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Why do you want to become an accountant?

Sample answer:
I love working with numbers--always have. To help a corporation identify cost cutting measures they
hadn't previously discovered, developing tax strategies, or performing sensitivity analysis to support
revenue projects and forecasts is thrilling to me.
I love to do this job, recording transactions, analyzing them, and looking for legal ways of cutting tax
expense. I find the filed fascinating, and that is the main reason why I have chosen career in
accounting.
My goal is to become a financial manager in five years time. But I need to understand the cash flow in
the company, and how things relate to each other, to have a chance to be a financial manager one
day. I believe that the position of an (entry level) accountant is a perfect start on this journey.
Every one has some skills and is good in doing something. I am good in accounting. People enjoy
doing things they do well.
What's the most challenging accounting task you've have to solve?
Sample answer:
Having just graduated from college, I haven't faced a lot of tough accounting tasks in the real world.
However, I'm graduating at the top of my class from the University of Texas School of Accounting,
which is ranked one of the top schools in the nation. And I'm confident I can solve any accounting
problem as well, if not better, than any of my fellow students--and probably as well as most first or
second year associates. This last summer I worked as an intern with Ernst & Young on their tax
consulting team based in San Francisco. Over 200 students applied for the internship. Myself and
one other student were selected to participate. While working with Ernst & Young I was assigned
several challenging accounting tasks including one where I was required to make recommendations
for restructuring the debt of a multi-national corporation...
Typical Accounting Interview Questions You May Encounter
Give yourself a leg up on the competition with these questions that you are likely to be asked, and
their insightful answers:
1. What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing the accounting profession today?
Sample Answer: "Recent changes to the tax code are one big challenge for the industry since we
have to scour through all the new rules and guidelines and adjust accordingly. Of course, responding
to new tax laws is familiar to the accounting industry. Another pressing issue for everyone in the field
is technology. Readily available online accounting services can make the role of a seasoned
professional seem less essential, which means as accountants, we have to offer clients something a
computer cannot."
2. Which accounting applications are you familiar with?
Sample Answer: "I'm most familiar with ABC Company Name's accounting software, since it's what I
used day-in and day-out in my last position. I've also used X and Y accounting applications in other
roles. And, after a former co-worker recommended it, I recently started an online course in how to use
the Z application for businesses."
3. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of different accounting packages you have
used in your most recent accountant jobs.
Be prepared to share specific examples of the pros and cons of the accounting software you’ve used.
4. Describe any accounting process that you’ve developed or sought to improve.
Sample Answer: "In my role at ABC company, I discovered that the process for handling company
travel reimbursements for the sales team was so difficult and time-consuming that everyone's
expense reports came in late. I assembled a team to evaluate the process and streamline where
possible. We were able to use an application that we downloaded on all company-provided phones,
and since we transitioned to this new process, reports are timelier."
5. Describe a time when you helped to reduce costs at a previous accounting job.
Sample Answer: "Often duplicated services and unused licenses to software programs that charge a
per-license fee (regardless of whether the licenses are in use or not) can eat up a significant amount
of budget. I led an audit of our software, spending time with each department to understand what
programs and services were in use. We discovered that several departments had purchased
programs that did essentially the same task and that we were paying for more licenses than we were
used. I did an analysis to uncover that streamlining our programs could result in a 15% savings in this
area of the budget, and presented my findings to the executive board."
6. Describe a time when you had to use numerical data or a graph to convince a manager.
Discuss how data or a chart or graph helped you make your case, and how the outcome worked in
the organization’s favor.
7. Describe a time when you had to work exceptionally hard to provide great service to a
customer or client. What did you do and what was the outcome?
Share information on what you did to provide service and how you accomplished it. Make it clear that
you’re willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.
Sample Answer: "One story really comes to mind here — in my role as an accountant for ABC
Company, which served small businesses, we had a new client come through who'd recently
transitioned from a full-time job to starting his own small business. His business was doing well, but it
was clear bookkeeping was not his passion and he found all the processes overwhelming. It would
have been easy to sell him a package he couldn't use on his own, and lock him into an annual
subscription. Instead, I provided four training sessions on the software so he could independently
track his sales and expenses.
Since then, he's recommended us to other small businesses, who all signed on to our services
because of his praise."
8. Describe a time when you faced a particularly demanding deadline to prepare a financial
statement or report. How did you react? What was the result?
Sample Answer: "The most difficult deadline I can remember was preparing the year-end FY report at
ABC industries because there is so much prep work involved and there are many dependencies on
other team member's providing data from their departments. The good news is, everyone knows how
important it is to create and present the findings in this report. My co-workers were really good at
sticking to the deadlines I established for turning in information (and I built in a few extra days of
wiggle room just in case, too)."
9. How do you ensure that you don’t forget details and ensure accuracy when you prepare
monthly journal entries, record transactions, etc.
Sample Answer: "Next to my computer monitor, I have a sticky note that reads "Check — then double
check." It's a reminder to me to track all the smallest details and to always confirm my work is
accurate. I do a few things to ensure I do not forget details: first, I automate tasks as much as
possible. Also, I use calendar reminders and a good old-fashioned list to make sure that I remind
myself to do tasks so that nothing is lost in my inbox."
10. Describe a time when you had to explain a complex accounting issue to someone with
without an accounting background. How did you help your audience understand the
situation?
Your ability to communicate with non-accountants may be very important, especially if you will be in
an advisory role with direct contact with clients or with team members from other departments. When
responding, emphasize your communication skills and storytelling talent, as well as your ability to
work as a part of a team.
1 Walk me through the three financial statements.
The balance sheet shows a company’s assets, its liabilities, and shareholders’ equity. The income
statement outlines the company’s revenues and expenses. The cash flow statement shows the cash
flows from operating, investing, and financing activities.
#2 If I had only one statement and wanted to review the overall health of a company, which
statement would I use and why?
Cash is king. The cash flow statement gives a true picture of how much cash the company is
generating. That being said, it’s important to note that all three statements truly are required to get a
full picture of the health of a company. Learn more about how the three financial statements are
linked

