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Entry Level Accountant Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by
| Brian Schuchart is a CPA with fourteen years of experience, including nine years in financial strategy roles. He has held the roles of auditor, staff accountant, manager of financial planning and analysis and senior finance partner.

Question 1 of 25

Give examples of common financial ratios. What do they tell about a company’s finances?

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Entry Level Accountant Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Give examples of common financial ratios. What do they tell about a company’s finances?

      Financial ratios are simple calculations that give a quick snapshot of a company's financial health. Several common ratios are: current/quick ratio, working capital ratio, days sales outstanding, days payable outstanding, debt to equity ratio and return on equity.

      Brian's Answer

      "There are many financial ratios that can help give a glimpse into a company's financial position. One common one is the working capital ratio, which is calculated by taking current assets divided by current liabilities. The ratio measures an entity's ability to pay off its short term liabilities with liquid and semi-liquid assets. Another ratio is days sales outstanding, which measures how many days of sales are sitting in accounts receivable. The higher the number of days, the worse off the company may be because they may not be collecting cash from customers in a timely fashion."

  2. 2.

    What qualities or skills do you believe make a good accountant?

      This question is a good opportunity to show you have an understanding of what qualities make a good accountant. Some key areas to hit are ethics (honesty/integrity), ability to interact with colleagues and clients (communication skills, people person), ability to limit mistakes (focused/attention to detail) and ability to get to the correct answer (skeptical/inquisitive/problem solver).

      Brian's Answer

      "First and foremost, I believe an accountant should be honest and have great integrity. Without this, it will be impossible for the person to perform the role effectively. Next, the individual should have the education and technical skills to perform the job. They should have exceptional people skills as they will be required to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients and other parties. Finally, they should have an inquisitive mind and a keen attention to detail."

  3. 3.

    What is the difference between auditing and accounting?

      An audit is an independent examination of financial statements of an entity with the purpose of expressing an opinion on those statements. Accounting is the measurement, processing and reporting of financial information about a business. Accounting is typically done in-house, while an audit must be performed by an independent firm.

      Brian's Answer

      "Accounting involves the recording and reporting of financial information for an entity and is typically done by internal employees of the company. Auditing is an independent examination of the financial information prepared by the company in order to express an opinion on the financial statements. The personnel conducting the audit are from an independent firm. While many large organizations have an internal audit function, it is the external auditors that issue the opinion."

  4. 4.

    How would you show professionalism in the workplace?

      It is not always clear to new graduates how to act professionally in an office setting. Speak to your ability to act professionally in how you dress, how you act, and the work you produce.

      Brian's Answer

      "As a new employee, there are many ways that I can show professionalism at work. First, I can be professional in my appearance by adhering to the company's dress code. I can also display professionalism in my behavior by arriving promptly everyday, not listening to loud music and not taking personal calls. Lastly, I can show professionalism in my work by reviewing my work before sharing with others and using the proper etiquette in emails, meetings and phone calls. "

  5. 5.

    What are the three financial statements and what do they indicate about a company’s finances?

      The three main financial statements are the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. A new accountant should know the statements in detail as they will be expected to have learned them in their college coursework.

      Brian's Answer

      "The income statement shows profitability over a period of time by showing revenue less expenses. The balance sheet summarizes a company's assets, liabilities, and equity at a point in time. And a cash flow statement shows the net cash inflows and outflows over a period of time. Each statement is essential in order to gain insights into the financial health of an organization."

  6. 6.

    Why do you want to be an accountant?

      This question is a way for the interviewer to find out a little bit about your background and interests. Be honest and direct - don't give a phony answer that the interviewer will see through.

      Brian's Answer

      "Since I was young, I have always liked math and have been good with numbers. I took an accounting class in high school and really enjoyed it - the concepts made sense to me. I am also interested in a career with good growth opportunities, and I know accounting is a field that I can start at entry level and advance with experience."

  7. 7.

    How would you handle working in a remote or hybrid environment?

      This is a question to gauge if you are disciplined enough to work from home as there are many distractions, especially for young professionals. Be sure to touch on how you would stay focused and communicate with team members. Even after things return to normal, remote work may continue to be more common across many industries including accounting.

      Brian's Answer

      "I have experience working remotely. At my internship, we were able to work from home on Fridays since it was summer. I enjoyed working from home, and was able to stay on task and communicate effectively with my team members. There were some ground rules I implemented, such as maintaining regular hours, keeping my morning routine as if I was going to the office, and scheduling breaks to take care of non-work related tasks. I also had a standing meeting with my manager and team members every morning to discuss priorities for the day."

  8. 8.

    Why do companies have internal auditors?

      Internal auditors are an important department in any large finance function. They are responsible for evaluating the company's internal controls and accounting processes. They also identify problems or opportunities in the company's financial policies and procedures

      Brian's Answer

      "There are several reasons why companies have internal audit functions. First, they help give management assurance that the financial statements are correct and financial processes are running smoothly. They accomplish this by documenting all procedures and internal controls, and identifying weaknesses and misstatements before they are caught by an external audit. Additionally, external auditors can oftentimes rely on work completed by internal auditors, which saves time and money during the audit.."

