A guide to answering interview questions

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Holding the required formal qualifications for an accountancy and finance position you are applying for is only the first step on the path to successfully securing a new role. In today’s candidate-saturated job market, you need to utilize the interview process as an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors.

What you say and do during an interview will influence whether you are successful in securing that perfect opportunity in accounting and finance.


Be prepared with a little help from our guide to answering interview questions for accounting and finance positions:

Q: Why do you want this job?

Take some time to identify your key motivators. Are you really interested in what the position entails? Are you impressed by the company’s social and corporate responsibility policies? Or is it an increase in salary that motivates you most? You should always evaluate your interest level in an opportunity based on all aspects of a job such as cultural fit, management style, benefits, growth opportunities etc. before making a decision as these factors are equally critical to your accounting and finance career.

In order to tackle this question, you should know exactly what will be expected of you. Before you attend the interview, ensure that you undertake research in preparation. Have you read the full job description? Have you researched the company? Do you know anyone who has worked there and would recommend the company as a good employer?

Nick Louca, Associate Director, New York advises: "Don’t answer defensively. Avoid sentences that sound reactive or that begin with 'because,' such as: 'Because I think I’d be good at it;' 'Because it seems like a good opportunity for me' or 'Because it pays well'."

A recommended answer to this could be: “Having read the job description and having looked at your company website, the role attracted me as I feel that I have the suitable skills for this role such as working to a deadline, experience with yield management, knowledge in SQL, etc. and am interested in what additional responsibility I will gain.”

Adapt your answer to suit the role. Will you have increased responsibility? Will you now support the senior management with ad-hoc analysis and reports? Will you have a more varied work scope with the opportunity to be involved in company projects or quarterly and yearly forecasting?

Q: Why should I hire you?

Show enthusiasm for the role and deliver your responses confidently. If you can’t convince yourself that you are a good fit for the role, it will be even more challenging to convince someone else.

This question is all about selling yourself. Why should someone hire you? Are you particularly organized? Are you proficient at preparing financial models to predict future economic conditions for many different variables? Do you have the fundamental knowledge and experience required for the role, and do you really think you could add value to the company?

Using the job description as a guide, identify your capabilities by using examples of your previous work in relation to the requirements for the role.

Nick Louca continues: "You could say something like: “I believe I meet the requirements listed in your job description and feel that I would excel in this role as I particularly enjoy working in this industry (or role type). In my previous role, I was responsible for… (use exact examples of how you can prove your value).”

Q: What is your biggest weakness?

Interviewers often use negative questions to test your ability to maintain composure. Be honest, but spin your weaknesses into something positive.

Review the job description and select one required responsibility you feel you could improve on. For example, are you afraid to give presentations in public? Do your time management skills need work? Do you feel you could benefit from any specific training or additional qualifications?

A possible response (depending on your answer) could be: “I am aware that my SQL skills are not at an advanced level but this is something that I have been working on by teaching myself in my spare time.”

Avoid giving answers such as, “I have no weaknesses.” This only makes you come across as arrogant and overconfident.

A further indication of this focus on personal development for accounting professionals was their responses when asked to identify which factor would most likely cause them to leave a job. 64% of accountants would most likely leave a role because of lack of career progression over any other factor. 18% of accountants chose a difficult boss, 9% responded with difficult colleagues, 8% chose lack of bonus and 1% said that a disappointing salary review would be their primary motivation for changing positions.

These results reflect an overall shift in priorities that we have seen amongst job seekers. Accounting and finance professionals are focusing on increasing their value as business assets in order to remain competitive in a candidate-saturated job market. These survey results show that not only are finance professionals aware of the importance of remaining competitive in the current job market, but that they also possess the right mindset in order to do so.

Looking for a new role? Avoid these common interview mistakes.

Start your accounting and finance job search today.

Robert Walters Salary Survey:
Request a free copy, download the US version, or download the new app for Apple or Android devices.

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