As your business grows, you may need professional accounting services. Perhaps you now need someone on site to handle customer accounting or accounts payable. Or, you may need weekly or even daily financial reports to help you make informed financial decisions for your growing business.
Whatever the reason, when it comes time to hire an accountant for your business, you need to choose carefully. The interview process is critical to making the right hiring decision for your company – and the right accountant interview questions will ensure the success of that process. Here are five key questions worth asking.
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Question 1: “Why do you want to become an accountant? / Why did you become an accountant? “
This seems like an odd question to ask right now, and chances are some of your interview candidates are unprepared.
While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, the candidate’s reaction and answer says a lot about their passion for their work – or the lack of it. The answer that the candidate for your accounting position gives should inspire you and give you the assurance that this accountant is totally dedicated to the service that he will provide you.
For example, the candidate may tell you that they are passionate about small business success. They may even have had a family member whose business did not survive due to serious accounting errors or unaudited cash flow problems, and they are committed to preventing this from happening to other small businesses.
However you answer, the right accountant for your company will provide you with an answer to this accountant interview question that suits your needs and your company’s mission while staying true to the “why” for working in their profession.
Question 2: “What do you love about my industry?”
This accountant interview question is important as the accounting duties may vary depending on the industry. Some small business owners may be able to hire a skilled accountant with general knowledge, while others – like construction companies, law firms, and nonprofits – will need an accountant with industry-specific knowledge.
However, don’t let your accounting candidate’s lack of experience in your industry deter you from submitting a job offer. Otherwise, if they are a fit for your company and love or interested in your industry, they may still be the best person for the position.
This, in turn, is related to the accountant’s passion for what he does. An accountant with a penchant for your industry will put extra effort into learning what they need to know in order to do an excellent job for your company.
Question 3: “What would the first thing you do on your first day at work?”
While the first two questions on accountant interviews focus on identifying the candidate’s passion, the third is more focused on technical expertise.
Present the following scenario to your candidate:
“It’s day one at work. You have completed all the formalities for the HR department and are now sitting in front of our accounting system for the first time. What would you do first “
There are many possible answers to this question, but the best would be twofold. First of all, the accounting candidate should say he would review the commercial bank accounts and make sure they were properly matched. Bank accounts are the biggest weakness in a small business’s internal controls, and you want an accountant who understands that.
Next, the accounting candidate should say he would check the balance sheet line by line and then go through the income statement. If your accounting candidate gives you this answer, they will have a very good understanding of how the financial statements work together and how to review and review their own work.
Bonus points if they go one step further and say they are comparing the balance sheet with the most recently completed tax return or the report of the external auditor. This shows their understanding of how all of the pieces of your financial puzzle are supposed to fit together, which means that you get a really flawless work product from them.
Question 4: “What do you do if a bank reconciliation is postponed by a very small amount?”
This is another question about the accountant interview, called Technical Expertise. It can also be one of the toughest questions to ask your candidate.
Here’s why: Often times, accountants are instructed to simply “plug” discrepancies into an account for various expenses. The idea behind this is that you don’t want to waste time looking for intangible quantities. If your accounting candidate responds this way, go a little deeper by reassuring them that you are not overly concerned about the time they would spend working on a bank reconciliation – the bottom line is that you just want them to catch mistakes .
This should lead your accounting candidate to provide an answer that has no tolerance for bank reconciliation discrepancies. If there is a discrepancy, it can be found. Period.
A seemingly small discrepancy can actually represent more than a missing transaction. For example, a $ 100 discrepancy could be a typo when entering a deposit amount … or it could be caused by a missing $ 10,000 deposit and a missing check for $ 9,900. The net difference would still only be $ 100, but the absolute value of the misstatements in the books would be nearly $ 20,000.
If you take that one step further, this false information could lead to debt collection activities against a customer who actually paid an invoice or paid twice. The first can lead to the loss of the customer, and the second can have a significant negative impact on your company’s cash flow.
If your accounting candidate answers this question by stating that no matter how small he will always find the difference, he is likely a keeper.
Question 5: “What are your personal interests? / What is your passion in your personal life? ”
This last question measures the candidate’s alignment with your existing corporate culture.
While you want your accountant – along with the rest of your team – to be committed to your company and the work they do for you, you don’t want to hire someone without personal interests. Employees with a healthy work-life balance are happier, healthier, and more attentive than workaholics. This, in turn, leads to a higher quality job if they focus on the job.
A lack of personal interests can indicate that your candidate tends to be a workaholic. Or it is possible that the candidate is only telling you what they think they hear. Either way, dig deeper and ask more questions. However, if you get the impression that the candidate really has no outside interests, you may be interviewing someone who is working himself to the point of burnout and resentment.
Assuming your accounting candidate has personal interests and passions – which is the most likely scenario – asking this accountant interview question can help you in several ways:
1. During the orientation phase, you can couple your new accountant with an existing employee with similar interests.
The orientation phase has a significant influence on how a new employee sees their new job, their place in the company and their integration into the corporate culture. Matching your new accountant with an existing team member with common interests will make your new hire more comfortable in the office, which will help them stay up to date and be productive faster.
2. You know better how to reward your employee.
While financial rewards are nice and always valued, employees often also – or better yet – respond to thoughtful, creative rewards that match their personal interests.
3. You can start planning when your employee may request leave.
Most applicants do not tell you during the interview whether they want or need time off to pursue their personal interests. At the same time, you want to support them in their personal activities to keep them happy and engaged at work. Knowing in advance what interests your accounting candidate will have, you can start planning your expected free time right away. So it won’t come as a shock to you when he asks you.
Find the right accountant for your company
How do you know if an accountant candidate is right for your small business? The above mentioned accountant interview questions are meant to help you determine this. In general, however, you need to tick a few boxes:
You have the technical knowledge you need.
They are experts in your industry – or they are ready and willing to learn these subtleties.
They are excited about the work they are doing.
They fit into the corporate culture and fit the larger mission of your company.
By addressing all of these concerns during the interview process, you can make the hiring and orientation phase smooth for both you and your new hire.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.