INTERVIEW GUIDE – Accounting Professionals

Accountants enjoy the most diverse job descriptions, ranging from pure numbers to management, from advisory to entrepreneurial roles. Among their important qualities, accounting professionals are required to be problem solvers who are detail-oriented, ethical, decisive and strategic.

The interview questions herein are among our favourites; choose among them to enhance your screening process.

Certifications

Certification Types
  • CPA – Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA-CA, CPA-CMA, CPA-CGA)
  • CIA – Certified Internal Auditor
  • CB – Certified Bookkeeper
  • PCP – Payroll Compliance Practitioner through the Canadian Payroll Association
  • CPM – Certified Payroll Manager through the Canadian Payroll Association
  • Common Designations
  • CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst
  • CFP – Certified Financial Planner
  • CFM– Certified Financial Manager
  • FRM – Financial Risk Management
  • PEP– Personal Financial Planner
  • CFE – Certified Fraud Examiner
  • CCP – Certified Credit Professional
  • CSC – a requirement for almost all financial service industry jobs  
  • CPA Stages
    CPA Prerequisite Education Program (PREP)
    Professional Education Program (PEP)
    Core Stage

    Two Core Exams encompassing: Financial Reporting, Strategy and Governance, Management Accounting, Audit and Assurance, Finance and Taxation
    Electives Stage
    Two among these four topics: Assurance, Finance, Tax and Performance Management
    Capstone I and II
    Includes: Leadership Skills, Professional Skills and Integration of Competencies (group assignment presentation, 8-week business case presented to a board, case studies)
    CFE (Common Final Exam, 3-day exam)
    CPA Canada In-Depth Tax (for tax practitioners)
    CPA Practical Experience Requirements (30 months required)
    What to ask regarding these stages:
    • What electives did you select?
    • Have you started claiming your experience?
    • What is your expected date to obtain your CPA? OR What date did you obtain your CPA?

