10 Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring an Accountancy Professional
Bringing in a new member of the accountancy team can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the candidate that you select.
We’ve all heard horror stories of under-qualified new hires wreaking havoc in the workplace, but this can be avoided with good hiring practices.
If you’re planning to hire an accountancy professional to join your organisation, then use these insightful interview questions to get the right person for the role.
Which Accountancy Software Do You Have Experience With?
Accountancy software is becoming ever more common, as organisations use it to cut costs and free up time. Understanding which kind of software your candidate has experience with helps you to gain more insight into their knowledge base.
It’s not essential that they have lengthy experience with the same software that you use, however they should be able to show transferrable skills.
While there are some differences in accountancy software packages, there are many similarities too. If the candidate can show that they’re keen to learn and can understand the basic processes, then they should have no trouble switching to a new system.
Ask them to talk you through tasks using accountancy software and to describe how they learned to use it. This will give you a better view of their experience and mindset.
Which Relevant Qualifications Do You Hold?
Qualifications in accountancy are paramount, as without formalised training the processes that they can assist with are limited. This is an element that you may want to include in the job description, to ensure that the candidates you meet with have the technical knowledge for the role.
Match the role with the relevant qualification; don’t ask for an advanced qualification for an entry-level role. Offering training can also help you to attract the right calibre of candidates, as this can be a deciding factor for discerning jobseekers.
To continue the conversation, you can ask the candidate more about the content of the course and their experience with the training.
Are You a Member of Any Professional Bodies?
Membership of certain professional bodies can be a ringing endorsement for a candidate and tell you more about their professionalism. Membership to the AAT, for example, requires professionals to complete background checks and carry out regular professional development activities.
You should still carry out your own checks into the candidate’s references and skills to ensure full transparency.
Where Do You Think the Accountancy Profession Is Going?
This isn’t a trick question and you’re not expecting candidates to predict the future with a high degree of accuracy. What you do want to see is an understanding of the profession as it stands today and the issues that may be present in future.
This shows an awareness of accountancy beyond their singular experience, which is a great element of an accountancy professional. With this kind of awareness, they can anticipate and act to make the most of new opportunities.
They may touch on new technology that they’ve heard about, legislation that may impact the way work is conducted, or how competitors are leveraging accountancy to their advantage. Ideally, you want them to give you a clear idea with a succinct explanation of why they believe it’s important.
Can You Tell Me About a Time You Used Accountancy Data to Support a Recommendation?
The finance department shouldn’t work in a silo. Instead, they should be able to share their unique insight with other departments. To do so, they should be able to put forward clear data to support a recommendation.
This is a great skill to bring to your team, as it can drastically widen the reach that you can have on the wider organisation. Being able to extrapolate the meaning of the data and sharing the key points with others to support new initiatives is a highly useful skill for an accountancy professional.
How Do You Ensure Accuracy in Your Financial Data?
Accuracy is one of the cornerstones of effective accountancy. Without confidence that the numbers are correct, it’s very hard for others to get on board with new initiatives. Once this has been eroded by mistakes or inaccuracies, it can also be difficult to restore.
Most accountancy professionals will have a system or series of checks that they rely on to ensure accuracy. This can come in many forms, from cross checking with other records to spot checks within the data.
Good accountancy professionals will be aware of and work to mitigate the risk of errors, as they appreciate the impact that they can have. In this scenario, you want them to confidently express how they take accountability for this data.
What Attracted You to Accounting as a Profession?
Understanding where the desire to work in accountancy came from can also be telling. As they describe their professional motivations, you’ll gain insight into their commitment to the profession and their aspirations.
This can tie into a discussion about their work history, as you delve into their experience at each level of their career. You can use this question to find out more about professionals at almost any level, as it will be relevant to many candidates.
Can You Tell Me About a Time When You Identified and Reduced Extraneous Costs?
Not every accountancy-based role will involve cost cutting, but this can still be a useful skill to quiz a candidate about. This ties into their ability to argue a position, using financial data to support their decision.
By using this question, you can also follow up on their ability to implement their plan and describe this in logical steps. Logistics will differ from organisation to organisation, but the underlying steps that they execute should remain the similar.
Have You Ever Faced an Ethical Dilemma in Accounting and How Did You Handle It?
Unethical behaviour in the finance department can have real repercussions for the organisation and the individual. If allowed to go unchecked, this can even lead to legal proceedings or a situation that places the organisation on legally shaky ground.
The right professionals will be able to police their own ethics and report any discrepancies, even when other factors complicate the situation. The power that these professionals have is not to be understated, so ensure that you’re happy with the ethical prowess of the successful candidate.
This question can be revealing as to what the candidate thinks of as ethical and how they act in these sticky situations.
How Do You Deal with Deadlines?
Many professionals must deal with deadlines on a regular basis, so you’ll want to hire a team member that can handle these with ease. Whether it’s a last-minute task or a long-standing commitment, you want to hire a professional that can take these in stride.
With this question, you want to get a sense of their organisational and people skills. Ideally, they’ll give you an indication of how they organise their workload and if they can push back on unrealistic deadlines where appropriate.
With these questions, you’ll be able to get to the root of the candidate’s experience and understand how they’ll meld with your team. Then, you can extend an offer with confidence and enhance the skills of your accountancy team.
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