Interviews Questions by Career
Interviews Questions by Company
Interviews Questions by Topic
Get Started
Interview Coach 1:1
Gain the confidence you need by asking our professionals any interview scenario, question, or answer you are unsure about.
Let Us Review Your Answers
Our interviewing professionals will gladly review and revise any answer you send us. Allowing you to craft perfect responses for your next job interview.
Interview Questions by Topic
Interview Questions by Career
Interview Questions by Company

Accounting Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by Bobbi Witt
Updated January 22nd, 2019 | Bobbi has been a finance manager for over 15 years, with direct recruiting and hiring experience in her field.
Job Interviews     Careers     Business    

Question 1 of 30

Describe one of the biggest mistake you've made on the job.

How to Answer
Example Answer
Entry Level Example
Experience Example
1000s of Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.

Interview Questions

1.

Describe one of the biggest mistake you've made on the job.

If you don't have a professional example to share, a relevant experience from college might work. Regardless of which example you pick, don't exaggerate or over-dramatize. Your interviewer will notice and might decide that you're being less than honest.

Also, if you've committed any major mistakes, I wouldn't advertise them. I'd pick a significant mistake that had a relatively simple solution. Choose an example quickly so it doesn't look like you're trying to pick a less serious mistake, which might leave a bad impression.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"When I was still learning my position at a company, I was told to run an Audit on the user access of one system. I didn't know they had a standard operating procedure for how this was done and I made the mistake of thinking I could reinvent the wheel. I was cocky. So I created a template and emailed it. Later, I was told they had an internal system they used for only this purpose and what took me eight hours should have taken only thirty minutes. I learned from that point always to ask before trying to reinvent something."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"During my very first job, I was hired only to handle payroll and had two weeks of training before the person left the company. I had no backup and no one to ask for help. The week I was processing payroll, the Accounting Manager, who was my boss, noticed I wasn't comfortable with my work but never once offered to help me, even though I asked everyone for help. It was extremely frustrating and I thought about leaving, but didn't want to quit something that I hadn't finished. While I finally managed to complete payroll, I couldn't transmit direct deposit and all 600 employees received manual checks. They had to be printed because I didn't complete payroll until late Thursday evening, and the direct deposit information had to be sent to the bank by Wednesday at noon. I didn't make the cut off time, but I successfully completed payroll. There were mistakes on the paychecks, but the employees were very patient with me. At the end of the week, my Accounting Manager called me in and said I did a nice job. She informed me that she didn't offer to help me because she wanted to see how I handled the situation and the pressure. She congratulated me and told me to keep up the good work."

View answer examples for this question >

2.

When looking at the COGS on the P&L statement, what are some examples of variable costs?

COGS is Cost of Goods Sold and the P&L is the Profit and Loss statement. It's important to know the acronyms as well as what's on the documents they indicate.

Variable costs are expenses incurred based on the production volume. Examples of common variable costs include raw materials, packaging, and labor directly involved in a company's manufacturing process.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"On the variable costs located on the Profit and Loss statement, the cost of goods sold refers to the finished product. The variables included in that finished product are raw materials, packaging, and labor ."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"Variable costs that go into making the final product and determines the cost of goods sold would be things like direct labor, indirect labor, parts, and overhead. All these costs will be listed on the profit and loss statement."

View answer examples for this question >

3.

Give me examples of the accounting reports you've prepared.

The interviewer would like you to demonstrate your experience in maintaining accounting principles, practices, and procedures. As an accountant, it's critical that you ensure accurate and timely financial statements and reporting. Discuss the ability to meet tight deadlines and undertake a multitude of accounting activities.

Many entry level individuals will not have experience in preparing accounting reports. If you're new to your career, don't worry about this. Discuss what you learned in school instead. Discuss a project you enjoyed, such as creating the chart of accounts or a hypothetical month end project you may have worked on.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"As a Controller, I run many accounting reports throughout the month to monitor financial performance and to ensure prompt completion of day-to-day accounting functions. In addition to month-end financial statements and monthly summary reports, other reports include a daily activity report the summarizes total labor dollars for the day, how labor was used operationally for that day, total daily sales, and total goods shipped."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"In my first year as an accountant, my job duties have included reviewing the daily cash report to ensure daily balancing of the cash book against the Open A/R report, and that cash received from customers is applied to paid invoices. I'm also responsible for managing the Goods Received Invoice Received report, or GRIR, on the purchasing and payable side. This report verifies that purchased items have been received and will be reflected as an expense on the income statement and not stay on the balance sheet in the liability GRIR account."

