Because there are so many choices when it comes to types of accounting, the hiring manager should have a good understanding of why you specifically chose cost accounting. Talk to the hiring manager about your choice and why you are pleased with it.
"I chose cost accounting over other accounting fields simply due to my interest in business costs when it came to production and manufacturing. I find the business analysis components to be very intriguing."
"While completing my accounting degree, I found that I performed the best when it came to cost analysis, business analysis, and strategic planning. These components are all important when it comes to being an effective cost accountant."
"Cost accounting is very interesting to me because I love to see a business grow more complex and require a stronger eye on their products and profitability. I like that, as a cost accountant, I can make a great impact on the profitability of an organization."
The interviewer would like to have the assurance that you take pride in your work and understand why your role as a cost accountant is essential. It is critical to display to the hiring manager that you know the significance of your role as a cost accountant. Do you feel that you play an active role in the success of your organization?
"I feel that efficient cost accounting is critical to your business. Managing the costs of manufacturing and production is incredibly important and will help provide you with the tools needed for proper management."
"I believe that a cost accountant is more important than many people think. We have multiple specialties and can create enormous cost reductions for nearly any business, in any industry."
"Cost accountants are vital for any business, no matter the industry. My specific specialty is within discovery. I can quickly locate an internal spending issue and also interpret the data to determine the cause of the issue. Because I am so experienced as a cost accountant, I am well versed in making recommendations to remedy the issues."
The interviewer would like to know about a time that you have had to dispute material costs. Assure the hiring manager that you are capable of managing any material cost disputes. Keep your reply concise and avoid speaking negatively about any conflicts that have come up in your current role.
"I worked on a project this year where the material and labor costs were both being disputed by the client. In this situation, I went through every line and was able to uncover a few areas that were not aligning. I am accustomed to working around disputes such as this and feel confident in my abilities to do so."
"I am new to my career as a cost accountant and have not had the experience of a dispute surrounding material costs. If I were to come across a situation like this, I would dig into the data until an explanation was found. If I needed a second set of eyes on the situation, I would ask for assistance."
"I worked as a cost accountant for a construction company a few years ago where disputes surrounding material costs were the norm. I handle disputes like this by referring to my tracking budget compliance sheets."
Discuss with the hiring manager your level of knowledge in Simply Accounting. If you have been recently tested on your abilities, be sure to include those results as well. Mention any courses or additional training that you have taken in Simply Accounting.
"I would consider myself an Advanced level user in Simply Accounting. I have used the program for six years and have trained others on the proper use of the program as well."
"I have a small amount of hands-on training in Simply Accounting so, for that reason, I would rate myself as a beginner in this program. If you desire stronger skills than I currently possess, I am happy to take some related training, before starting this position with your company."
"I am an advanced user in Simply Accounting. I've used this program for a dozen years and am comfortable teaching this program to junior cost accountants as well."
The interviewer would like to know your plans regarding your accounting education. A willingness to learn and improve are very important assets to a hiring manager. Discuss with the interviewer your plans for further education. If you do not plan to further your accounting education: "Currently, I am satisfied with my level of education in accounting, however; I would be more than happy to further my education in any way that your organization may require."
"Currently, I am satisfied with my level of education in accounting, however; I would be more than happy to further my education in any way that your organization may require."
"If you plan to further your accounting education: "I have completed my BA in Accounting and plan to obtain my CPA designation in the next couple of years. I am confident in my abilities to be successful in this role with simply my BA, but I do value education and would like to challenge myself professionally, anywhere that I can."
"I believe that further education is always valuable, no matter the years of experience I have in this industry. I do have my Master's Degree and my CPA designation; however, I am always open to hearing ideas on ways to expand my knowledge in this profession."
Researching the interviewing company is a critical step to success in your job search process. Display to the hiring manager that you have taken a strong interest in what their organization does.
"Prior to coming to the interview today I was able to take some time looking through your website, your social media accounts, and read some online reviews. One thing that I really appreciate about your organization is that you truly seem to care about your clients, your employees, and giving back to your community. Your brand messaging is strong and that makes me feel confident in this company's capabilities."
"I have researched your company through your social media channels, and on glassdoor.com. Your employees have great things to say, and overall it seems that you have fun while you work. I am looking forward to joining an organization, like yours, that is upbeat and thoughtful with an eye on helping the community at the same time."
