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Fixed Asset Accountant Interview
Questions

30 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 30

Do you have experience explaining complex accounting concepts to non-financial personnel?

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Fixed Asset Accountant Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Do you have experience explaining complex accounting concepts to non-financial personnel?

      Accountants will frequently interact with other departments within the company. Many times, the employees in these departments do not have extensive knowledge of accounting concepts and terminology. This question is an opportunity to highlight your communication skills.

      Brian's Answer

      "Yes, in my previous role I was able to interact with non-finance personnel when I would meet with the marketing team to review their results each month. They didn't have a strong understanding of accounting principles, so I tried to 'speak their language' as much as possible when discussing their department's results vs budget. I believe I have the ability to communicate effectively with all personnel in an organization."

  2. 2.

    How do you manage your manager? In other words, what steps do you take to make sure you get what you need from your boss and make both your lives easier?

      Also known as 'managing up', 'managing your manager' is a soft skill that can be developed over time. It essentially means doing whatever is necessary to make your manager's job easier. Some clear-cut benefits of managing up include increased productivity and better working relationships between boss and employee.

      Brian's Answer

      "I am a firm believer in the benefits of managing my manager. At the end of the day, I want to make the audit engagements we work on together run as smoothly as possible. One area I really focus on is communicating and prioritizing workload on a regular basis. This ensures that I'm always working on the highest-priority items. Another thing that is crucial is understanding my manager's style. For example, do they prefer regular check-ins by email throughout the day, scheduled catch-up meetings, etc. Then, I tailor my communication to their style."

  3. 3.

    How are fixed asset purchases accounted for to comply with the matching principle (recognizing expense in the period incurred)?

      This is a question that gauges whether you understand why depreciation expense is recorded for fixed assets. Depreciation expense is recognized evenly over the useful life of a fixed asset so that a proportionate expense is recorded in each period the asset is in use.

      Brian's Answer

      "Fixed assets are unique in that they are purchased at a given time, but used for years and sometimes decades after purchase. To align with accrual accounting principles, an accountant must estimate the useful life of a fixed asset in months. Then, each month a proportionate depreciation expense is recognized for each period an asset is in use."

  4. 4.

    What accounting software are you familiar with?

      Speak specifically to the accounting systems you have used and some of the functions you performed. Many job descriptions specifically state which accounting software the company uses. In any event, make sure to highlight that you are quick to learn new software systems.

      Brian's Answer

      "In my last role, I used SAP to book journal entries and run queries. As an independent contractor, I also used Quickbooks to complete monthly bookkeeping for various clients. I used that software to book journal entries, complete bank reconciliations, run monthly reports, and invoice customers. Since I have an underlying understanding of accounting, I am easily able to learn new software packages."

  5. 5.

    What have you done at your previous job to reduce costs or save time?

      The interviewer wants to know if you have the ability to improve processes. Speak to a specific action you took that resulted in reduced costs, saved time, or better insights gained.

      Brian's Answer

      "My last role was bookkeeper for a small, established company. However, my predecessor did not have established procedures in place and it sounded like he made constant mistakes. One of the first things I did when I started was make a monthly checklist that detailed all the steps I took during the monthly close. Included in these steps were 'checks' I performed to self review my work. The checklist served as a cover sheet that I would hand off to my manager so that she would know exactly what steps I completed. This led to increased efficiency, as we estimated it saved 4-6 hours a month in error corrections."

  6. 6.

    Are you open to travel with this role?

      The fixed asset accountant position may require some travel, as the role will likely be involved in procedures that may require visits to facilities where fixed assets are located. Most job descriptions mention the travel required, so be sure to align your response with that requirement.

      Brian's Answer

      "As a fixed asset accountant, I understand I will be involved in asset verification procedures at various warehouses throughout the East Coast. The job description for this position mentioned 25% travel, and I am very comfortable with that. I think the travel will be a great way to get out of the office and understand the operations of the organization."

  7. 7.

    What are some methods you use to self-review your work?

      The interviewer is trying to evaluate your ability to check your own work and, as a result, save your manager precious time by catching mistakes before they reach his or her desk. Give specific examples of procedures you have implemented in previous roles to catch mistakes.

      Brian's Answer

      "Being able to self-review my work and catch mistakes is something I take very seriously. An accountant spends a lot of time in the details, so it is sometimes difficult to catch errors. Given this, I implement checklists that require me to tie out balances, subtotal transactions and double check certain items before I move forward in the close process. In a way, I am auditing my work to catch any mistakes or errors. This not only saves me time in the long run, but also saves my manager time, as there is less back and forth resolving issues."

  8. 8.

    Please rank these asset classes in order from shortest useful life to longest: Leasehold improvements, computer, and furniture.

      All fixed assets are capitalized and then depreciated over their useful lives (the amount of time an asset can be in service before it is considered obsolete). This question tests whether you have a basic understanding of the useful lives of some common asset classes.


      Brian's Answer

      "Computers usually have the shortest useful lives at three to five years. After that, technology begins to become obsolete and should be replaced. Furniture commonly has a useful life of five to ten years. Finally, leasehold improvements have the longest useful lives as they are permanent changes to a physical space, such as walls. Typically, the useful life of a leasehold improvement is anywhere from ten years to forty years."

  9. 9.

    After acquisition of a fixed asset, are there any instances when additional costs related to the fixed asset can be capitalized?

      This question tests your knowledge of the difference between regular repairs and maintenance and improvements to fixed assets that would warrant capitalization. If a cost is incurred to return a fixed asset to its original working condition, it should be expensed as repairs and maintenance. For example, if a machine breaks down, the repair cost should be expensed. If the costs incurred improve the asset, the cost should be capitalized.

