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The Most Common Accounting Interview Questions You Must Prepare For

young accountant interviewing with senior accountant

In this article, we’ve compiled an extensive list of some of the most common accounting interview questions. We’ve also highlighted and provided specific examples of the two types of accounting interview questions that candidates typically have the most difficulty with: “Behavioral” and “Fit” questions.

Before reading this list and having a panic attack, please realize that there is absolutely no way you could be asked even a fraction of the questions in this list in a single interview. That said, there is a very wide variety of questions interviewers can ask you to find out if you are the type of candidate they want to hire. We want you to be as prepared as possible, so we’ve included a large number of questions to cover the most common Big 4 accounting interview questions, as well as questions that candidates typically find to be the most difficult.

We can’t stress enough that it is not sufficient to just read this list. You need to PRACTICE your responses to these questions. If you don’t practice your responses, it’s likely you will draw a blank for one—or more—of these questions during your interview.  

Having read the question just once before hearing it in an interview is not what will set you apart from other candidates. Having practiced your response to the question multiple times, so you can calmly and professionally answer it with a response that hits the points the interviewer is hoping to hear, is what is going to set you apart. Without further ado, here are the most common accounting interview questions.

Most Common Accounting Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Tell me about a weakness you have.
  • What’s something you don’t do well?
  • Tell me about some of your strengths.
  • What are your accomplishments?
  • If I spoke with your (insert: friends, coach, professors, etc.), what would they say is your biggest strength/weakness?

Common Behavioral Accounting Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you were working in a group setting and had to deal with an especially difficult team member? How did you handle it?
  • Give me an example of when you exhibited strong leadership skills.
  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • Give me an example of when someone criticized you (or your work) and they had a valid point.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to work under pressure to meet a deadline.
  • How do you handle stressful situations?
  • Tell me about someone you had to work with that you didn’t like? How did you deal with that?
  • Describe a time when you had to create a new method to solve a problem or issue.
  • Tell me about a time you had to make an unpopular decision and stand by it.
  • Have you ever misjudged someone? In what way and what did you learn?
  • What is an example of a time when you had to juggle a lot of priorities? What was the outcome?

Common Fit Accounting Interview Questions

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why our firm over the other Big 4 firms?
  • What do you like about (insert name of firm)?
  • Why do you want to work in Public Accounting?
  • What do you hope to achieve at this firm/the next 5 years/in your career/etc.?
  • What service line (audit, tax, consulting, etc.) do you want to work in?
  • What kind of supervisor do you work best with?
  • How did you decide to study accounting (or finance, economics, etc.)?

Common Additional Accounting Interview Questions

The following questions don’t necessarily fall into the Fit or Behavioral categories, but are asked often enough that you should be aware of them.

  • Tell me something about your volunteer experience.
  • What was the last book you read? (could be replaced with: song you listened to, movie you saw, activity you did outside of school and work, etc.)
  • The above question could also relate to your favorite of one of the items listed (e.g. favorite book) as opposed to the most recent.
  • How would you describe your personality?
  • What are some adjectives that describe you? Give me examples of how these adjectives are reflected in your past actions.
  • What motivates you?
  • What is a misconception people have about you and why isn’t it true?

Start Practicing These Accounting Interview Questions

As you can see from reading these potential accounting interview questions, there are a large variety of questions that could be asked of you. There is no way to include every potential question in this blog. We have provided those that are most relevant and that have been most commonly used in interviews in the past.

However, each firm and interviewer is different, and interview strategies are constantly being tweaked in order to keep candidates on their toes. The goal of doing this is to allow firms to probe candidates with questions they haven’t heard before. This is their attempt to get a clearer—and more genuine—picture of who the candidate really is.

There is only one certainty when trying to prepare for your interview questions, and that is that you will be asked multiple questions you haven’t heard or seen before. The best way to combat this is to prepare, prepare, prepare. You should write down your answer to every question on this list and practice it multiple times. Come back to your answers after a few days and refine them so they are succinct, to the point, and fully answer the question in the best light possible. 

The more questions you take the time to think through and respond to, the more prepared you will be to handle questions that are unexpected. Our goal is to get you practicing so much that by the end, you’ve taken an in-depth inventory of yourself, your experiences, your talents, and even your personal preferences.The more you practice these accounting interview questions, the better you will know yourself, and when it comes down to it, that is all these questions are really about.  By preparing diligently in advance, you’ll arm yourself with a large stock of positive answers to a variety of topics that will reflect positively on you.

After you’ve thought through the questions and written down your answers, have a friend or family member fire questions at you at random and practice answering them. Take the time to prepare! Nothing feels worse than having an interviewer ask you a question, and then staring blankly back at them because you haven’t sufficiently prepared.

Your Turn to Ask the Accounting Firm Questions

Once the interviewer has asked all of their questions and the interview is coming to an end, you will be given a chance to ask any questions you have. This is a unique moment in the hiring process when you have a chance to do something the firm will find impressive and surprising!

You are probably ready for us to preach about how this is a great opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the job by asking insightful questions about the company and showing you took the time to do research, just like we told you at every other step of the hiring process, right? Well, you are wrong. This is the most important step in the process. It calls for something more.