"I am very familiar with your company as your organization is one of the biggest competitors to my current employer. I know that you started as a family run business and recently went public. I also heard that you are considering acquiring some smaller firms in the area. Your rapid growth is of great interest to me."
Everyone has room for improvement in some area of their career. Be honest with the hiring manager on where you feel that you could expand your knowledge. Be sure to keep your answer positive and avoid criticizing yourself to the point that you no longer look like a strong candidate.
"I feel that an area I could improve in would be my level of knowledge and ability in Excel. I am an intermediate user, however; there is a plethora of things that I do not know yet. I have signed up to take a weekend course starting in March."
"As a recent graduate, I am aware that there are many things for me to learn in this industry. I am willing to do everything it takes to become well skilled as a cost accountant. This includes taking additional workshops, furthering my formal education, and finding a mentor in this industry."
"Since my career start, over eighteen years ago, I have had to learn many technological advancements in the accounting realm. I feel that I can always improve in this area as it's ever-changing. Could you share with me the programs that you use here? I would be happy to get a start on training in this area."
This is the time to sell your skills and abilities to the hiring manager! Do not be afraid to brag about yourself a little bit and be sure to tell the interviewer something unique about your skill set that will set you apart from the rest of the candidates.
"I believe that I am the best fit as your cost accountant because, in addition to meeting all of your requirements, I am also bi-lingual. This allows me to assist both your English and French speaking clients. You will find that I come with glowing references and a strong reputation in this industry."
"I am the best fit for your cost accountant role because my education is fresh and I am eager to make a strong entrance into my career. I graduated top of my class and plan to put that same level of dedication to my workload here."
"I am very familiar with your organization, as I have worked for your competitor for many years now. I bring an edge, coming from your largest competitor. With this and my blend of experience and education, I would be a solid hire for your group."
The interviewer would like to have an overall snapshot of your career successes. Discuss with the hiring manager some of your proudest career moments. Take the time to bring your resume to life for the interviewer.
"While attending University, I began working for XYZ firm as an apprentice. I was hired on full time after graduating with my Bachelor's Degree in Accounting. I spent three years at that particular firm learning directly under the Sr. Cost Accountant which I feel gave me a major advantage in kick-starting my career. Since then, my biggest highlights include some great promotions. My career trajectory has been strong."
"I recently graduated with my Bachelor's Degree in Accounting. Post graduation, I was a successful applicant for Nestle USA's 2017 Finance & Accounting Summer Internship Program. I had the opportunity to work on high-value projects during those 12 weeks. I gained a great deal of analytical and business knowledge. Now, I am ready to enter my career in a full-time, paid position."
"I have been a cost accountant for nine years now and am very proud of how well my career has advanced. I recently obtained my CPA designation and am seeking the opportunity to earn my way into a controller position in the next five years."
Discuss with the hiring manager your level of knowledge in QuickBooks accounting software. If you have been recently tested on your abilities, be sure to include those results as well. Mention any courses or additional training that you have taken in QuickBooks.
"I would consider myself an intermediate user in QuickBooks. I was tested last year and came out in the 75th percentile. I am very open to taking additional coursework to become an Advanced user, should you require that."
"I have a small amount of hands-on training in QuickBooks so, for that reason, I would rate myself as a beginner in this program. If you desire stronger skills than I currently possess, I am happy to take some related training, before starting this position with your company."
"I would consider myself an Advanced level user in QuickBooks. I have used the program for six years and have trained others on the proper use of the program as well."
Everyone handles the stress and disappointment of setbacks differently. Discuss with the interviewer how you typically cope with delays in the workplace.
"Experiencing a setback is always disappointing, and can be a bit disheartening, but I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major setback, I will take a few moments to debrief with my manager and discuss what I could have done differently. Then, I move on!"
"Setbacks happen for a reason, and they do not affect me emotionally in the least. I am a very pragmatic thinker and stay focused despite the challenges that come my way."
"Setbacks can be trying, but I find that you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. While I never enjoy a setback, I use them as a stepping off point to something even better."
Companies will have confidentiality agreements for a variety of reasons. These could be to protect their trade secrets or to ensure that you do not bring clients over on the occasion that you leave their company. Talk to the interviewer about your thoughts on confidentiality agreements.
"I never have, to my knowledge, broken a confidentiality agreement. Despite my reasons for leaving a position, I would never choose to hurt a previous employer in any way."
"No. I have only once had a confidentiality agreement and had no problem adhering to it."
