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Top 3 Accounting Interview Questions & How to Respond


Job interviews are both nerve-wracking and great learning experiences for most of us, especially as current college students or recent college grads. In the accounting profession, in particular, we know that the competition can be tough and you want to make sure you do your best when faced with any opportunity. So we put together 3 of the top accounting interview questions that many CPA Exam candidates have come across. Take note of what they are and how you can respond coherently and cohesively to all 3! 

1. Give me an example of how you successfully dealt with someone who was difficult.

Our biggest piece of advice for a question like this is to never give away the person’s name. If you’re interviewing in the same city as where you went to university, it could be the interviewer’s friend, cousin, neighbor, or sorority sister. You just never know. What we recommend is using class projects as an example: 

“One of the members of our marketing class project hadn’t shown up for the first three meetings we held. With only two weeks left before the presentation, I started to get a little nervous. Even though I had some plans after class one day, I took the time to meet with him for a few minutes and found out that his grandfather passed away and he was feeling depressed. The situation was making it hard for him to work. I went with him to get a cup of coffee for 30 minutes and listened to everything that was going on. From that day forward, he trusted me and felt more comfortable working on the team. He never missed a meeting after that day.”

When you are speaking to your interviewer, make sure you are displaying your proactive actions in your response rather than telling them outright. It’s a classic case of show, not tell. The above example showed how you handle problems with people on your team: you confront them with care, do what it takes to fix the situation, and get the job done. In the accounting world, it’s all about solving problems efficiently and effectively. Show that you can do that.

2. Why are you interested in this particular area of the firm?

Depending on the position, you should also talk about why you will succeed in that specific role, based on what that role demands. Here are a few tips for each of the three departments accounting firms have: Audit, Tax, and Advisory. Use the qualities below to describe yourself, the type of work you enjoy, and what you can bring to the team.

Auditor qualities to mention you have:

Work well in teams
Enjoy working with different clients
Have a skeptical mindset
Like project-based work
Enjoy working with deadlines

Tax qualities to mention you have:

Great at research
Work well in teams
Enjoy working with different clients
Want to help the client achieve their goals/objectives
Enjoy project-based work
Enjoy working with deadlines
Don’t mind traveling, but don’t mind working in the office every day

Advisory qualities to mention you have:

Great at research
Work well in teams
Enjoy working with different clients
Want to help the client achieve their goals/objectives
Enjoy project-based work
Enjoy working with deadlines
Don’t mind traveling

3. What are you looking to get out of an internship (or full-time position) with a public accounting firm?

While this may be slightly different if you’re in audit, tax, or advisory, there are some common denominators. Here is a list of the things you can use, as well as a specific and unique way of answering this question:

“I see this opportunity as similar to going on a date. I will become an intern at your company and you will show me what it’s like to work there as an employee. If I perform well, you are happy with my work, and I love the company, people, clients, and the position, then we’ll continue! If we both feel that it’s not a good fit, we won’t. However, I have to say that I really have enjoyed the process so far at the career fair, the socials, and the interview today. I’m excited to take the next step forward.”

While it’s a slightly risky response, people love it! It will help you stand out and make your mark on that person’s day.

Some other safer responses include:

  • Opportunity to work in <insert industry here>
  • I have really enjoyed the people I met at the socials and career fair. I want the chance to spend more time with them in a work environment
  • I’d like to increase my accounting knowledge-base and experience
  • It would be great to participate in some of the company’s community service activities
  • I’d like to gain a better understanding of the company culture and people to continue to learn more

We hope you all find this useful and put it into practice for your next accounting interview! Best of luck to you and please comment below to let us know what your top accounting interview questions are and how you responded! 

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