Careers advice

Accountant job interview: questions and answers

You need to show the right mix of hard and soft skills.

Among the most important things you can do to prepare for an accountancy interview in NZ is researching the most commonly asked questions.

While all the standard job interview queries will be thrown in (biggest weaknesses, tell me about yourself etc.), you should also expect some industry specific examples that you might not have faced before.

Check out our list of questions and answers below. Being able to answer these sorts of questions confidently and clearly is crucial to nailing the interview, and giving yourself the best chance of landing the job.

Providing details and specific examples in your answers is key.

Common accounting interview questions and answers

1. How do you explain complicated financial concepts to key stakeholders?

Ideas and jargon that might be second-nature in accountancy circles can sound like a foreign language to people outside the profession. This is relevant regardless of whether you’re working as part of an in-house department, or a public firm.

The best answers here demonstrate specific techniques you’ve used in the past through the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method. Perhaps you find breaking down data into graphs or charts enables lay people to understand this information and use it to make decisions.

This question also touches on key soft skills that accountants need – communication and teamwork. A numbers whiz who can’t get their ideas and insights across to others isn’t much use, so angle your answer to include examples of how you’ve successfully worked with non-accounting colleagues or customers.

2. How have you improved client relationships by providing great service?

This question can easily be tweaked for in-house accountancy roles by getting the interviewee to talk about inter-departmental relationships.

Whichever applies, the core reason for asking remains the same – the interviewer wants to see you understand that your role is to help an organisation move towards its overarching objectives.

Of course, this requires someone with top-notch technical ability, but also an individual who can build and maintain relationships by going above and beyond when necessary.

To answer, talk about your soft skills, your desire to always give your best, and back it all up with examples from your past.

3. How do you ensure accuracy in your work at all times?

With so much at stake, error prone accountants don’t tend to last long. So how do you stop mistakes from creeping into your work?

There’s no ‘correct’ answer here. Rather, the interviewer is looking to see that this is something you’ve thought about, and that you have strategies in place. You could talk about:

  • Using tech: where appropriate, automating tasks takes human error out of the equation.
  • Calendar reminders: many accountants use Google Calendar reminders to prompt them to check specific details when completing tasks.
  • Using different techniques to reach the same answer: taking this extra step shows you take pride in your work and are committed to 100% accuracy.

4. How do you keep up with the latest changes to finance and reporting regulations?

No business wants to fall foul of finance laws, so it’s important to show you’re switched on and up to date.

Good answers here include specific publications you read or subscribe to, or how you use your network to stay on top of the latest developments.

Have examples of where you go to find out the latest developments in your sector.

5. What accounting software packages are you familiar with?

Pretty straightforward – this is a proficiency question, so just name the platforms you’ve used in past roles or in your studies.

However, one thing you can do to bolster your response here is to find out what software the business uses. Even if you haven’t used it yourself, show that you know about it and that it has a good reputation (without appearing disingenuous).

6. How do you deal with tight deadlines and working under pressure?

Listen to any professional accountant, pressure and deadlines are all par for the course when working in this field – especially around busy times like the end of the financial year and tax season.

Again, adopting the STAR method is the way to go. Give a specific example of a time you’ve thrived under pressure, and delivered the goods. Excellent coping mechanisms you could mention include:

  • Understanding the project scope(s) first: rather than diving in headfirst, show that you take time to understand the whole project. This indicates that you’re unlikely to miss key details by being overly hasty.
  • Prioritisation: the tools or techniques you use to establish an order of importance.
  • Liaising with others: it’s crucial you show you’re aware of other peoples’ priorities too so everyone can complete their tasks on deadline.

7. How have you helped an organisation reduce its costs?

A major, if not the most important reason businesses hire accountants is to help them streamline their business spending. So, being able to show past successes in this department is crucial.

As well as showing how you identified and reduced unnecessary expenditure, give precise details. This could be in the form of percentage changes, or exact dollar sums – whichever you think is more impressive (as long as it's true!).

8. Give me an example of a process improvement you’ve implemented in a previous role

Employers want to see that you can look beyond the figures and bring your analytical mind to the processes of data collection. If the business could be doing things in a way that saves time and money, the leadership are going to want to hear about it.

Again, work through the STAR methodology to show how you identified areas of inefficiency, the actions you took and the improvements that were seen.