Interviews for accounting job candidates have changed in recent years. Instead of asking questions almost exclusively related to technical expertise, employers now often integrate a series of "behavioral" questions. These questions are usually very different in tone, focus and purpose than typical accounting-related skill questions. Understanding the difference and preparing for both types of questions ensures that you'll make a good professional impression.
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Common Accounting Questions
Popular questions focus on familiarity with and preparation of accounting reports, understanding and improving typical accounting applications, internal control procedures and cost containment systems. Since the late 1980s, interviews have often contained questions relating to forensic accounting techniques and procedures, if appropriate for the job title. Be prepared for job-specific questions that directly test your technical responses for the job functions you'll be expected to perform. For cost accounting jobs, you'll probably be asked about inventory, shipping, work-in-process and direct/indirect cost evaluation.
Purpose of Behavioral Questions
Behavioural questions attempt to help the interviewer learn how the candidate might "fit" into the company. Employers often emphasise the importance that the corporate culture plays in the overall performance of the organisation. Behavioural questions focus on the prospective actions the candidate may take when faced with different workplace situations. Their answers indicate how they'd behave in these situations. Interviewers then interpret and evaluate this behaviour in light of the job requirements, existing policies and procedures, and personnel in the department in which the candidate would work.
Typical Behavioral Questions
Popular questions include asking the candidate to state their strengths and weaknesses with accounting skills and dealing with co-workers; career goals; how they view their career progress to date; and how they might behave when others make errors, miss deadlines or perform substandard work, all of which affect her performance of accounting responsibilities. Other common behavioural questions often relate to ethical issues and the candidate's workplace reactions to pure accounting challenges.
Prepare thoroughly for both types of questions. Anticipate the types of skill-related questions that should specifically relate to the job opening creating the interview. Regardless of how complex or advanced the skills needed for the specific job, be sure to have intelligent responses for the basic accounting skills that are also required. Anticipate potential behavioural questions and prepare to answer this type of question both thoughtfully and positively. Experienced interviewers are becoming more efficient at "reading between the lines" of behavioural question responses. Just be honest and answer with a reasonable expectation of your behaviour in these workplace and accounting-related hypothetical situations.
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