Jason Yablinsky

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There are the standard accounting interview questions, and then there are the ones that help reveal the top traits—or performer dimensions—that competitive accounting candidates possess, like adapting to changing technology and regulations and applying an empathetic human touch in an overwhelmingly spreadsheet-driven role.

A resume only tells a piece of the accounting candidate’s story. So what accounting interview questions should you ask to uncover the ideal mix of hard skills and personality traits?

Here are five personality traits you should look for in top accounting candidates and the interview questions you need to ask to get to them: 

1. Tenacity 

Tenacity is a personality trait that maps to Jazz’s Autonomy and Leadership performer dimensions. In other words, this candidate is self-motivated and naturally persuasive.

Not every customer is going to pay their bills on time. Accounting candidates need tenacity to hunt down delinquent accounts and take the necessary steps for collection. Ideally, the candidate can detail the workflow they’ve followed when identifying and contacting delinquent accounts. Understanding typical payment-delaying tactics comes from hands-on experience with handling accounts payable.

What to Ask:

  • How have you handled problematic accounts in the past?
  • Describe the strategies you’ve used to encourage payment with these types of accounts.

2. Empathy

Empathy maps to the Judgment performer dimension, meaning candidates possess ethics, morals, decision-making, and analytical skills.

Accounting candidates need to temper their tenacity with empathy, as not every late account is due to malicious intent or mismanagement. Some customers have problems with business cash flow or other situations preventing immediate payment. You want to ask interview questions that help you uncover the accounting candidate’s customer-handling skills and decipher if they use good judgment to protect your company’s relationships with customer and clients.

What to Ask:

  • Describe a situation in a previous role where you needed to show compassion and kindness to a customer.
  • Have you improved customer loyalty and retention? How?

3. Flexibility

In this case, flexibility maps to the Experience performer dimension, indicating if an accounting candidate has “lived through” a major business change that required their adaptability.

Technological solutions for accounting automate tedious tasks for candidates, but adapting to new systems takes time and a flexible attitude. Look for candidates familiar with a wide range of accounting technology. Even if they don’t know your particular solution, experience with multiple applications makes it easier to pick up new programs.

What to Ask:

  • Tell me about a previous software deployment you experienced in your career.
  • How long did it take you to adjust to the new workflow?
  • What was the biggest challenge?

4. Excitement for Continued Education

Not surprisingly, this top accounting trait maps to the Education performer dimension, as it helps you assess how informed they are and how willing they are to stay that way.

Regulations covering taxes, accounting, and payment processing change on a frequent basis, making it important to target candidates focused on staying sharp with continued education. Non-compliance fines take a significant chunk out of an operating budget, so an accomplished accounting candidate helps you avoid costly trouble down the road. Plus, candidates who keep up with industry trends also have insight on new products and services that are helpful for your accounting workflow.

What to Ask:

  • Do you make it a priority to stay current on International Accounting Standards (IAS)? How so?
  • Which accounting or finance certifications do you have?

5. Money-Saving Mindset

Having a mind for personal success metrics is a trait that maps directly to the Accomplishments performer dimension. Whether you save these accounting interview questions for last is up to you, but uncovering how effective the accounting candidate has been at recognizing cost-saving measures is one of the best indicators of future success.

Ideally, a candidate has specific data—another good sign she’s metrics-minded and focused on her accounting career success—detailing the financial impact she has had on a company, such as a measurable increase in accounts paid or an exact figure on how much their cost-saving measures benefited the company.

What to Ask: 

  • Tell me about a time when you helped your company reduce costs or save money.
  • Describe how you error-proof your work.

Ask the Right Accounting Interview Questions

And you’ll uncover the right traits that the most well-rounded accounting candidates possess. Some candidates look great on paper, but when you start asking questions about how they’ve measurably benefited previous companies or how they work their people-skills magic, their answers paint a less-than-ideal picture.

Want to paint a picture-perfect accounting candidate profile? Learn more about Jazz’s 10 Performer Dimensions.

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