"No. I have only once had a confidentiality agreement and had no problem adhering to it."
Are you someone who can handle stress on the job? How do you manage the stressful times? Talk to the interviewer about your ability to control pressure in the workplace.
"I handle stress very well, and when you call my references, they will attest to this fact. When I am under pressure on the job, I focus on the task at hand and make sure not to get distracted. Staying on deadline is very helpful, and I will delegate when necessary to alleviate some stress."
"Stress is part of any demanding job and I embrace it to the fullest. I take good care of myself personally and prioritize my workload to maintain a healthy balance in my stress levels."
"Stress is par for the course when dealing with the financial health of any company. I lean on my team, put a lot of trust in their abilities, and I believe in myself. This helps greatly with my stress levels because I go into a project assuming the best, versus assuming the worst."
The interviewer truly wants to understand the role that you naturally take on, when put into a team-based environment. If you tend to take the lead, let the interviewer know this, but avoid sounding overbearing. If you usually like to generate new ideas and allow someone else to execute them, share your creative side but express that you prefer for others to take the lead.
"I am usually the 'ideas person' in team projects. In my current position, I am not the most seasoned cost accountant, but I am highly creative. This means that, in most projects, I am great at creating a strategic plan but am most comfortable passing the final client-facing tasks to our more extroverted personnel."
"When it comes to team projects I do not mind taking a backseat and, rather than being the leader, being more of an administrator. I like to organize data and analyze progress rather than lead others."
"I like to take the lead on team projects. I am very vocal and organized which makes me a natural leader."
When an interviewer asks you this, make sure you always keep your answer positive. If you are leaving your position because you don’t like your boss, be sure to phrase it more eloquently. Remember - it's always a safe bet to focus your answer on career growth and exciting opportunities.
"I recently graduated with my Bachelor's in Accounting and completed my summer internship with Company ABC. I am now looking for a full-time, permanent opportunity."
"Since the company merger last year, the workplace culture I admired so much, is no longer there. I am on the search for a supportive and positive environment where I can continue to flourish."
Before your interview, make sure you have researched the median salary for the position (and location). You can look at salary reviews on Glassdoor.com or Payscale.com. Always make sure you give a salary range, not just a number. Providing a range allows you to negotiate down the road if you are given an offer. However if you just tell the employer you are looking for $50K it doesn’t leave room for negotiating later on. Also, make sure the lowest number of your range is something you are comfortable with! Another great option is to tell the interviewer what you are currently earning and tell them that you are seeking a competitive offer.
"I am currently earning a base salary of $68K per year plus an opportunity for bonus, based on my results. I am looking for a position that will offer me competitive growth and salary."
"I am new to my career as a cost accountant, so I would appreciate a salary that aligns with my balance of experience and education. I understand that to be in the $55K range for this city and size of an organization. What are you offering for this role?"
"I am looking for a position that not only offers excellent benefits and salary but also the potential for profit share and performance-based bonuses, which I understand fits in line with your company's policies. I'm looking to be in the ballpark of $80k when it is all said and done, which I think is reasonable given the amount of experience I bring and the responsibilities that I will have."
It's always a great idea to have questions ready for the interviewer. Review the company website and other online resources to ensure the questions you are asking are not mundane, or redundant. The last thing an interviewer wants to hear is a list of items you could have found the answers to from merely watching a video on their company site.
"A few questions come to mind. Who would you say your biggest clients are at this time and are there new markets that your firm plans to break into in the next few years?"
"Here are some sample questions: - When would you like to have this position filled? - How long has this role been vacant? - Is this a replacement search or a newly created role? - What is your favorite part about working here? - What is the company's primary goal for this position in the next 12 months? - Is there anything from my background and experience that I can clarify for you? - What do you see as the most significant change in this industry over the past three years? - Is there any reason why you would not hire me? "
"Thank you for asking - I do have a few questions. What is top of mind when it comes to filling this role? Also, what types of career growth opportunities would follow this position? And lastly, do you have internal candidates who are also interviewing for this position?"
The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of explaining complex ideas without being condescending to your co-workers or talking over their heads. Give the interviewer an example of how you break down information to make it more easily digestible for the average person. Think of a presentation about a complex topic, as a proposal to solve a challenging problem. The solution may seem obvious to you, but everyone else in the room is scratching their heads trying to figure out what you're talking about. When you can define key terms and phrases to make them more relevant to your audience, you have skill! Not everyone can do this. Prepare an example that demonstrates your communication skills and your ability to convey complex information in easy to understand terms.
