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Top 10 Accounting Interview Questions and Answers

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Top 10 Accounting Interview Questions and Answers



Top 10 Accounting Interview Questions and Answers

In today's competitive accounting and finance landscape, finding and retaining top talent is paramount for CPA firms. While a candidate's qualifications are important, assessing their skills, cultural alignment, and attitude is equally vital during the hiring process. To make the right choices, asking the right interview questions is imperative. This article will explore ten essential accounting interview questions, providing comprehensive insights into why each question is indispensable for selecting the right candidates.

1. How would you manage a difficult client?

Client interactions can be challenging. This question delves into a candidate's interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities, and patience. It allows you to gauge how effectively they can navigate complex client relationships, which is crucial for client-facing roles. During the interview, ask them to describe when they had to interact with a difficult client. How did they handle the situation, and what was the outcome?

2. What opportunities for professional development do you see for yourself in this role?

The accounting field is dynamic and constantly evolving. Hiring individuals who are committed to ongoing learning and growth is essential. This question assesses a candidate's ambition and whether their career aspirations align with your firm's long-term goals. Some potential follow-up questions to assess this can include:
1. Tell us about an accounting trend or big change you've had to adapt to in your career.
2. What motivates you to learn and grow in your career?
3. Can you list specific skills or areas you want to improve?
4. How do you handle feedback and criticism related to your work?

3. What kind of firm culture are you looking for?

A firm's culture greatly influences employee satisfaction and retention. Ensuring a candidate's cultural preferences align with your firm's values, work environment, and team dynamics is vital. This alignment is a key factor in creating a harmonious work atmosphere. A well-aligned work culture can foster a sense of belonging among the employees, promoting synergy and boosting their morale. In the hiring process, assessing cultural fit is as crucial as evaluating a candidate's skills and qualifications. Lack of cultural fit can often lead to job dissatisfaction, lower productivity, and high turnover rates. Therefore, hiring managers must communicate a company's culture during the interview process to ensure potential new employees thrive in the work environment. 

4. How do you react When facing a tight deadline?

This question is pivotal as tight deadlines are commonplace in accounting, requiring candidates to effectively manage stress, maintain organizational skills, meet critical deadlines consistently, adapt to unexpected changes, and employ problem-solving abilities. These qualities are essential for success in the dynamic accounting industry, ensuring candidates can handle the pressure, stay organized, and consistently deliver high-quality work within time constraints.

5. How do you organize and prioritize your daily tasks?

This question works well for gauging a candidate's ability to manage their workload. In an industry where complex projects and tight deadlines are the norm, you must assess applicants' ability to manage tasks to ensure who you hire keeps up with your firm's processes. Candidates should be able to dive into their ability to structure their daily responsibilities and emphasize high-priority tasks.

Understanding a candidate's approach to task management doesn't merely serve as an evaluation of their individual capabilities but also allows you to assess how well they may fit into your firm's work culture. It ensures that projects are completed in a timely manner and that clients receive the high-quality service they expect. Therefore, by asking this question, you're not only delving into an individual's aptitude but also considering how their approach aligns with the broader objectives of your CPA firm.

6. How do you present information to coworkers and peers?

Clear and effective communication is paramount in accounting. This question evaluates a candidate's ability to convey complex information concisely and comprehensibly, a skill vital for effective teamwork and collaboration. Your candidate must convey complex financial information easily and in a way people can understand. This question offers insights into the candidate's ability to bridge the gap between technical accounting details and clear, straightforward communication.

7. What challenges have you had to overcome in a professional setting?

Past challenges offer insights into a candidate's problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and resilience. Understanding how they've navigated obstacles in their professional journey provides valuable information about their character and ability to handle adversity. Discussing past experiences can also give you a glimpse into the candidate's capabilities beyond what is listed on their resume. It allows you to gauge the candidate's practical skills and ability to apply learned knowledge in real-life scenarios. 

8. How do you handle stress?

Stress is an inherent part of the accounting profession. This question helps identify candidates with healthy stress management strategies for maintaining productivity and mental well-being. With tax season being a pressure point amongst your staff, you must ensure that the candidate you hire can effectively cope with the season's rigors. That way they can not only harmonize with your staff but manage the challenges of working in public accounting. 

9. Do you prefer collaborating with others or working on your own?

Recognizing a candidate's work style ensures they fit seamlessly into your team. Understanding whether they thrive in a collaborative or independent work environment helps assemble a well-rounded and harmonious team. Work style reflects how a person approaches tasks and interacts with colleagues in the workplace. Some people excel when they work alone, while others work better in a team-oriented environment. Both work styles have their advantages. Independent workers may achieve high productivity levels and often work with little direction. On the other hand, collaborative workers can share ideas, learn from others, and contribute to a supportive work culture.
When assessing a candidate's work style, consider the team's current dynamics and the role's demands. If a role requires high levels of autonomy and self-direction, a candidate who prefers independent work may be a great fit. Conversely, a role that requires frequent teamwork and mutual decision-making would benefit from someone who enjoys collaboration.
The most effective teams often have a mix of independent and collaborative workers. Balancing these different work styles can lead to innovation, increased morale, and higher productivity. Therefore, understanding a candidate's work style can contribute significantly to forming a diverse and effective team.

10. Why do you want to work with us?

Beyond evaluating a candidate's qualifications, this question assesses their understanding of your firm's values and goals. It provides insights into how well they've researched your company, indicating their enthusiasm and commitment. Furthermore, their responses can reflect how well the candidate's values align with the company's mission and vision. If the candidate can articulate these aspects well, it can show that they are likely to fit in and contribute significantly to the company's culture and objectives.

How to identify candidates for a position at your CPA Firm

  1. Define Firm's Needs: Before embarking on the interview process, precisely define the skills, qualifications, and characteristics your firm seeks in a candidate. A clear understanding of your ideal candidate will help effectively tailor your questions and evaluation criteria.

  2. Incorporate Behavioral Interviewing: Traditional interview questions are valuable, incorporating behavioral questions can offer deeper insights. Ask candidates to share their past experiences and how they handled specific challenges. This approach unveils their problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and how they manage real-world scenarios.

  3. Evaluate Cultural Fit: Even if candidates possess impressive technical skills, it doesn't guarantee they'll thrive in your firm's unique culture. Assess whether their values align with your organization's teamwork and communication styles. A cultural fit is essential for long-term job satisfaction and team cohesion.

  4. Involve Your Team: Recruitment should be a team effort. Include current team members in the interview process and gather their impressions and feedback on the candidates. This collaborative approach ensures everyone is comfortable with the hiring decision and that new hires can seamlessly integrate into the existing team.

  5. Assess Soft Skills: While technical skills are crucial, it's equally important to consider soft skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and problem-solving. These skills often distinguish a good accountant from an exceptional one.

How can Taxfyle Help? 

Finding the right hire for your firm can be a challenge. On top of interviewing candidates, you have to train new hires to fit your firm’s needs. Risking overhiring means not having enough work once the busy season ends. With Taxfyle, your firm can have access to qualified accountants when it needs help. 

You can access licensed CPAs and EAs across the country through our platform. They can alleviate your firm's busy work during tax season so your staff has more time to focus on high-value projects. The Pros can plug into your firm and pick up work using your tax software of choice. You don’t need to worry about training, and Pros average 12 years of experience. Why wait to augment your firm during the busy season? See how Taxfyle can help your firm where it matters. 

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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May 10, 2021


Ralph Carnicer, CPA

Ralph Carnicer, CPA


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