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Accounting Interview Questions Aimed at Assessing Your Soft Skills

Accounting interviews can be complex, and like any type of interview, the key to acing one is through preparation.  Before an interview, most accounting professionals know to prepare for questions that test their technical accounting skills, such as numerical and psychometric tests, their accounting competency, and their memory of accounting principles.  However, as important as it is to review and brush up on your accounting knowledge and how it applies to the position you’re applying for, it’s just as important to be prepared to answer questions regarding your “soft skills,” those intangible attributes and personality traits that don’t necessarily come across on a resume or through results on a competency test.

“Many jobseekers have strong technical accounting skills, so to determine whether or not a candidate would be successful in the role, an increasing number of employers are asking questions that require applicants to demonstrate their communication skills as well as their ability to think and act strategically,” explains Jaclyn Logan, a Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance staffing division.  “Employers see the immense value in hiring professionals who can exhibit strong management, listening, and critical thinking skills, and are willing to pay them more and offer more opportunities for career advancement.”

Below are some questions that hiring managers often ask to get a better understanding of each candidates’ “soft skills,” along with advice from Jaclyn on how to prepare for them:

  1. One of our biggest challenges within the organization is_______? What has been your experience with it?  How would you manage it?:  The purpose of this question is to see how fast you can think on your feet.  To make sure you answer this question thoroughly, ask questions to get more information and break this information into smaller sub-sections.  This will make it much easier for you to think of smaller scale examples of similar experiences.  Explain how you managed each challenge, and summarize how this applies to the overall issue.  If you don’t have experience managing the issue, state how you would go about solving the problem.  Answer directly, be specific and show your organizational and analytical skills.
  2. What moment in your career are you least proud of?  In hindsight, how would you have done things differently?:  This is a general question to learn how introspective you are and to see if you can learn from your mistakes.  If you can, it indicates an open, flexible personality.  Don’t be afraid to talk about your failures, particularly if you’ve learned from them, because this is a critical attribute of a candidate with high potential.
  3. Can you recount a situation in which you called upon both your technical and managerial skills to achieve a goal:   Hiring managers want the candidates who not only fully understand the technical aspects of a project, but can also communicate effectively and manage others. To answer this question successfully, you must give an example that demonstrates your abilities are well-rounded, not one-sided.
  4. How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low employee morale, or inadequate resources?: If you answer this question effectively, it indicates you have strong management skills.  organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and the ability to handle pressure are key elements of effective management, so when you answer this question, you need to make sure you give a specific example of how these soft skills helped you overcome the issue.
  5. How have you grown professionally or adapted to change over the past few years?  As new laws and regulations can change the accounting industry relatively quickly, the abilities to learn new skills and adapt to change are qualities that are sometimes more important to hiring managers than your experience with a particular program.  Giving an example of a time where you took advantage of an opportunity for professional growth or you took the initiative to teach yourself a new skill will brand you as a proactive professional who values professional development and keeping their skill-set up to date.

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