  9. 9.

    Describe an accounting project that you successfully completed in school?

      As a recent graduate, you won't have too many on-the-job experiences to recount to the interviewer. Therefore, it is wise to have an example in mind from your college coursework. If the example is related to accounting, that is all the better.

      Brian's Answer

      "In a financial accounting course in college, we were tasked with completing a mock accounting close and developing an executive summary that would be shared with leaders of the company. As a team of three, we closed the books for the month. In a couple instances, we completed research to find out the proper accounting treatment of transactions. We then built an attractive deck that shared the results. I am proud of this particular project because we worked together as a team and received a special shout out from the professor."

  10. 10.

    What does being a team player mean to you as it relates to accounting and finance?

      Most of an accounting professional's work is interrelated to other employees and departments. Therefore, being a team player is essential. Speak to some of the ways you can demonstrate that you are a team player, including working additional hours as needed and being an effective communicator..

      Brian's Answer

      " I understand how important it is to be a team player when working in accounting and finance. All finance functions are connected to each other. In order for the monthly close to be completed efficiently each month, each professional and department needs to meet their deadlines. To this end, I would work the hours required to complete my work so it does not delay other processes. Additionally, I would be in constant communication with others that rely on my deliverables so that they are in the loop."

  11. 11.

    What are the steps in a monthly accounting close?

      Even as a new staff member, you will likely be very involved in the accounting close process. This question is used to assess whether your understanding of the accounting close process aligns with the organization's. Don't go into too much detail - rather, just hit the key steps and then ask how it compares or differs from the organization's process.

      Brian's Answer

      "First and foremost, there needs to be a closing calendar so that deadlines are set for all departments. Next, all data must be gathered. This includes departments such as payroll and accounts payable preparing reports needed for journal entries. Next, all journal entries are booked. After journal entries are booked and reviewed, financial statements are prepared and balance sheet reconciliations are completed. Finally, the results are reviewed with leadership. Is there anything I described that differs from the process here at XYZ Corporation?"

  12. 12.

    What is a bank reconciliation?

      A bank reconciliation is a process that matches the cash balances in an organization's general ledger to the balances on the corresponding bank statements. Bank reconciliations are commonly the responsibility of entry level staff, and therefore it's important for the candidate to be able to describe what a bank reconciliation is and what it entails.

      Brian's Answer

      "A bank reconciliation is an important part of the monthly accounting process. It involves verifying that the cash balances on the books tie to the balances per the bank statements. As a new accountant, I understand that bank reconciliations may fall under my responsibilities. It is a skill I look forward to learning and mastering."

  13. 13.

    Do you have any experience working with data?

      With advances in computing technology, accountants can now take large amounts of data and analyze it. Speak to a specific example where you utilized big data to solve a problem or complete a task.

      Brian's Answer

      "At my internship last summer, I helped the staff accountant responsible for inventory estimate obsolescence for several months. To do this, we exported over 10,000 lines of data each month, sorted and created pivot tables so that we could break down sales by type. This allowed us to book a more precise estimate than if we didn't have access to the data. I was also exposed to data visualization software in college, and I would love to continue to hone my skills in that space."

  14. 14.

    What is an accrued expense?

      This question tests your ability to explain a basic concept of accounting. Under the accrual method of accounting, an accrued expense arises when an expense is incurred in the current period but will be paid in a future period.

      Brian's Answer

      "Accrued expenses are very common in accounting, and arise when an expense is incurred in the current reporting period but won't be paid until a future period. A common example is accrued bonus, where expense is recognized throughout the year even though the bonus is typically paid once per year."

  15. 15.

    What is an allowance for doubtful accounts and how is it reflected on the balance sheet?

      This is a technical question that tests your understanding of accounting reserves, such as the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts. Accrual accounting methodology requires that certain reserves be made during a month, even if the cash impact occurs in a future month. For example, bad debt expense is recognized in the month of sale, even though it may be months until customer accounts are written off. The Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a 'contra asset' that is netted against Accounts Receivable on the balance sheet.

      Brian's Answer

      "The Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a reserve account related to bad debt on customer sales. The bad debt is estimated each month in accordance with accrual accounting, and is usually a small percentage of total sales. The bad debt reserve sits in the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts account. It is considered a 'contra account' that nets against Accounts Receivable on the balance sheet."

  16. 16.

    Do you plan on obtaining your CPA license?

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  17. 17.

    Are you proficient in Excel?

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  18. 18.

    What are some steps you would take to ensure you are meeting your manager’s expectations?

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  19. 19.

    What is deferred revenue?

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  20. 20.

    Are you willing to work additional hours as needed?

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  21. 21.

    Do you have any experience using accounting software?

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  22. 22.

    Where do you see yourself in five years?

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  23. 23.

    How do you stay up to date on the latest accounting trends?

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  24. 24.

    Why do you want to work for XYZ Corporation?

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  25. 25.

    What steps do you take to ensure there aren’t any mistakes in your work?

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