"I find that when there is a complicated concept to teach, visual aids are always the way to go. Did you know that 65% of people are visual learners and that presentations with visual components are 43% more persuasive? I took a course on creating effective info-graphics and will often implement those in my presentations."
"Keep it simple silly! If you cannot explain a concept simply, then you do not understand it well enough. I recently rolled out a complex compensation plan with many anomalies. I took the approach to share a broad overview and provide detail for reference. I often try to make analogies or share complex information in the form of a story."
"I try to use written and verbal examples. If possible, I like to have hands-on examples, but that is not always feasible. Communicating in more than one way helps those with different learning styles."
The interviewer wants to be assured that you can handle the workload required of you in this position and that you will not become overwhelmed if/when workloads unexpectedly increase. When workloads increase, stress levels do too. How do you react?
"When I have a large workload on my plate, I do not stress over the tasks that are in front of me. Rather, I make a simple plan of which tasks are a high priority and which tasks are a lower priority. The higher priority tasks, I complete first. Through this system, I can focus on my tasks individually, rather than stress out by the multitude of tasks ahead of me."
"Here are some suggestions on how to handle a large workload: - List your tasks and prioritize them - Think of which tasks add to the company's bottom line, and start there (Closest to the money!) - Exhale. Relax for a minute and collect yourself - Organize your tasks by which ones you can complete independently and which ones you need help with - Take sufficient breaks, so you do not exhaust yourself - Communicate your struggles with your leadership or team"
"Confidentiality agreements are necessary and important to protect an organization. I understand the need for confidentiality and take those factors very seriously. I have never broken the trust of my employer."
Tell the hiring manager about any type of SAP/ERP program that you have been exposed to, and how comfortable you are in using these types of programs.
"I have used an SAP based program for the past 5 years. I am very comfortable using a variety of systems including Sage and 4HANA Finance."
"As I am new to my career as a cost accountant, I do not have notable exposure to any SAP or ERP programs. With that said, I am tech savvy and eager to learn. If you could tell me the programs and modules most used here, I am happy to get a head start with some online training."
"In my ten years as a cost accountant, I think I have seen them all! I am most versed in Sage and 4HANA Finance. Which programs do you use here?" Once you are aware of the programs used in their organization, you can go into further detail on your level of exposure to those. "
Discuss with the hiring manager your level of knowledge in Microsoft Excel. If you have been recently tested on your abilities, be sure to include those results as well. Mention any courses or additional training that you have taken in Excel.
"I would consider myself an Advanced level user in Excel, and the entire Microsoft Office Suite. I have used the program for six years and have trained others on the proper use of the program as well."
"I would consider myself a Beginner level user in Excel. I am very open to taking additional coursework to become a stronger user, should you require that."
"I am an advanced user of Excel. I've used this program for a dozen years and am comfortable teaching this program to junior cost accountants as well."
Workplace relationships are essential to nurture. Talk to the interviewer about how you plan to earn the trust of your new co-workers, should you be offered the position.
"I feel that the best way to earn the trust of my co-workers is to be helpful, always do what I promise, and be honest with them at all times. Strong relationships have to be built on these principles."
"I will win my new coworkers over by going above and beyond the expectations given to me. I want to be a helpful team member that they can always come to."
"Trust is something you earn over time with people. I will lead by example and be transparent in my communications. Trust happens when people deliver on doing what they say they will do. I take the approach of under promising and over delivering to accelerate the trust process. With strong trust, teams can accomplish great things together."
Cost accountants collect, study and analyze data and audits to help businesses determine the total costs of their various business activities. These may include the cost of labor, raw materials, equipment or inventory. They generally work in the company office but are often required to visit the company's manufacturing units.
The minimum educational qualification required to become a cost accountant is a bachelor's degree in accounting with a strong background in cost systems. Outstanding analytical, excel, problem-solving and math skills along with a sound understanding of accounting principals are essential requirements of this role. Having some work experience is a big factor in getting hired. If you are a fresh graduate, you can get the necessary experience by completing an internship.
Prospective employers will want to know if you have had any experience in this field and if you know exactly what the job entails. They will also want to know about your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to this specific role. If you have any weaknesses, are you doing anything to work on it? To see more questions that are likely to be asked at an interview for cost accountants, go to Mock Questions.