#3 What happens on the income statement if inventory goes up by $10?


Nothing. This is a trick question. The only impact will be on the balance sheet and cash flow
statement.

#4 What is working capital?


Working capital is typically defined as current assets less current liabilities. In banking, working
capital is normally defined more narrowly as current assets (excluding cash) less current liabilities
(excluding interest-bearing debt).
#5 What does having negative working capital mean?
Negative working capital is common in some industries such as grocery retail and the restaurant
business. For a grocery store, customers pay upfront, inventory moves relatively quickly but
suppliers often give 30 days (or more) credit. This means that the company receives cash from
customers before it needs the cash to pay suppliers. Negative working capital is a sign of efficiency
in businesses with low inventory and accounts receivable. In other industries, negative working
capital may signal a company is facing financial trouble.
#6 If cash collected from customers is not yet recorded as revenue, what happens to it?
It usually goes into “Deferred Revenue” on the balance sheet as a liability if the revenue has not been
earned yet.
#7 What’s the difference between deferred revenue and accounts receivable?
Deferred revenue represents cash received from customers for services or goods not yet provided.
Accounts receivable represents cash owing from customers for goods/services already provided.
#8 When do you capitalize rather than expense a purchase?
If the purchase will be used in the business for more than one year, it is capitalized and depreciated.
#9 Under what circumstances does goodwill increase?
When a company buys another business for more than the fair value of its tangible and intangible
assets, goodwill is created.
#10 How do you record PPE and why is this important?
There are essentially four areas to consider when accounting for PP&E on the balance sheet: initial
purchase, depreciation, additions (capital expenditures), and dispositions. In addition to these four,
you may also have to consider revaluation. For many businesses, PP&E is the main capital asset
that generates revenue, profitability, and cash flow.
#11 How does an inventory write-down affect the three statements?
On the balance sheet, the asset account of inventory is reduced by the amount of the write-down, and
so is shareholders’ equity. The income statement is hit with an expense in either COGS or a separate
line item for the amount of the write-down, reducing net income. On the cash flow statement, the
write-down is added back to CFO as it’s a non-cash expense but must not be double counted in the
changes of non-cash working capital.
#12 What are three examples of common budgeting methods?
Examples of common budgeting methods include zero-based budgeting, incremental budgeting, and
value-based budgeting. Learn more about the various types, in CFI’s budgeting and forecasting
course
#13 Please explain the Revenue Recognition and Matching principles
The revenue recognition principle dictates the process and timing by which revenue is recorded and
recognized an item in the financial statements based on certain criteria (e.g., transfer of ownership).
The matching principle dictates that the timing of expenses be matched to the period in which they
are incurred, as opposed to when they are actually paid.
#14 If you were CFO of our company, what would keep you up at night?
Step back and give a high-level overview of the company’s current financial position, or companies in
that industry in general. Highlight something on each of the three statements. Income statement:
growth, margins, profitability. Balance sheet: liquidity, capital assets, credit metrics, liquidity ratios.
Cash flow statement: short-term and long-term cash flow profile, any need to raise money or return
capital to shareholders.

