Professionals in every field and at every level of experience get nervous for interviews, so you aren’t alone if you feel a little anxious. Preparation is the greatest tool in easing some of that nervous energy so that you are calm, cool, and collected on the big day.
Here are some tips to make a great first impression and respond confidently to even the most tricky questions. Take a deep breath and maybe some notes and you’ll be on your way to securing the Corporate Accountant position of your dreams.
Being on time for your interview should go without saying but even better, you should be early. This small but crucial detail will show your potential employer that you’re eager and punctual.
Now, when it comes to being early, this doesn’t mean that you have to get there an hour or even a half-hour in advance. If you are too early, you may disrupt regular workflows and even irritate your interviewer if they have other responsibilities to finish up before they can meet with you.
That being said, you can definitely arrive at the location an hour or half-hour in advance to be sure that you don’t get caught in traffic. Always research how long the commute will take and account for potential roadblocks that could cause you to be late. If you arrive way earlier than expected that’s fine, just hang out in your car or a nearby coffee shop rather than the lobby. You can head into the lobby about 15 minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin.
In the post-pandemic world, many companies are still operating remotely so your interview can also be through Zoom or Google Meet. If this is the case then prepare your computer with a full battery and have the necessary windows or links pulled up and ready to go in advance.
Also, check to make sure your webcam and microphone are working. Find a properly lit area and a clean background that doesn’t have too much going on like a plain wall or at a desk. You can even use one of the background filters that Zoom offers, but nothing too extravagant. Keep it simple.
Dress the Part
Always dress the part for your interview. You can research the company’s dress code but it is always best to be more formal than not.
Even if the organization that you are interviewing at has a very casual or business casual dress code, still put on that blazer. By dressing more professionally, you are showing the interviewer that you take this opportunity seriously and you know how to present yourself. As a Corporate Account, you may be giving presentations on financial projections or representing the company to the IRS and government officials, so this is your opportunity to show that you can look the part.
If your interview is on Zoom, your bottom is often hidden so pants aren’t necessarily a requirement, but make sure you have everything in front of you so you don’t have to stand up and risk revealing your unprofessional sweatpants or lack thereof!
Refresh on Common Accounting Knowledge
As an accounting professional, you probably have a good amount of education and experience under your belt, but it is always good to refresh your accounting knowledge in case the interviewer gives you a test.
Some employers want to confirm that you have the knowledge and skill set that your resume suggests, so they will ask you some basic accounting questions.
Some examples may include:
- Explain each type of financial statement.
- Describe the difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable.
- Define working capital.
- How can you estimate bad debt?
- What is a balance sheet?
Brushing up on this basic knowledge of financial terminology and accounting standards will prepare you for any tests they might throw your way.
If the interviewer asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, that’s okay. Reply that you can’t recall the answer on the top of your head but you will brush up on that topic. Also try to reference a book or website that you use to clarify accounting processes, information, or definitions when you’re stuck.
Research the Company
It is almost a guarantee that the interviewer will ask you something about their company and even if they don’t, they will probably expect you to reveal what you know about their company in your own questions. This is why researching the company thoroughly is a must.
Nothing is worse than the awkward silence after the employer asks you why you want to work for them and you have absolutely nothing to say. Prepare yourself for this question by making some notes about what you like about the potential employer based on your research.
You can even impress the interviewer by making some notes about where the company has room to grow and how you can help. By researching your potential employer you become more overall prepared with the background information necessary to respond to interview questions, ask follow-up questions, and highlight your skills and strengths that will be attractive for the position.
Research the Industry and Field
As an accounting professional, you should regularly research trends and changes in the accounting field. By staying in the know on industry information, you are more likely to adopt proactive procedures and become a natural leader.
Pick up some books by successful Corporate Accountants, follow accounting industry professionals on LinkedIn, check out the Financial Accounting Standards Board from time to time, and even plan to attend a conference or panel. You can also read our blog post on how accountants can adjust in a suffering economy.