      Brian's Answer

      "When assessing whether a subsequent cost related to a fixed asset should be capitalized, I follow the Bigger, Better, Longer rule. If the cost makes the asset bigger, such as an addition to a building, it should be capitalized. If the cost makes the fixed asset better, such as an enhancement to equipment that makes it run more efficiently, it should be capitalized. If the cost extends the useful life of the asset, it should be capitalized. Any other cost should be treated as repairs and maintenance, and should be expensed in the period incurred."

  10. 10.

    What is the Sum-of-the-Years Digits Method of depreciation and what is the reasoning for using the method, as opposed to standard depreciation?

      The Sum-of-the-Years Digits (SYD) is an accelerated method for calculating depreciation. In most cases, assets are depreciated evenly over the useful life of the asset. However, SYD allocates the highest depreciation expense in the first year and the lowest in the last year. The reasoning is that an asset is most useful in the first years of its useful life. Picture the purchase of a new car, where the value drops quickest in the first year or two of ownership.

      Brian's Answer

      "The Sum-of-the-Years Digits Method is an accelerated method of recognizing depreciation expense on an asset. Under this method, the highest depreciation expense is recognized in the first year, and the lowest in the last year. The reasoning for using the Sum-of-Years method is that the fixed asset is most useful (and therefore most valuable) in the early years of its useful life. The value then diminishes over time."

  11. 11.

    What are some examples of startup costs that should be capitalized when a new business is launching?

      When a new business is launching, there are a couple startup costs that can be capitalized and expensed over time vs all at once, when incurred like normal expenses. The capitalized startup costs are typically amortized over fifteen years. Some examples of costs that can be capitalized include acquisitions of trademarks and patents.

      Brian's Answer

      "When a business is getting ready to launch, most of the costs incurred during the startup phase should be expensed, including legal fees, branding and licenses. However, some are permitted to be capitalized such as trademarks, copyrights and patents. These items are typically capitalized and then amortized straight-line over fifteen years."

  12. 12.

    What types of costs should be capitalized when an asset is purchased or acquired?

      Many people think the purchase price of a fixed asset is the only cost that should be capitalized when purchasing an asset. However, there are other costs associated with the purchase that should also be capitalized. These costs include sales tax and delivery, as well as installation and labor costs, if it is a larger asset.

      Brian's Answer

      "While the purchase price of a fixed asset is typically the main cost that should be capitalized when purchasing an asset, there are other costs associated with the asset acquisition that should also be included in the capitalized cost. For example, delivery charges, sales tax, installation and labor should be added on to the asset price and depreciated over the useful life of the asset."

  13. 13.

    What are some examples of internal controls that impact fixed assets?

      Internal controls are rules or procedures that are put in place to protect financial and accounting information and to prevent fraud. Some are required by laws and regulations, while others are implemented to protect the company. Some internal controls that relate specifically to fixed assets include those that mitigate physical risks (verify the existence, condition and custody of fixed assets) and financial risks (keeping records of all asset purchases).

      Brian's Answer

      "Internal controls are important for fixed assets. Some internal controls focus on mitigating physical risks, such as periodically verifying the existence and condition of fixed assets. Another set of internal controls focus on mitigating financial risks, such as keeping meticulous records of all fixed asset purchases. Having accurate fixed assets helps ensure a more accurate balance sheet, which is vital for any company."

  14. 14.

    What is your comfort level interacting and communicating with senior leadership?

      A fixed asset accountant role is staff level but is unique in that the role interacts regularly with senior leadership. Highlight that you not only have experience presenting in front of leadership, but also that you are comfortable doing it. Be specific with what you presented. For example, monthly results, pitches for new initiatives, etc.

      Brian's Answer

      "I have ample experience getting in front of leadership and presenting. In my previous role, I would present to the CEO, CFO, and other senior leaders during our monthly Finance Review meetings. I always felt the need to prepare in advance for any questions that might arise and would promptly follow-up on anything that developed during those meetings."

  15. 15.

    What is the fixed asset turnover ratio and how is it calculated?

      The fixed asset turnover ratio (FAT) measures a company's ability to generate sales from its fixed-asset investments by comparing net sales to fixed assets. A higher ratio indicates that a company is effectively using its fixed assets to generate sales.

      Brian's Answer

      "The fixed asset turnover ratio is a simple calculation that helps measure a company's effectiveness with using its fixed asset investments to help generate sales. It is calculated by taking Net Sales divided by average fixed assets balance over a certain period. A higher ratio indicates that a company is effectively using its fixed assets."

  16. 16.

    Are you proficient in Excel?

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  17. 17.

    How do you mitigate and manage stress?

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  18. 18.

    Are you willing to work extra hours, if needed, during busier times?

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  19. 19.

    Are you a detail-oriented person?

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  20. 20.

    What do you do when you don’t know the answer to something?

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  21. 21.

    What is an impairment of a fixed asset and what is the accounting treatment?

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  22. 22.

    Why did you want to become an accountant?

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  23. 23.

    What are the steps involved in the accounting close process?

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  24. 24.

    Do you have experience working with external auditors?

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  25. 25.

    Why is depreciation expense considered a non-cash expense?

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  26. 26.

    How would you handle working in an increasingly remote work environment?

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  27. 27.

    What are the three main financial statements and what do they indicate about an organization’s financial position?

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  28. 28.

    What are the differences between accrual accounting and cash accounting?

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  29. 29.

    What is Section 179 Expense?

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  30. 30.

    What have you done recently to become a better accountant?

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