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Recruiting Advice Pro

Killer Interview Questions

After more than 15 years in accounting and financial staffing, I know firsthand that finding a candidate that meets the skills required by a client is only half of the battle. Candidates and employers have to interact during the interview process and determine if they can form a productive and successful relationship.

While there is a wealth of information out there for employers on how to interview accounting and financial candidates – there is much less information for the candidate on how to make best use of the interview process. Candidates have to think about the interview as not only their chance to shine, but also their opportunity to make sure that the position and employer are the best possible fit.

The following are my suggested Top Three Interview Questions for accounting and financial candidates. I encourage candidates to ask these questions to make sure they reach beyond the surface and gain some insights into what employment might really be like with a potential firm or company.

  • 1. What would my focus and key deliverable be within my first 90 or 120 days of employment?

Believe it or not, not all employers have a clear plan for how your time and skills will be utilized. By asking for details about your first 90 or 120 days, you will get a picture of what projects you will be working on and the specific outcomes expected of your efforts.

Candidates should also use the response of the employer as a springboard for deeper questions. For example, if you are told you will be working on a series of audited financials for a client use this information to probe deeper: Is this a new or existing client? Would you be working alone on the effort or part of a team? Also, I it is important to ask what tools and resources you will be given to accomplish the tasks described. The more information you can glean, the better picture you will have of expectations and your opportunities for success.

  • 2. What qualities do top performers here all share?

This question is one of my favorites, because it is about a dozen different questions rolled into one. Employers who can’t quickly tell you the attributes needed to succeed are really admitting that they lack a formalized process to measure, recognize and reward success. To be candid – if they don’t know how you can succeed in their business, how can you possibly figure it out?

Employers that are mutually interested in your success will have a detailed answer to these questions and will provide examples of specific employees who exhibited the desired traits and enjoyed success as a result. The employer’s answer also gives the candidate the chance to either showcase their own skills and experiences or talk about their interest in developing the desired traits.

  • 3. Can you tell me how much time I will spend on each of the core functions for this position?

When it comes down to it, every job has a series of core functions that are performed on a regular basis. Asking this question will get you a clear picture of what you will be doing if you are offered and accept the position. Don’t get distracted by just asking about the duties. Chances are the employer will list the most interesting duties first. Probe deeper and ask what percentage of time will be spent on each function. If the percentages given do not add up to 100%, make sure to ask what the “other duties as assigned” might include. This will give you a clear picture of how you will be spending your day.

In the end, there are no magic interview questions to ensure that you find out all you need to ensure you make the right decision. But these questions should help you to reach beyond a perfunctory dialog and get down to what life might be like should you be offered a position.