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Best Practices in Interviewing Accountants

How do you interview effectively in order to identify the best candidate for an accounting position?

First, let’s assume that you have already identified those likely to be a good fit for the position based on their resumes. You have a field of candidates from which to choose with the right education, experience, accomplishments, and a progression of increasingly responsible positions.

So, if everyone you intend to interview seems “qualified” for the job, what is the purpose of the interview itself? In most cases you will want to separate candidates based on not only technical skills but on their ability to communicate, their likelihood of fitting in with the existing team, leadership skills, and other factors which are difficult to discern from a written resume.

Below are four questions most often asked by the Big Four accounting firms:

WALK ME THROUGH YOUR RESUME
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF OR BACKGROUND
WHY KPMG/DELOITTE/PWC/E&Y?
WHY AUDIT/TAX/ADVISORY?

While the answers will be important, you are looking to hear and see how the candidate communicates, how they perform under pressure, and whether this is someone who will ultimately be successful in your company.

The interview is a chance to have a conversation with the individuals being considered. Get to know them. Let their personalities come through. You will certainly want to probe for specifics, and understand how they have handled difficult situations at work - or disagreements with their boss, coworkers, and clients. Ask good follow up questions and look for consistency in their responses.

It’s also important to pay attention to your emotions during the interview. Did you feel an answer was not quite right? Is this a person you felt you could trust? Did you enjoy the time you spent with them? Your emotions are likely to tell you as much about how this person will fit with the team as will anything on their resume.

Interviewing well is an art form. Trust your instincts and avoiding rushing to make a hire.