Which accounting platforms have you worked with?

Experienced accountants often have worked with multiple accounting applications or enterprise
resource planning systems. This question allows the applicant to show their familiarity with prominent
accounting and business software packages. Look for answers that include the name and version of
the software, as well as the features the applicant is most familiar with. What to look for in an answer:
Familiarity with prominent software packages
Understanding of how to use basic features
Willingness to learn new platforms
Example: "I used QuickBooks when I worked at a small business and Microsoft Dynamics GP at
larger enterprises. I'm most familiar with QuickBooks Online and helped my previous employer track
and categorize their expenses and invoices.
How have you used automation or workflow streamlining to improve your accounting
processes at previous jobs?

Experienced accountants learn how to do their jobs more efficiently by using advanced tools or
software features. The applicant reveals whether they try to look for ways to continually improve their
processes and how to use tools to accomplish this goal. What to look for in an answer:

Creative thinking
Understanding of accounting business processes
Strong skills in the accounting solution
Example: "I synchronized the business bank accounts and corporate credit card statements with our
accounting solution to decrease how much I had to type manually. I used the extra time to look into
accounting discrepancies and follow up with employee expense reports."

How do you answer questions from clients who don't have any background in accounting?

Accountants may need to explain processes or concepts to other people in your organization who
don't know anything about accounting. Look for a response that conveys a willingness to simplify
complex information and present it in an easy-to-understand fashion. What to look for in an answer:

Teaching skills
Fundamental understanding of accounting concepts
Patience
Example: "I would use analogies to help the person understand the information that I'm trying to
convey. I wouldn't use any terminology that's accounting-specific, as that would make it difficult for
this person to follow along. I spent a lot of time talking to the software development team about what
the accounting team needed in our applications. I framed everything in technology terms, such as
referring to a general ledger as a database."
What strategies do you use to detect fraudulent entries in a journal or ledger?
Accountants need to remain vigilant in fraud detection to protect the company's finances and values.
The applicant should have familiarity in using a combination of software features and their own
judgment to identify unusual or fraudulent patterns. What to look for in an answer:

Understanding of common fraudulent behavior


Familiarity with fraud monitoring tools
Appropriate ethics
Example: "I use proactive monitoring features in the enterprise resource planning platform I use,
alongside manual spot checks. The automated monitoring catches errors and anomalies that may
indicate fraud. I conduct a thorough investigation and double-check the numbers to discover what
happened.
How do you maintain accounting accuracy?

A small mistake could cost your organization a lot of money, especially if it goes undetected.
Applicants should have several ways to check the accuracy of their accounting, as well as know what
to do if they make a mistake. What to look for in an answer:

Detail-oriented mindset
Ability to recognize and address mistakes
Dedication to accuracy
Example: "I use every tool and resource available to check my work and limit the potential for an error
to slip by. At my last job, employees used Expensify to track receipts when they went on business
trips. I looked at the real-time reports and compared them to the credit card statements to confirm the
numbers. When errors do happen, I address them quickly to limit the damage it could cause."
How have you helped companies or clients save money or better use their available financial
resources?

Accountants can identify areas of wasteful spending and put together strategies to reduce
unnecessary expenses. Look for answers that display logical and analytical thinking, with critical
problem-solving skills. What to look for in an answer:

Going the extra mile for their organization


Developing optimization processes
Reviewing historical data
Example: "I looked through the company's financial trends to discover redundancies in the business
service contracts during slow seasons. By moving to a lower service tier when the extra capacity isn't
needed, the company reduced costs by 15%."
Do you have experience doing/handling X, Y and Z?
Remember to avoid the word "no" – instead, say you’re enthused to have the opportunity to learn X,
Y and Z.

