Preparing for an accounting job interview through research and reflection builds confidence, and that confidence could be the key factor in securing the position. Accountants perform a wide variety of tasks from managing departmental budgets to performing financial risk assessments for organizations. Interviewing for an accounting position requires the ability to articulate and demonstrate your specialized knowledge in the field.
Know the Company
If you've been through interviews before, you're probably already aware that doing research about the company before the interview is valuable. Read employer brochures and advertisements. Research the company's annual reports. Visit local and state employment service offices for more information on a particular company. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and consider speaking with current employees of the organization. The more you know about a company, the more confident you'll be in the interview. Showing you've done your research is impressive to a potential employer.
Prepare for Tough Questions
Accounting interviews are designed to discover your strengths and weaknesses. Companies want to place their financial well-being in the right hands, so interviewers ask specific questions. A potential employer wants to know about your work achievements, successes, awards and leadership skills. When you're asked to talk about yourself, frame the answer in accounting-specific details. For example, you might say, "I'm good at troubleshooting and identifying problems with accounting systems." Follow up with an instance where you saved a company money by identifying and solving a problem. It's tough to stay on track while answering a question about your weaknesses. Frame an answer that relates to a past work experience where you faltered and then follow up by explaining what you did to improve the situation. For example, perhaps you missed a budget deadline. To avoid that happening again, you took a time management workshop and created electronic reminders to keep you on track.
It's not too late to put together an accounting portfolio for your interview. Purchase a portfolio binder and use it to organize your current resume, a list of your strengths specific to the job and samples of recent work. A portfolio is a tangible way to demonstrate proficiency in accounting. While maintaining the confidentiality of previous employers, your portfolio could include samples of successful proposals you've written, pamphlets and feedback from accounting courses you've taken, and samples of analytical research where you identified a gap and subsequently worked to improve financial growth. Rather than pass your portfolio around the table to the interview panel, use it to reference specific topics as they come up. For example, if a question arises about past work projects, you could ask the panel members if they'd like to see a sample.
Questions to Ask the Employer
Applicants are sometimes stumped at the end of the interview when it's their turn to ask the questions. Preparing a few well-thought-out questions shows that you've done your research. Ask about the key challenges of the position, who you'll report to and whether you'll oversee junior accountants or administrative positions. Ask questions specific about the accounting position. For example, ask what the auditing process is for the company, what type of accounting software the company uses and what financial goals the company has going forward.
Lisa Theriault has been writing for 20 years and has written for both national and provincial publications including "Canadian Gardening," "What's Up Kids?" "Family Magazine," "Lifestyle Nova Scotia" and "Commerce Magazine." Her short stories have appeared both online and in print.