View answer examples for this question >

4.

Give an example of when you have seen or corrected the Trail Balance from being out of balance?

After posting all transactions from an accounting period, the trial balance is checked to verify that the total of all accounts with debit balances equals the total of all accounts with credit balances. The trial balance lists every open general ledger account by account number and provides separate debit and credit columns for entering account balances. An accurate Trial Balance means that debits and credits are in balance.

If you have experience with out of balance books, this is a good time to demonstrate that knowledge. Be honest about the process you used to correct it, and ensure that you don't reveal any sensitive information. Generally, when you're talking about the financials of a previous company, you don' need to provide the company's name. Remember, everyone is a potential investor of your previous company, so you don't want to information leaked and the company stock falling because of a comment you made in the interview.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"When I was working for my previous company, I found that the trial balance was not balanced. One of the data entry financial analysts input a debit instead of a credit, and it completely threw off the books. We searched the journal entries and found the error and made a correction that balanced the books."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"As I'm fresh out of school, I haven't run into this issue yet but when I was in school, I did have to create journal entries. Before I mastered that skill, I put together an inaccurate trial balance and had to investigate where I made the mistake. It helped me learn and master not only journal entries but the trial balance process itself."

View answer examples for this question >

5.

A start up company needs help understanding GAAP. How would you explain why GAAP is important?

GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and it's the framework for accounting standards. If you're new to your accounting career, you could talk about how you studied GAAP rules in college. If you're an experienced accountant, talk about how you've applied GAAP in your work.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which is the standardization set out by the AICPA or American institute for Certified Public Accountants. They created these regulations to ensure that if you go from company to company, the skeleton of the financial records will be the same. That way, auditors and the IRS can easily find the necessary information across multiple companies."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"GAAP is the standard set of regulations is used for American financial statements and processes. This is important because if every company was allowed to devise their own accounting method, the government or investors would have trouble understanding them. This would cause a lot more work for the government as well as investors, which could deter them from investing in the company. Having a standard set of rules keeps companies honest and sets out a path to follow when filling out financial documents."

View answer examples for this question >

6.

Discuss your experience in the financial analysis of your previous company's projects.

You can answer this at any career level. If you're just getting out of school, then discuss a project where you did some type of financial analysis. If you have more work experience, discuss the broad scope of the analysis you did. Always be aware of your ethics and any NDA's you may have signed.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"At my previous company as a financial analyst, I was responsible for analyzing our financial statements to ensure our company had good ratios and was attractive to investors. I'd run ratios daily on the various department's budgets, and once a year I'd review all our financial statements before they were released publicly to ensure we were appealing to potential investors."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"As a fresh college graduate, I have no real world experience with this but for my final project, I had to do a full analysis of a publicly traded company. I went online, pulled their financials, and reviewed everything using various ratios and formulas to see if this company would be worth investing in. I really enjoyed the profitability ratios and the return on investment formulas I reviewed for the project. The analysis went so well I actually invested in the company and should be seeing a return on my investment with dividends within a year. It will continue to pay out over time and I'll continue to make a profit on my investment."

View answer examples for this question >

7.

What ERP systems and accounting softwares have you used?

Simply list the ERP systems and any financial tools you' have used. A list of common Financial ERP systems are: QuickBooks, Quicken, Peachtree, SAP, Infor, Visual, Xero, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, Oracle JD Edwards, Epicor, Yardi, etc. Don't forget to mention your Excel skills, Google Spreadsheets, and being familiar with CSV files and uploading into different systems.

If you have no experience with any of these platforms than the suggestion would be to download free versions online and practice on a few by creating journal entries and chart of accounts. Then you can answer this question in the hypothetical rather than having no experience.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"I have worked with Quickbooks and XERO and my excel skills are advanced to say I can run macros and formulas. If you use a different platform I am a quick study and learn on my feet so I can master any platform with a little bit of training."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I just graduated, so professionally I haven't worked with any of those platforms, but in college I had an entire Quickbooks class. We used Quickbooks and Waze accounting software as well as a dummy program of XERO. I like Quickbooks the best because of its ease of access."

