“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers” – Robert Half
When we talk about candidate evaluation, it all comes down to the questions you ask during the interview. However, executives often ask what is wrong and focus on what the respondents have done in the past rather than what they can do in the future. The same applies to all fields of hire, and that includes our current area of discussion- banking.
The finance and banking industry attempts a range of entrances for graduates from various academic regulations, one of the more popular ones being accounting. Accountants help you make financial decisions. They compile information, correct deviations, and report on the company’s position. This includes examining, analyzing, and interpreting accounting records to prepare financial statements, give advice, or audit and evaluate statements prepared by others. The ideal candidate is ethical, thorough, and has excellent accounting skills.
But how do you pick the right candidate? What questions might rightly qualify your top candidates? That’s where we come in. After working with several giants in the banking industry, we’ve simmered it down to some basic questions that need to be asked in order to evaluate applicants for the job of an accountant.
A. In order to ask the right questions, you need to be aware of the soft skills that are essential to the job. Some of the most vital ones are listed below:
- Problem sensitivity: Problem sensitivity is the ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
- Information Ordering: The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules.
- Category Flexibility: The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- The flexibility of closure: The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Perceptual Speed: The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Detail Orientation: This means paying close attention to all of the small particulars when working on a task or project.
B. Besides soft skills, another major requirement to consider is the educational background of the applicant. The applicant must have the following credentials on her/his resume:
• BSc in Accounting, Finance or relevant degree
• Additional certification (CPA or CMA)
C. The required experience of an applicant depends upon the position that’s being applied for. For example, if it’s for a mid-level/associate level job, an applicant needs to have 3+ years of experience.
Now that we’ve covered the key areas, let’s focus on the questions that can lend you the right candidate for the job:
Assessing an Applicant’s Skills:
When you’re trying to gauge a candidate’s technical skills, it’s often best to ask straightforward accounting interview questions. But you can also learn something about applicants’ soft skills with these types of queries.
A. Here are four interview questions to ask that will help you evaluate a person’s core competencies:
1. How do you stay up to date on current accounting laws and regulations?
2. What are the top three skills every good accountant has?
3. What types of accounting software have you used in previous jobs?
4. Give me examples of the types of reports you generated in your last job.
Candidates who have all the necessary technical and soft skills must also be able to prosper in the work environment at your company.
B. Here are a few good interview questions to ask to assess whether a candidate is a good fit for your team:
1. Tell me about a time when you made an accounting error and explain how you handled it.
2. Tell me about your experience presenting financial data to non-financial staff.
3. Describe a time when you met a particularly tight deadline and explain how you did it.
4. What’s the toughest accounting challenge you’ve solved?
5. Tell me about a time when you worked with a team to revise or improve an accounting process. What role did you take, and how did the team work together to get the job done?
6. Why did you choose accounting and finance as a career?
Besides these basic questions, it is important to consider the current work-from-home situation. You have to gauge how effective they’ll be working from home and the questions you use to assess a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities — and get a general sense of their soft skills.
C. Here are 21 accounting interview questions that you should consider asking top candidates to cover their skills, experience, and remote work aptitude.
1. What is the difference between accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP)?
2. When a company is using double-entry accounting, what elements of a given ledger must be equal?
3. What are two or three types of special journals?
4. If a company has three bank accounts for processing payments, what is the minimum number of ledgers it needs?
5. What methods have you used for estimating bad debt?
6. Why is it easier for someone to perpetrate fraud using a journal entry than with a ledger?
7. Which enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have you used?
8. What is your experience with developing business metrics?
9. If a private company with break-even operations received a $10 million investment, how would you develop a strategy to spend or invest that money?
10. What challenges have you faced in leading a team through an analysis project?
11. What do you consider the top three skills of a great accountant?
12. Can you give me an example of how you would explain a complex accounting process or financial data to someone in HR, tech support, or another team?
13. When you buy a piece of equipment for a company, what is the impact on the three financial statements?
14. How do you define big data, and why is it important for accounting teams to have expertise in it?
15. Describe a time when you’ve made an accounting error and how you handled it.
16. How do you minimize the risk of error in your work?
17. How do you differentiate between auditing and accounting?
18. What accounting software are you most familiar with?
19. What criteria do you use to assess the reliability of the financial information you receive?
20. What do you think of recent updates in the accounting standards?
21. What are the three attributes that make you an effective remote worker? And what are the greatest challenges of working off-site?
In this unpredictable environment, of all the hard and soft skills you interview for, adaptability and a willingness to embrace new challenges maybe two of the most critical ingredients for an accounting professional’s success.