10 effective interview questions for accounting and finance professionals

10 effective interview questions for accounting and finance professionals

Dozens of accounting and finance applicant resumes arrived last week. You’ve read them all from top to bottom and narrowed down a potential list of candidates who may be right for the job you’re offering.

Now comes the job interview stage – the opportunity to winnow that shortlist down to the best candidate possible.

But what interview questions are you going to ask to ensure you find the right applicant specific for the job?

Interview questions for accounting and finance candidates, the key to a successful hire

Here are 10 interview questions for accounting and finance professionals to ask that may give you a clue to discovering your next team member.

1. What is the difference between accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP)?

This is one of many elementary interview questions for accountants that you can use to find out more about the general accounting knowledge of entry-level job candidates for bookkeeping or accounting clerk openings. Verbal and non-verbal responses will reveal whether the applicant understands accounting fundamentals.

2. When a company is using double-entry accounting, what elements of a given ledger must be equal?

This is another fairly basic inquiry. Candidates with some accounting training or experience should have no trouble answering it. As with question one, how the applicant replies may show you he or she is under- or overqualified for a junior-level position.

3. If a company has three bank accounts for processing payments, what is the minimum number of ledgers it needs?

Use this as a starting point to explore a candidate’s knowledge of ledgers. Observe the candidate’s initial reaction and use it as a starting point for further discussion of skills related to the opening you are trying to fill. Expect the response to reveal the extent to which the candidate has thought through how accounts relate to lines of business and generally accepted accounting principles.

4. What are two or three types of accounting or finance publications?

While still a fairly basic question, you may tailor your follow-up queries according to the specifics of your business or to the candidate’s work history. Or, as a skill test, you could present a few publication samples and ask the applicant to explain them. The way the applicant demonstrates their communication skills here will show their skill level in identifying mistakes or omissions.

5. What methods have you used for estimating bad debt?

Interview questions for accounting and finance professionals such as these can open conversations about the ways the applicant has approached this routine process with previous employers. This line of inquiry allows recent grads to apply theoretical knowledge in venturing educated guesses. The applicant’s answer will reveal the level of understanding of the methods most commonly used and could open a dialogue about how your company handles this.

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6. Why is it easier for someone to perpetrate fraud using a journal entry than with a ledger? 

Accounting professionals, particularly those who have managed ledgers or worked as full-charge accountants for more than a couple of years, should be able to speculate on this scenario. A candidate with more formal training specific to auditing or fraud analysis will likely explain this thoroughly and be able to provide examples. 

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

Most professionals, especially those with experience working for medium to large organisations, should have an answer for this. A response might include any of the following: Hyperion, Microsoft Dynamics GP or Oracle Enterprise Manager. For entry-level candidates, you might turn this into a discussion of finance certifications and future training possibilities. For example, ask which ERP systems they would like to master. Discussion of these tools, how the applicant learned them and what applications your company uses will reveal how much, if any, staff training the applicant might need if hired.

8. What is your experience with developing business metrics?

Though somewhat general, this interview question for finance professionals can elicit answers useful in evaluating entry-level business or financial analyst candidates all the way up to mid-career professionals who aspire to roles that come with budget and staff oversight responsibilities. 

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? 

This falls into the category of behavioural interview techniques, a tactic useful in gauging an applicant’s ability to think through a scenario like one that might be faced in a more senior finance role. The applicant’s response will show you if the approach is in alignment with that of your existing team, which will also indicate if this candidate is a good cultural fit for your company.

10. What challenges have you faced in leading a team through an analysis project?

This interview question is designed for probing leadership skills.  It is another interview question you can modify to better explore the particularities of your opening or a candidate’s background. As with question nine, the applicant’s reply will reveal the level of critical thinking skills and elicit a better picture of his or her leadership skills.

Asking the right interview questions is a crucial aspect of the hiring process. By tailoring these compelling interview questions to ask accounting and finance job candidates to different skill levels and job types, you are sure to hire the right person specific for the job.

Need more advice on job interviews? Visit our Robert Half Career Page for Job Interview Tips today.

This article originally appeared as 10 Effective Interview Questions for Accounting and Finance Professionals on the Robert Half Finance and Accounting Blog.

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