View answer examples for this question >

8.

Give an example of a time when you caught an invoice error before it was paid out.

This is a question that also tests honesty because if you have never encountered this issue, you shouldn't make something up. That doesn't mean that you won't have an answer. Have you ever personally been billed for something you didn't buy? Has a waiter ever charged you for something you didn't order? It's all about checking the work before the debt is paid.

If you have experience with this, relay that story and let them know exactly how you handled the situation.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"At my previous company, before paying any invoices, my manager and I double checked them before submitting them. When my manager was on leave over the holidays one year, I was allowed to approve with the instructions that if there was an error, to contact my manager's supervisor, the Director of Accounting. An invoice came in that was supposed t show a credit, but it hadn't been applied. In the notes for that vendor, there should have been a credit of four hundred dollars and change, but it wasn't applied and they were charging for the entire shipment. I immediately sent an email attaching the invoice and screenshot of the note in the vendor file and escalated it to the Director. We caught it in time and revised the vendor invoice to pay the appropriate amount, which helped our company save money during the holidays."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"When I started as the Accounting Manager for my last company, it was in shambles. The previous Accounting Manager had been fired for stealing from the company and there were almost no internal controls. As the company wanted to go public, it needed to have them. I found that invoices were submitted, approved, and processed by the same person. After reviewing their work, it was obvious they weren't actually reviewing the invoices before paying them. The company had been overpaying its vendors for six months and not getting the same amount of product. I quickly instituted internal controls to separate the duties involved with invoice payment and retrained the staff on how to handle these situations. After slight push back and a small turnover, we were back on track. I also contacted the vendors and obtained credits for the over-payments they'd received from us. This saved the company from paying invoices to those five vendors for the next two months."

View answer examples for this question >

9.

Describe to me a time when you faced an ethical dilemma regarding your work.

This is one of the most important answers you'll ever give to an employer. Being trustworthy with someone's money is what makes or breaks an Accountant's career. That's why most states now have an Ethics test you must pass in to obtain a CPA. You always have to be discreet and ethical. That means if your company is doing something illegal you must stop it or at least try to.

If you have a coworker or someone doing something illegal or that could hurt the company, you're ethically obligated to do something about it. Nowadays, people think of it as ratting or being a whistleblower, but imagine if it was your money they were stealing. Wouldn't you want someone to tell you? Corporations are not faceless. They employ millions of people who are affected by theft and embezzlement. All major accounting scandals have cost thousands of people their jobs, life savings, and livelihoods, so it's not okay to ignore an issue simply because it doesn't directly impact you.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"When I worked for a previous company I made friends with my manager who was the Accounting manager. We would go out for a beer after work and he would share his life with me. One day he told me that he had been upping his pay since he approved the pay raises and knew his boss never looked at the final approvals before approving because he trusted him. I knew this was wrong and I thought about it for a long time before I said something to him about it. He told me it was none of my business and we stopped hanging out. I did not want to get him fired but my loyalty was to the company not to him so I wrote a letter to HR who investigated. Eventually he was let go and he blamed me but he was stealing from the company."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I've never run into this professionally, but when I was a kid, I had a teacher who didn't get along with my friend's mom. She'd pick on my friend during class, call her stupid, and wouldn't let her volunteer to read. The teacher was a bully and it hurt my friend badly. When her mom tried to involve the school, they didn't do anything so I went to the school board and talked to them about it. I told them how the teacher's behavior wasn't only affecting my friend, but how other students treated my friend. I told them it was unethical for someone in a position of power to bully and torment a child, and that teacher was sent for training. We didn't see her for the rest of the year, and when she came back the following year, she was much more respectful of her students and aware of how her actions reflected in her other students."

View answer examples for this question >

10.

Tell me about a time you updated or revised an Accounting process.

This is a question that if you have no experience cannot be fabricated or guessed. You have to be honest with your experience, otherwise you're being unethical. Ethics is an important role for any Accountant and demonstrating this in your interview is important.