“There is nothing that you can't do,” said Andy Hsu, director of the corporate finance and accounting
practice at Michael Page. “When asked about walking through your resume, recite accomplishments
that tie into the job description.

“Make notes at the top of your page or notebook as to your strengths [that are relevant] for the
position,” he said. “You’re better off to say ‘My experience is limited in XYZ but I do know ABC.’ Don’t
give them a reason not to hire you.

If you’re truly interested in a role, your enthusiasm can make up for a few skills gaps. Say you don’t
hit 10 out of 10 prerequisite skills or types of experience, but maybe you hit eight out of 10, which is
often good enough.

“On the other two, find a way to highlight elements of your background that related tangentially to
overcome the missing bullet points,” Hsu said.

What methods have you used for estimating bad debt?

This question can open a conversation about the ways you’ve approached this routine process with
previous employers.

“Your answer can reveal the level of understanding of the methods most commonly used and could
open a dialogue about how the company you are interviewing with handles this,” Driscoll said.

What is your role within the month-end close process?

“Being able to articulate your functionality and responsibility and specifics related to how you go about
the end-of-the-month close at your current or most recent firm is a very important piece,” Hsu said.
“That said, be able to sum up every bullet point on your resume, mentioning highlights and focusing
on accomplishments.”

Which enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have you used?

Most accountants, especially those with experience working for medium to large organizations,
should have an answer for this. You must be master of Excel. A response might include any of the
following: Hyperion, Microsoft Dynamics GP or Oracle Enterprise Manager, Driscoll said.

“For entry-level candidates, it’s an opportunity to turn this into a discussion of finance certifications
and future training possibilities,” he said.

Can you describe a time when you took the lead on implementation or were proactive?

Recruiters want accountants and auditors who have the foresight to address any potential issues that
may arise before the situation blows up and becomes reactionary.

“When you’re asked accounting questions, focus on any recommendations you’ve made to higher-
ups, and processes or procedures that you implemented,” Hsu said. “Think about how you’ve done
your job in a proactive sense rather than a reactionary sense.
“Especially controllers and CFO-level candidates must be prepared to answer, ‘Have you
implemented any processes or procedures?’ and talk them through that,” he said.

Can you describe a time when you helped reduce costs?

The answer to this question will tell whether you strictly stick to your accounting job duties, or whether
you have gone above and beyond by identifying solutions for the greater good of the company,
Driscoll said.

What type of audits have you done?

You should know how to respond to this based on the job description and whether the position
requires experience doing financial audits, operational audits or something else, Hsu said.

How do you minimize the risk for errors in your work?

As an accountant, you are held to a high standard and the margin for error is tiny. Small mistakes can
lead to large financial issues.

“Respond to this question by describing any times you’ve caught errors before submitting work,”
Driscoll said. “Emphasize the importance of checking your work and establishing checks and
balances within a team.”

How hands-on were you?

Your response will depend on whether you’ve been working for a bigger or smaller firm.

“At a bigger organization, your responsibility may be a bit more siloed, whereas at a smaller company
you probably have to wear many hats, and there are not as many checks and balances compared to
a big company," Hsu said.

“Regardless of size, it doesn’t take away from the detail-oriented nature of a good accountant or
auditor,” he said. “Highlights your skills, rather than just saying you have experience in accounts
payable."

What is your experience with developing business metrics?

Keep your response brief, like you would for “Tell me about yourself,” but outline important
experience you’ve had in this area, Driscoll said.

“By keeping your response brief, it can open up the conversation to be more like a dialogue about the
employer’s business metrics rather than a Q&A,” he said.

In terms of culture, what environment do you see yourself succeeding in?

Some hiring managers are looking for a candidate who works well in a team, others for someone who
works well independently, but all the better if you can demonstrate that you can do both.

“You have to understand the particular role to highlight how you would perform, because hiring
managers want a candidate to be the right fit. A lot of it is what value can you add to the business
beyond technical skills."
Can you tell me about a time you had a difficult conversation with a manager or colleague in
another department?

As an auditor or accountant, you might spot reporting issues that may require difficult conversations
with colleagues.

“With this question, the hiring manager is trying to understand how you would handle these types of
situations,” Driscoll said.

Why is there a gap in your employment record?

If your gap is the result of a layoff, reorganization or toxic situation, never speak disparagingly about a
boss, colleague or company for which you worked. Just be straightforward about the situation.