10 Behavioral Interview Questions for Accounting Professionals

June 17, 2021

Behaviorial questions allow you to elaborate on your experience and reactions to different situations and assure interviewers of your skills and professional personality. Employers ask accountants behavioral questions during interviews to ensure the candidate has the skills to assist clients on financial matters and keep accurate financial records. Because behavioural interview questions often require in-depth responses, it's important to answer practice questions in order to prepare for your interview. In this article, we identify 10 behavioral interview questions accountants may face in the hiring process and how to best answer those questions with confidence.

Behavioral interview questions

When accountants pursue career advancement, interviewers could ask you multiple behavioral questions to determine how you might handle work-related situations. Here are some behavioral interview questions an interviewer may ask you during the accounting job hiring process:

1. How do you manage successful team projects?

The interviewer may ask this question to gauge your leadership abilities and learn more about how you approach the job.This gives you a chance to talk about your accounting team projects and the steps you take to ensure you complete the project on time.

Example:*"As a senior accountant, I make sure my colleagues follow the best practices. I'm very firm on accounting in conformance with the law and the generally accepted accounting principles. We pride ourselves on accuracy, and I double-check or triple-check everything to make sure we are correctly handling the numbers, metrics and calculations. By emphasizing accuracy and efficiency, it helps guide my team projects to success."*

2. Describe an accounting team project that failed.

Interviewers may ask this question to determine how you handle failures and if you learn anything from them. To respond to this question, think of a specific time a project didn't meet your goals and explain how you applied what you learned to future projects.

Example: "**There was a situation early in my career when state financial regulators found minor discrepancies in a budget I had prepared for a public agency client. They found an appropriations error and asked us to resubmit the budget with revisions. I accepted responsibility for the mistake and immediately made the necessary accounting corrections. I fully explained the matter to my client, and they understood and expressed confidence in my services. The state accepted our revised budget, and since then I've learned to be more careful in my accounting."

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

3. How do you address or handle unhappy clients?

The interviewer could ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills in a difficult situation. When answering, speak well of your clients and express your commitment to customer satisfaction. This allows you to demonstrate your ability to handle difficult situations while remaining positive.

Example:*"I'm very committed to customer satisfaction and I want all of my clients to be happy, so I work very hard to meet their expectations.*If any client expresses dissatisfaction with my services, I meet with them in person and discuss the issues of concern. I listen to their feedback and respectfully explain my accounting guidance. That usually resolves any complaints they may have."

4. Describe your worst mistake and the lessons you've learned from it.

The interviewer could ask this question to assess your honesty and potential growth as an accountant. Your answer should detail an oversight challenge that led to professional development in your accounting career.

Example: "**My worst mistake was when I prepared a client's tax return without including his miscellaneous income. We filed an electronic tax return well before the April 15 deadline, but my client later provided me with a Form 1099-MISC showing he had earned more than $20,000 in miscellaneous income. Under federal law, we needed to file an amended tax return or risk being audited or penalized. I immediately corrected this oversight by preparing an amended tax return reflecting miscellaneous income. My client understood the situation and apologized for the mishap, but I felt responsible because I've failed to ask him about all income sources before filing the original return. From that experience, I've learned the importance of asking clients about their income sources and requesting they provide all relevant documentation before preparing their tax returns."

Read more: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

5. Describe an improvement you've made to a process that benefited the project.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your merit and to discover if you possess innovative skills. This gives you the chance to highlight your most notable contributions in accounting.

Example: "One of my clients, a mid-sized company, hired me five years ago to resolve their financial reporting deficiencies. The company's internal controls lacked consistency, which caused them to record multiple transactions in subsidiary ledgers improperly. I found these deficiencies significant and rising to material weakness, so I created a process allowing my client to record transactions correctly and implement timely reconciliations of the account balances to prevent these deficiencies from recurring. The company embraced my corrective action plan and eliminated the deficiencies that had existed."

6. How do you respond when a colleague disagrees with you?

The interviewer could ask you this question to measure how you may approach conflict resolution. Your answer should express respect for colleagues while acknowledging disagreements may occur.

Example: "I respond with great courtesy. We sometimes have differing views on how to advise our clients , but these conversations are always respectful. Constructive dialogue is healthy for the workplace and it's always my policy to reach a consensus on all matters. With this in mind, I ask my colleagues to elaborate on their perspectives on the matter. Then, I explain my point of view."

7. How do you manage stress on the job?

Interviewers could ask this question to learn how you may handle potential challenges in accounting. Your answer should be concise and highlight your desire to work.

Example: "I often take walks during my lunch break and remind myself to be patient. I drink tea every morning and organize my workspace to be orderly and comfortable. These habits help me minimize stress and maintain my productivity."

8. Tell me about a time when you needed to delegate tasks.

The interviewer might ask this question to assess your leadership qualities and ability to communicate effectively with colleagues. Your answer should showcase your ability to communicate and give directions.

Example: "Two years ago, a national organization invited me to a conference on accounting. I accepted the invitation and needed to delegate tasks because the three-day conference occurred out of state and required me to take personal time off. I directed my accounting partners to assume my responsibilities in my absence. One of my partners attended client consultations on my behalf, and another partner processed my bookkeeping duties that week. Delegating these tasks allowed my work to continue while enjoying a conference."

Related: 7 Sample Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

9. Describe your biggest career success.

The interviewer may ask this question to hear your personal assessment concerning your biggest achievement. This gives you the opportunity to talk about your most prestigious honor.

Example: "**An association of certified professional accountants recognized my accounting services in government last year, awarding me their Outstanding CPA Award. That's my biggest career success. It recognized my history of creating processes that eliminated significant deficiencies and strengthened municipal government internal controls on financial reporting."

Related: 35 Behavioral Interview Questions to Prepare For (with Example Answers)

10. How do you handle criticism?

Interviewers could ask this question to learn how you handle constructive feedback and determine if you have teamwork skills. In answering it, express tolerance and appreciation for feedback while honestly portraying your typical response.

Example: "I welcome honest criticism because it helps me grow in my career. Some of the best advice I've received had come from peer reviews. I appreciate any feedback that promotes professional development."


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