If you have experience revising or updating a process or control, this is where you explain your experience, keeping in mind any NDA agreements you've signed. Once again, this points to ethics.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"In my previous position, I was able to assist in updating control verbiage for various audit controls. I can't go into much detail about the direct controls because of the NDA I signed with that company, but as an example, I was able to refine one control to eliminate the possibility of pulling in extra data or white noise by detailing the exact query necessary to pull down the data. By updating the verbiage of the control to point to the exact query, we were able to focus the external auditors and remove several questions that had no bearing on the control itself."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I'm fresh out of college, so I have no practical experience in updating or changing any processes, but in class for auditing we were taught how to update a control and the proper steps to take. Updating processes need to conform the GAAP standards, and if possible, IFRS, so that if the company becomes an international company it will conform to all applicable guidelines. For your company, I'd start by reviewing the processes in place and ensure they all conform to the GAAP and IFRS standards. If I find some don't, I'd make the adjustments in a controlled environment and get them approved through the appropriate in-house channels before rolling them out company wide."

View answer examples for this question >

11.

Give me an example of a challenging tax situation that you have encountered.

This question can be posed to anyone of any experience level. This is assuming at some point you have had a job and had to do your own taxes. Discussing personal taxes can be tricky because you don't want to show that you're avoiding tax because of your knowledge, but you want to demonstrate your knowledge.

If you have corporate tax experience, rely on that to explain your knowledge.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"When I worked for my previous employer as a Tax Analyst, I was required to review client invoice data to ensure we were paying the proper taxes on that client company for the state in which they were located. One company I worked with had several offices in several different state so each office was taxed for the state in which is was located. This took some time to figure out, and I had to call a few local tax offices in those states to ensure I got the most recent tax rate because as we all know, the internet doesn't always indicate when the tax rate has changed."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I don't have any corporate experience as of yet but when I was in high school and college, I helped my father with his taxes. As a truck driver paid by the mile, you have to calculate mileage for each trip, factor in construction detours, and map the exact route he takes to ensure that his pay is accurate and his taxes are accurately paid. This is a lot more complicated than your average 1040 EZ as not only do you have to itemize, but you have to provide documentation to the IRS before they'll approve the refund. That's when I realized how good I am at following the breadcrumbs of taxes."

View answer examples for this question >

12.

Give an example of when internal controls needed to be changed or updated and how you handled the change.

This is a SOX related question. SOX compliance is critical for publicly traded companies because controls are constantly evolving as the company grows and change.

If you have no experience with this, be honest and use your ability to learn quickly and adapt well to change. Mention how compliance changed drastically after ENRON and WorldCom.

If you have experience, then describe the exact change that occurred unless you're prohibited from revealing details due to an NDA agreement.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"At my previous company, we grew too quickly and had a lot of controls created that partially hit a lot of different issues at the time. As the company got better at handling the bigger client load, confidential data, and money coming in, we were able to adjust or reword a lot of controls that made others redundant. When I first started, there were at least ten different controls that all dealt with terminations. After reviewing them, we assembled a team to tackle the controls and limit them for less confusion. After that team devised only three controls to cover all terminations, we retrained the staff in proper control methods and how to successfully audit them."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"As a recent college grad, I haven't had the privilege of updating the controls myself but in my current position, the company I work for just changed a few controls. I can't go into much detail because of the NDA I signed, but we've streamlined the process of training people on the active controls to ensure that the most up-to-date controls are followed, and also gave a detailed explanation to the auditors about the transition to new controls to eliminate questions."

View answer examples for this question >

13.

Give me an example of how SOX compliance has affected your career.

SOX, or the Sarbanes Oxely-Act, was enacted after the ENRON scandal in which a company lied on their financial statements and stole money from customers, the public, and their employees. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, a few committed suicide, and their highest executives were sent to prison. Due to this scandal along with a few others, the Accounting industry was turned upside down as new standards and laws were established. Auditing has become common practice for all publicly traded companies.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"SOX Compliance affects everything I do as an auditor. If there's no control for an issue that arises, then the company needs to create one. I've assisted in several different types of audits from User Access Reviews, Financial Audits, and Information Security Audits. All fall under the SOX Compliance regulations that have been enacted."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I haven't had any auditing experience working in a professional setting. I just graduated and I think education is an integral part to gaining the technical knowledge necessary to become an auditor. I took several Auditing classes and was able to focus my courses on the financial audit. I enjoyed finding discrepancies and chasing down leads. It's like a financial jigsaw puzzle that when correctly put together, ensures the accuracy of the company's financial statements for the public."