    Interview Questions by Category

    Initial Questions
    1. Why did you select Accounting as your profession?
    2. What is your academic background in accounting? What licenses, credentials, and certifications do you possess? How do they benefit you in your profession (Refer to the above certifications drop down menu for more insight into accounting specific education, certifications and designations.)?
    3. If you could create your own job description for two years from now, what would it look like? Please include your top five responsibilities.
    4. How do regulations in accounting standards affect your role?
    5. Give an example of a time when you had to explain a complex accounting or financial process to a team member. How do you teach a non-financial person about a financial issue?
    6. What criteria have you used to evaluate the reliability of financial data you receive?
    7. What does the term ‘creative accounting’ mean to you?
    8. What internal controls do you have experience with to meet requirements from the Sarbanes Oxley Act?
    9. What is your proficiency with MS Excel and / or other accounting related software?
    10. How do you manage your day to day responsibilities along with dealing with the auditors during an audit?
    11. From an administrative standpoint, do you write correspondence (letters, emails) in your current role? Would you describe your correspondence as professional or casual? How effective is your written communication?
    Education and Certifications
    1. Do you have a CPA? From what area did you originate: CA, CGA, CMA?
    2. Prior to commencing the CPA, what level education did you complete?
    3. Are you currently working towards a CPA designation? If so, at which stage are you? Did you choose to do the Modules (8-week education program per course with a facilitator and feedback), or challenge the exams directly?
    Accounting Clerk
    1. In your previous experience, have you done full cycle accounting or did you specialize in one area in particular?
    2. Are you familiar with / have you ever been responsible for general ledger reconciliations?
    3. Tell me about a situation when it was important for you to pay attention to details. How do you minimize the risk of errors in your work?
    4. Describe your involvement in the company’s month-end or year-end processes.
    5. Describe any accounting process that you have developed or sought to improve.
    6. How have you helped increase revenue, reduce cost and / or save time in your current role?
    Accounts Payable
    1. Please explain the accounts payable cycle, based on your experience.
    2. Can you explain your calendar management approach to ensure that all invoice deadlines are met?
    3. On average, how many invoices do you handle on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?
    4. What is the most complex invoice issue you’ve had to address? Please explain.
    5. Have you ever had to dispute an invoice? Please explain.
    6. Do you have experience entering, approving and paying invoices?
    7. What are the steps you take before you approve an invoice for payment?
    8. How have you resolved invoicing discrepancies or disputes?
    9. Have you ever missed a payment deadline? If so, why and how did you rectify the situation?
    Accounts Receivable
    1. Detail your responsibilities in accounts receivable.
    2. Why do you feel excellent accounts receivable execution is important for our business?
    3. Describe how you would solve a challenging AR recovery? What steps did you take routinely to collect on overdue invoices? At what point did a collection become bad debt?
    4. How comfortable do you feel making collection calls by phone? What techniques did you find most effective in your calls?
    5. What percentage of your current employer’s receivables are over 60 days?
    6. Have you ever been involved in a billing dispute? How did you manage the problem?
    7. How do you handle insufficient funds received from a customer?
    Financial Analysis and Reporting
    1. Which principles do you apply or have more experience / knowledge of: IFRS or ASPE, or both? Do you have experience with Accounting Standards for NFP, for Pension Plans or for Pre-changeover accounting standards (old GAAP)?
    2. Detail your experience and involvement in preparing financial statements (balance sheet, income and cash flow statements).
    3. What is your favourite financial statement and why?
    4. Have you created month-end, quarterly and annual sales reports?
    5. Have you ever dealt with the fiscal year end process (reconciliations, journal entries, GL review, depreciation, tax strategy)?
    6. What depreciation did you apply to fixed assets (amortization schedule)?
    7. How did you determine depreciation policy for a newly acquired fixed asset?
    8. Did you have to work with external auditors or government auditors at any time? What type of audit was it? How did it go? What did you learn or change as a result?
    9. What profitability models have you used for forecasting a project? Which model do you consider to be the best one, based on your experience?
    10. Did you prepare and reconcile monthly HST/GST?
    11. Do you have any experience with preparing financial statements according to Accounting Standards for Pension Plans?
    12. What systems and programs would you use to prepare illustrated technical reports using graphs, spreadsheets and draw charts?
    Forecasting and Budgeting
    1. Discuss the key benefits of budgeting.
    2. Tell me about the budget process and your role in yearly planning, as well as monthly or quarterly forecasting.
    3. Describe a time when you were required to prepare a forecast tool and/or report? What was your approach? What factors did you consider?
    4. Are you proficient with performing cost vs. benefit analyses? Describe a time that you presented your analysis.
    5. Would you be able to effectively curb spending if necessary?
    6. Are you able to budget for several departments simultaneously?
    7. Describe a time when you applied your analytical skills to make a recommendation on an issue or decision? How was your recommendation received?
    Cost Accounting
    1. What manufacturing costs (raw materials, etc.) did you analyze / audit? What impact did your analysis or reporting have on controlling costs
    2. Were you involved in estimating cost for new products?
    3. What analysis and reporting did you do that affected pricing or profitability?