Every candidate that has made it to this point is going to come up with a few questions about the firm or the job. You would have to be crazy not to. That doesn’t mean these types of questions are bad, and we absolutely recommend asking some well-thought out questions about the firm or the job for as long as time allows.

However, to start off your questioning, we believe there is a topic of much greater significance. This isn’t to say questions about the firm, industry, and job aren’t also very important; so in order to show the interviewer that you really are truly interested in their firm and the position, we recommend you open with something like this:

  • “Well I certainly have some questions about the firm and the job itself, so I hope we have some time to talk through a few of them, but the first thing I’d like to ask is…”

The One Question You Must Ask in Accounting Interview

The following advice is what you will conclude your interview with, something that makes the recruiter step back and say “WOW”.  After you get through the most common accounting interview questions, and the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, you are going to be blunt, straightforward, and make sure nothing is left to chance. You should ask something along the lines of one of the following questions:

  • Is there any key quality or attribute that you are looking for in a candidate that I haven’t demonstrated to you today? If so, I’d like to share a couple examples to help prove that I have what you are looking for.
  • What are the doubts you have about my ability to excel at this position and do nothing less than a great job for (insert name of firm here)?
  • Did I inadvertently say anything in the interview that raises doubts about whether I’m the right person for this job?

These are not typical questions that interviewers receive. Interviewers will not be expecting this type of question from people applying for jobs of any level, let alone an entry-level position from a candidate who hasn’t finished school yet. This is a way to leave a strong and lasting impression. It could be the last impression anyone on the recruiting team has of you before deciding whether or not to extend you a job offer.  

End the Accounting Interview with a Bang

These types of questions let the interviewer know you are dead serious about earning this job, and you are not afraid to address anything that could stand in your way. Instead of asking another boring question about the firm they’ve heard hundreds of times, you are reaching out and grabbing their attention by putting them on the spot. They need to look you in the eye and tell you what you are lacking to earn the job.

This creates a fantastic opportunity, because if they have any doubts, concerns, or simply disliked anything you said, you immediately have a chance to rectify it before the interview concludes. You can set the record straight before it affects your chances of getting the job!

Another benefit of these questions is that they send the message that you are serious about doing a good job, and you are willing and able to take constructive criticism. Once the applicant pool has been whittled down to those who are deemed to be more than intellectually capable, the interviews help determine who has the personality and the internal make-up to succeed at the job. Both of these questions are resoundingly answered when one of the above questions is posed to the interviewer.

If the interviewer does have any comments or criticisms, do not immediately waste all the goodwill you just earned from asking the question by arguing, sulking, or getting mad or offended. If you want to vent or complain, do it to your friends or family afterwards. Instead, listen to what the interviewer is saying; right or wrong, you are not going to change their mind in the next 30 seconds by being combative. Acknowledge what they said, and then try and counter their point, but NOT by arguing and telling them they are wrong. Give a real life example of something that will address their concern!

If they think you have a weakness, lack a certain ability, or simply don’t like something you said, you can do major damage control here. This can only work by being open to the criticism, being calm and level headed in your response, and addressing the issue raised in a positive light that attempts to make you look good (as opposed to shooting down their point or getting personal with them).

One additional question that we think is also helpful to have in your repertoire, should you need it, is as follows:

  • If someone were to get this job and come in and perform at as high of a level as you could possibly expect, where would they be in 5 years in terms of their career, position at the firm, experience gained, and future prospects?

This question shows how seriously you are considering the job and, if given the opportunity, your intention to perform at a very high level. It shows you have concrete plans of succeeding and that you demand to know where this firm can take you if they hire someone of your ability and drive. Not a bad closing message to send.

What If the Firm Interviewer Doesn’t Ask the Questions in Accounting Interview?

Another potential interview variation we’ve seen is where you ask the questions. In other words, we have had candidates report going to an interview with a partner or manager and being asked, “So, what do you want to know?” The entire interview consisted solely of the candidate’s questions and any conversation that arose thereafter. 

It is essential that you have enough material to hold at least a 30 minute conversation with a Big 4 recruiter based solely on questions you have about their firm and the job you are applying for. With advanced preparation you can be more than ready for this. In fact, you can reference the most common accounting interview questions to help you construct the questions you’d like to ask. It can indeed work to your advantage as many candidates are caught off guard by this approach, therefore your well-thought out questions and quality conversation during the interview are more likely to stand out.

We recommend writing down as many questions as you can think of and reviewing this list several times, as you are likely to forget a few of them in the heat of the moment.  The good news with this type of interview is that there are absolutely no surprises. You control how the interview goes. The firm is testing you to see how interested you actually are in working at their firm and in their industry. Any questions that help exhibit this interest are good ones.

Ending of the Accounting Interview

At this point, the interviewer will wrap the interview up. While shaking their hand and maintaining good eye contact, you should be sure to thank them for their time and the opportunity to interview for the position. Make sure you ask them for their business card. This is another simple, but often overlooked step.

One of the members of our team had a partner thank them for asking for his card while specifically pointing out that nobody else the entire day had asked. Finally, before leaving the interview room, confirm the timing and next steps of the interview process.  This will prevent you from sending annoying follow-up emails that the interviewer will get from other candidates who didn’t think to ask.

So, now that we’ve taken you through the most common accounting interview questions, now it’s time for you to get to work and go back through them, write them down, and start thinking about how you will answer them. Good luck! 

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