an accounting interview for your dream job, here are ten tips to prepare you to wow the hiring manager and seal the deal.

1. Know Your "Why"

Why do you want to be an accountant? It’s one of the first questions most interviewers ask, and your answer can set the tone for the rest of the interview. Prepare your answer beforehand and be ready to expand on the hobbies, interests and goals that led you to pursue accounting as a career. You don’t need to wax poetic about a lifelong love of numbers, but interviewers want to understand what interests you about the job beyond the paycheck.

2. Brush Up On the Basics

A few basic accounting interview questions include:

  • What are the differences between accounts payable and accounts receivable?
  • What are a couple of ways to estimate bad debt?
  • How can you minimize and check for errors in your work?

An interviewer may ask these fundamental accounting questions  to test your knowledge. Even if you know the material forward and backward, prepare verbal answers ahead of time.

3. Plan Stories

Almost every interviewee will need to tell a story about a time they solved a technical problem or dealt with a disgruntled client. These questions are designed to assess your communication, attention to detail, calm under pressure and other transferable skills. Have a few stories ready so you don’t have to maintain an awkward silence as you think.

4. Arrive Early

Arriving early is a must for any interview, and accounting is no exception. In this decidedly type-A field, you’re expected to demonstrate meticulous precision and attention to detail, and the accuracy of your work can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. Showing up late demonstrates exactly the opposite, so be there ahead of time.

5. Be Specific

Give specific examples, even when your interviewer doesn’t ask for them. It makes more of an impact to talk about the spreadsheets you’ve created for your personal taxes and budget, for instance, than to simply say you’re skilled in Excel.

6. Demonstrate Your Value

What sets you apart from other candidates? Perhaps you have experience in your prospective employer’s client industries, or you’re well-versed in the software they use. Maybe you have excellent communication and interpersonal skills that help you work efficiently with other departments. Know what unique qualities you bring to the table, and make sure you emphasize them during your interview.

7. Research the Company

If you research the company ahead of time, you can be all the more specific when you explain the skills and attributes that make you a great fit for the job. Referring to specific departments, events, problems and people also demonstrates the attention to detail that characterizes a great accountant.

8. Research Your Field

Keep up with the Financial Accounting Standards Board and International Accounting Standards Board, as well as new tax laws and other regulatory changes. Your interviewer may ask timely questions to see if your knowledge is up to date.

9. Ask Questions

Specific questions show that you’re engaged, thoughtful and detail-oriented enough to pick out points of interest from the discussion. Your interview is also an opportunity for you to learn about your potential employer — you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you, so asking questions helps you determine if you want to work with them as well.

10. Be Confident

Your resume has already demonstrated that you have the educational background and experience necessary for the job. Instead of worrying about what exactly your interviewer wants to hear, prepare several stories and specific examples, brush up on your accounting knowledge and enter the interview knowing that you have what it takes. An interview is ultimately a chance to sell yourself, and you’ll do a far better job of that if you’re confident and relaxed.

Securing the interview is half the battle. We hope these accounting interview tips help you seal the deal by giving you an idea of the questions you can expect to be asked. Good luck! 

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