    4. Were you involved in the finished goods inventories?
    5. What Cost Accounting Systems have you relied on?
    6. Explain some of the methods you’ve used to allocate support costs.
    7. What do you do when you find a major error in an expense report, or any report?
    8. Tell me about a dispute regarding material costs for a particular project you worked on.
    9. Describe a typical cost report you have prepared for management. What method was used to prepare it?
    10. What activities in your current role do you perform during month-end, quarter-end and year-end? Describe the process you use to prepare for monthly, quarterly and annual forecasts.
    11. How do you ensure you’re able to meet tight deadlines for weekly cost reporting?
    12. Describe the type of analysis you have done to review overhead spending that management would use to make future spending decisions.
    Property Accounting
    1. What type of properties were you overseeing on a financial basis?
    2. Were you responsible for maintaining the GL for all properties, doing HST returns, reconciling bank accounts and doing financial reporting?
    3. Did you prepare annual budgets or forecasts for these properties? Did you do variance analysis or shortfall analysis?
    4. Were you responsible for property tax billings?
    5. Were you working with Property Managers directly, providing them with financial information?
    6. How many properties can you effectively manage at the same time?
    7. Property Accountants often pay vendors, such as utility companies and receive payments from tenants. Please detail your experience in AP and AR?
    8. How do you determine whether any major renovation work, project repairs and / or maintenance is an expense or capital in nature (hence it should be capitalized to fixed assets)?
    Treasury Analyst
    1. What methods have you used to manage cash flows of an entity?
    2. How did you manage cash shortfalls and surpluses in your previous roles?
    3. Provide an example when you had to present your forecast and analysis to management and what was their feedback?
    Auditing and Assurance
    1. What part of the assurance engagements were you involved in (all vs. components of the financial statements)? Explain which components.
    2. Do you have experience in all three types of assurance and non-assurance engagements: compilation, review and audit?
    3. What type of business or business line did you audit / specialize in?
    4. Have you been involved in the planning phase of an assurance engagement? If so, please describe your experience.
    5. What internal controls did you audit, and how did you remain impartial?
    6. Describe a situation when you were faced with a deadline that you couldn’t meet. How did you handle it?
    7. Explain a time you discovered a small item or detail that helped identify a major audit issue.
    8. What would you do in an audit situation where the employees are unhelpful and consistently delayed in getting you the information that you need?
    9. Tell me about a situation where you discovered a client’s needs and how you met those needs.
    10. Describe a time you noted an internal control weakness and how you resolved it. Tell me about your most recent group or team auditing effort.
    11. If you were auditing an area in which you had no experience, how would you gain the necessary knowledge to plan and complete the audit?
    12. Tell me about a situation in which you were expected to do a certain thing on your own, and you went above and beyond the call of duty.
    Asset Management
    1. What are fixed assets? Name two types.
    2. Have you dealt with both tangible and intangible assets? How would you value an intangible asset?
    3. What is an asset’s life cycle?
    4. What journal entries get posted during an asset’s life cycle from purchasing to retirement?
    5. Do you have experience with the asset retirement obligation (ARO) process?
    6. How do you determine whether a transaction should be expensed or capitalized?
    7. How do you determine if an item is an asset or an expense?
    8. What are the methods of depreciation?
    Payroll and Benefits
    1. In your current role, how many employees did you pay weekly, bi-weekly or monthly?
    2. Were compensation packages based on base salaries, or commission / bonus?
    3. In addition to payroll, were you responsible for attendance / vacation tracking? Do you have experience with benefits and pension plans?
    4. Are you responsible for reconciling all payroll related general ledger accounts?
    5. How many T4s did you help prepare last year? Do you prepare your T4s in-house or does a third party company prepare them?
    6. How would you handle an employee who is upset because their pay is inaccurate?
    7. What do you do when an employee fails to submit timesheet records before the deadline?
    8. Payroll has many moving parts and deadlines, how do you keep organized?
    9. In your opinion, what are the most common errors made by payroll specialists and how can they be avoided?
    10. What is the purpose of a T2200 form?
    11. How familiar are you with employment laws that regulate employee pay?
    Taxation
    1. Tell me about your experience dealing with tax authorities on tax audits and appeals.
    2. How have you explained a complex tax issue to a key stakeholder.
    3. How do you stay on top of changes in tax laws, regulations and interpretations?
    4. Do you have experience in M&A transactions and due diligence engagements?
    5. How do you detect and meet a client’s tax need?
    6. Do you have experience with tax compliance work?
    7. Have you prepared both corporate and personal tax returns?
    8. Have you worked on trust and / or partnership returns?
    9. Please describe types of trusts and their major differences from a tax perspective.
    10. Have you prepared and filed T4 and T5 slips with CRA?
    11. Have you ever dealt with cross-border taxes?
    12. Are you familiar with any of the treaties that Canada has with other countries?
    13. How do you handle situations where clients have out of country tax compliances?
    Software
    1. What accounting software do you have experience with?
    2. Were you ever part of a software or ERP conversion or integration? What was your role?
    3. What ERP software have you worked with? (Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, Hyperion, etc.)