View answer examples for this question >

14.

Give me an example of how your strengths help you in Accounting.

This is a subjective question and one that will be asked (maybe in a different way), but this is the strength vs. weakness question. I'd focus on about 2-4 strengths and give an example. Common list of strengths to choose from are:

1) Organizational and planning skills.
2) Perseverance.
3) Persuasive ability.
4) Communication skills.
5) Leadership ability.
6) Stress tolerance.
7) Ability to learn and apply new information and skills.
8) Flexibility.
9) Trustworthiness.
10) Detailed oriented.
11) Reliable.
12) Unwavering.
13) Ethical.

Always try to give an example of how you've used your strengths to improve your performance or your company in some way.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"I'm a highly organized person. I live off of my planner and always carry it with me. I do bi-weekly budgets for myself so that I can continuously pay off my student loans. Due to my organizational skills, I'm great with time management, which allows me extra time to help other departments in my current role. I'm known for always completing my tasks on time, if not early. They know they can turn to me if they have extra work that they can't complete because I'll almost always help out unless it's not possible, then I'm direct and honest about my time constraints."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I'm very detail oriented. I have the ability to catch small errors that are overlooked by most and have proven this in college when I was an aide to one of my professors and constantly caught errors he missed. He told me that I helped keep him honest, which is why he offered me this letter of recommendation. He's also listed as a reference if you should like to speak with him regarding my detail-oriented abilities."

View answer examples for this question >

15.

In what instance would you use LIFO compared to FIFO?

This is an inventory-based question. LIFO, or Last In First Out compared to FIFO, First In First Out.

If you have personal experience, always draw on that for an answer. If you don't have personal experience, then provide an analogy that would help explain not only the difference, but the importance. Understanding various industry inventory methods is important for this. A food service business will always want to use FIFO, whereas a manufacturing company that doesn't have products that expire will use whatever is most convenient. The Accounting method changes based on the inventory method. While not a lot of companies use LIFO due to the government's indecision on whether to accept it and the additional documentation it requires, the tax implications are less compared to FIFO.

Bobbi's Answer #1

"Inventory methods all depend on the type of inventory method used and how the inventory is managed. In food service or most hospitality fields, you'd use First In First Out to ensure nothing expires and is counted as waste. Whereas in a manufacturing company's inventory where nothing expires and all raw materials are the same life expectancy, you'd be able to use Last In First Out. So looking at your company, it all depends on the type of inventory method you have in place and the type of goods."

Bobbi's Answer #2

"I've never personally used Last In First Out, but have taken courses regarding the different inventory methods. There are certain industries that have to use FIFO, like the food service industry. They need to ensure their product doesn't expire and is counted as waste. This ensures higher profits for the amount of product you have. If you have a manufacturing company where nothing expires, then the inventory method can change."

As far as accounting goes FIFO generally has higher tax implications because costs generally go up over time so you are being taxed at the current rate of inventory costs not when the inventory was bought. If you use LIFO you will be taxed at the rate you purchased the most recent inventory. This will lessen the tax implication for the inventory."

View answer examples for this question >

More Interview Q&As
Explore expert tips and resources to be more confident in your next interview.
Behavioral
Common
Phone
Tough
Leadership
All Interview Topics
All Career Q&As
Disclaimer
Our interview questions and answers are created by experienced recruiters and interviewers. These questions and answers do not represent any organization, school, or company on our site. Interview questions and answer examples and any other content may be used else where on the site. We do not claim our questions will be asked in any interview you may have. Our goal is to create interview questions and answers that will best prepare you for your interview, and that means we do not want you to memorize our answers. You must create your own answers, and be prepared for any interview question in any interview.
Learn more about what we believe >
Read our Terms of Use for more information >