Interview questions to ask your accountancy and finance candidates

Asking the right accounting and finance interview questions is more important than ever as the hiring market remains so competitive, to make sure your hiring decision is the right one.

Avoiding costly recruitment mistakes

Hiring the wrong individual for the accountancy role is a costly mistake when you tot up the loss of time, money and resources invested in interviewing, training and onboarding. Candidates can be excellent in interviews, but not end up being a good fit for your finance team — whether that’s due to lack of cultural fit, work ethic or missing technical skill.

During the interview you’ll want to get an insight into their technical knowledge but also their soft skills. So, to help you prepare for your interviews we’ve pulled together a list of good accountancy and finance questions. These will help you assess technical knowledge, critical thinking, problem solving abilities, future potential and crucially how well they’ll work with your team.

Q. Explain the difference between accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP)?

A. When you’re interviewing job candidates for bookkeeping or accounting clerk openings, you want to test for basic skills. Questions like this one will reveal whether they understand accounting fundamentals. It’s also a good question to get someone settled into the interview as it should be straightforward for anyone with an accountancy background.

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

A. This question will show you how the applicant has approached a routine process in previous roles.  For recent graduates, they’ll be able to apply their theoretical knowledge, this question can lead to a discussion about how your company handles debt.

Q. What is your experience with developing or monitoring business metrics?

A. Answers should include details about how they’ve been involved in business data and reporting, such as helping to work out and monitor a business’s gross margin or the cost of finding new customers. This question will assure you that the candidate clearly understands business metrics. Not only will it help you to evaluate entry-level business or financial analyst candidates, but also midcareer professionals looking for roles that come with budget and staff management responsibilities.

Q. Describe a time when you’ve made an accounting error and how you handled it.

A. Rather than judging their mistake, you’ll be looking for the lessons learned. Did the candidate take responsibility for the error? How did they manage the situation? Were they proactive in sorting out the problem? Their answers should cover what went wrong but also give you an insight to how the candidate responds to situations and whether they used it as an opportunity to learn from the mistake or put in new procedures to avoid the same mistake again.

Q. How do you define big data, and why is it important for accounting teams to have expertise in it?

A. Data analysis and reporting is such a crucial aspect to modern business particularly as businesses face rising costs. Hiring someone who has knowledge of data retrieval, interpretation and analysis will be useful down the line when you decide to upskill your team and build their expertise in this area.

Q. Can you give me an example of how you would explain a complex accounting process or finance data to someone in HR, tech support or another team?

A. This will help you learn about a candidate’s communication skills. You’re assessing their ability to simplify and present information to people who may not speak the language of finance. For example, can they explain why companies use “EBITDA” (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) to monitor their success to someone who doesn’t have experience of monitoring finance.  Communication for accountancy and finance teams is extremely important when working with colleagues across the business or being involved in companywide projects.

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

A. Candidate answers should tell you about their direct experience with an ERP system. Candidates should describe the brand or system they used, which will vary depending on the size of company they worked for.

Applicants who worked with smaller companies may describe an inhouse ERP solution they used. The more detail they can give you about the ERP system, the better. The answer should tell you how much training applicants would need on your system. The question can also lead into a discussion about training and development the company offers.

Q. What do you consider the top three skills of a great accountant or accounts clerk?

A. This question can be adapted for the job role you are recruiting to. You want to hire someone with good numerical skills, but you also need someone with analytical know-how with good communication skills too. Accounting skills you’re looking for will vary by specific job title. Look for responses that show a recognition of the importance of general business knowledge, using IT and systems, providing good customer services and specialized experience that might apply to the role.

Download our guide to Interview Questions for Accountancy and Finance.

Need more help with interviewing

We hope this selection helps you think about the questions you want to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions too. The interview is your opportunity to dig into the depth of their knowledge and get a good insight into how they respond to different situations and see if they have good overall skills set. Your interview questions should not only test their knowledge but help you assess how well they will fit into the rest of your team and add value to the skills set of the team overall.

Consider, too, today’s unpredictable work environment. Of all the hard and soft skills you interview for, adaptability and a willingness to embrace new challenges may be two of the most critical ingredients for an accountancy and finance professional’s success.

If you need help interviewing Appointments Personnel have a range of support services available to support you through the whole recruitment process. We also provide run a webinar on Interviewing Techniques for Line Managers, so if you’re new to interviewing we can give you the skills you need to run a good interview process.

We do the hard work so you don’t have to. Follow this link to sign up for our Interviewing for Line Managers webinar. To find out more give us a call  now on 01782 338787 or just contact us.