The four most common interview questions
Be prepared to communicate your value to potential employers during any interview.
If you are approaching the end of your accounting studies or have recently graduated, you are likely searching for your first accounting job.
You might also be considering an internship so you can flesh out your resume while you gain valuable professional experience, network with other accounting and finance professionals and apply what you learned in school.
Be prepared to communicate your value to potential employers as you interview, either for your first job or for an internship. You’ll likely be asked four questions:
1. How will you add value to our company?
Hiring managers will often use this question to explore whether you offer more than accounting knowledge.
Pro tip: Share your knowledge of software and how skills you’ve acquired transfer to the job at hand.
For example, if you’ve worked in retail or at a restaurant, you had to clearly speak to customers and hear their concerns. Experience in customer service means you’re familiar with problem-solving and meeting customer demands.
Many companies work exclusively in the cloud through a variety of software systems. Perhaps you bring knowledge about coding, IT solutions or social media that could benefit the company.
Finally, you’ve been cultivating time management in pursuit of your degree. Time management skills are crucial in the professional environment. Talk about what you’ve learned and how you manage your time as you juggle competing priorities.
Some of your work experiences may seem unrelated to a job in accounting, but they’re known as “transferrable skills” and hold a lot of value. Share with the hiring manager how your skills directly relate to the job you seek.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Self-awareness is essential for personal and career growth, especially in a profession that changes in response to economic and political factors.
Employers will expect you to be proactive about self-improvement.
Pro tip: Be honest about areas of weakness. Then, share how you are working to address them.
Perhaps Microsoft Excel intimidated you, so you signed up for a class at school. Or maybe you feel shy about delivering presentations or talking to large groups, and you addressed that challenge by attending a public speaking seminar.
3. Are you a team player?
Employers ask this question to investigate whether you can collaborate well with others and receive feedback.
CPAs do not sit alone crunching numbers. Accounting and finance professionals regularly collaborate with colleagues, clients and other professionals, including attorneys. Differences of opinion are likely to arise, and deadlines can add to the pressure.
Employers need to know they can trust you to maintain professionalism even when there are hurdles to overcome.
Pro tip: Share a specific example of a time you demonstrated your ability to collaborate by actively listening and clearly communicating to resolve a problem with your peers.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Employers ask this question to scope your long-term ambitions.
Pro tip: Answer honestly and within your means.
If you answer that you want to be a CFO or a partner in the firm, that could present as unrealistic.
If you’d like to work for that company and move from an interning position to a full-time position, say that. Employers would love to know you plan to gain experience as an intern and then carefully consider full-time employment options.
More pro preparation tips
It is natural to feel nervous before and during an interview. You want to feel well-prepared, so practice your answers and draft a few questions to ask about the job description and the company.
Get ready for your interview by identifying clear examples of your skills from volunteer experiences, jobs you had in high school and college, or times you collaborated with your classmates to create relevant projects.
Preparation allows you to focus on the present moment, demonstrate active listening and answer questions clearly.
It’s impossible to prepare for every question you will be asked during an interview but practicing your responses for common questions will help you feel prepared. Take the first step to landing your next dream position by checking out our job search board. You can also sign up for free as an AICPA Student Affiliate Member to further boost your professional knowledge and increase your confidence.