Don’t Be Caught Off Guard – Acing Job Interview Questions Part II
In the second part of the series, Lewis Daidone offers advice and strategies for tackling tough accounting job interview questions. Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services firms and tech companies..
In part one, I discussed a few basic questions asked by interviewers, as well as their motives for asking them. Here are a few more tricky interview questions that you’re likely to encounter on your job search.
“Can you describe your end-of-month closing process?”
This is not only designed to determine your level of previous responsibility, but to see how efficiently and accurately you can articulate the specifics of the procedure. Make sure you address ever facet of your routine.
“What accounting/regulatory standards are you familiar with?”
Describe your proficiency with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), IFRS, Sarbanes-Oxley, and other accounting/regulatory standards. Moreover, you should describe the steps you take to stay educated on current practices and updates – if you take courses, attend seminars, etc. Demonstrate your understanding of how your knowledge of GAAP and other principles will apply to the position you’re seeking.
“Can you describe any difficulties you’ve had with a colleague or manager?”
Accountancy can be a delicate business – discovering errors or reporting issues requires sensitive, and sometimes difficult, discussions. It is important to be able to handle such situations delicately, compassionately, yet firmly, and your prospective employer wants to know if you have the skill and maturity to cope with diverse personalities in high pressure circumstances.
“Describe your biggest weakness.”
No matter what your weaknesses are – fear of taking on leadership roles, lack of experience, limited knowledge of the organization’s ERP – make sure you are actively addressing those weaknesses in demonstrable ways. You’re taking courses, seeking guidance/mentorship, pursuing certifications. If possible, turn the negative into a positive. For instance, if you have a tendency to be obsessive with respect to accuracy, mention that you are learning to temper your drive for perfection with an appropriate work-life balance. Self-awareness isn’t enough. You have to show that you’re working to improve and become a more balanced and respected professional.
“Can you describe a time when you’ve reduced costs?”
This shouldn’t be a yes-or-no question. Even if you’ve never actively reduced costs at your previous employment, you should be able to identify processes you felt could or should be improved. Describe an occasion where you developed a strategy for greater efficiency, even if you weren’t in a position to implement it. This shows your interviewer that you have a sense of the bigger picture and are willing to think outside the box.
“Describe your process for minimizing/eliminating errors.”
You shouldn’t rely solely upon your software – you have a team of colleagues as well as other tools that you shouldn’t hesitate to employ in order to ensure your work is error-free. This is a good opportunity to showcase your affinity for diverse and creative solutions.
Most potential employers won’t expect you to either know, or have experience with, every imaginable scenario. However, you must demonstrate your flexibility, willingness to learn, and creativity to really impress your interviewers and get that job!