Staying up-to-date on the news in your field helps to impress your potential employer in the interview. They may be looking to you for financial direction and expertise so impress them with what you know. Find a way to connect some of your responses to the research that you’ve done, especially as it relates to opportunities for improving financial growth or organization for that particular company.
The more knowledgeable you prove yourself to be, the more likely the potential employer will trust that you’re a good fit for the position.
Behavioral Interview Questions
Most interviews have at least a couple of behavioral questions woven in and they are a great opportunity to stand out. Behavioral questions are opened ended questions that are asked to gauge your work ethic, communication style, motivation, leadership qualities, and other character traits. There is no wrong answer to the questions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t tricky to respond to.
Some examples of behavioral interview questions are:
- Tell me about a time where you had multiple projects and responsibilities to manage at once. How did you stay organized and get everything done?
- Tell me about a time where you disagreed with someone that you were working with. How did you handle the situation?
- What is your biggest career accomplishment and why?
- Tell me about a time where work seemed hopeless. How did you stay motivated?
- What is a mistake you made in the past? Tell me how you fixed it and bounced back.
These questions often prompt you to recall an experience and tell a story. Your interviewer is primarily trying to gauge your work style and see how you overcome obstacles. To prepare for these questions think about some of the defining moments of your career.
Make a list of the positive and negative memories that you have from working in your field and note what you learned. By having a couple of stories prepared, you can respond to these questions with ease. It is hard to recall some of these situations on the spot and with nervous energy in the mix, it is easy to go blank, so preparing yourself is always a good idea.
Remember that these responses don’t have to be super long so keep your story concise and to the point. Draft out about four or five sentences and use details. The more specific you are the better!
Common Interview Questions
Before your interview, you should prepare responses to some of the most common accounting interview questions for a Corporate Accountant position.
Here are some examples:
- What accounting software or applications are you familiar with?
- Do you have your own accounting process?
- How have you improved past employers accounting processes?
- Where do you see room for improvement in our company?
- What industry publications or resources do you look to for answers and guidance?
- What is your experience in offering financial advice?
- Do you have experience in developing business metrics? Explain.
- What are your top three skills as an accountant?
- What skills can you improve?
- How do you prevent fraudulent entries or accounting errors?
- How do you assess that the financial information you receive is reliable?
- What are your thoughts on the recent updates in accounting standards?
The interviewer may also ask you about your salary expectations, so it is always good to familiarize yourself with the average salary for a Corporate Accountant role. It is important to note that
If you don’t feel comfortable discussing this in the first interview then you can ask what their budget is or you can say that you would like to discuss this for negotiation later on upon being offered the position.
Prepare Questions to Ask
At the end of your interview, the potential employer will probably ask if you have any questions for them. You should always ask at least one question that was prepared beforehand. Think about what you want to know about this business that you were unable to find in your research or the job description.
This is another moment to shine and it is most likely where you will tie up the meeting so it is your opportunity to leave on a memorable note. Use this chance to show what you know about the company and what you may be able to offer.
Some examples include:
- What is the first project that you would have me work on?
- How does your company project to grow in the next 5 years?
- What are your financial goals?
- What are your accounting organization methods right now?
- How many people work in your accounting team or department?
- What area are you most looking to improve or update in your finance practices?
These questions show the potential employer that you are eager to work for them and improve their workflow. These questions may also reveal deal breakers in terms of if this company is somewhere that you can picture yourself working.
The interview will always go better if you are prepared. Stay confident because you wouldn’t have received a call to interview if you weren’t qualified. Brush up on your knowledge of journal entries, financial reports, cash flow, accounting trends, and accounting tools. Prepare some career stories and don’t forget to smile. Your Corporate Accountant dream job is practically in the bag already!
If you’re an entry-level accounting professional, check out our tips on how to start your career in accounting and finance. Contact us to be matched with a recruiter today.