Interviews and assessment centres

Four common interview questions for graduate jobs in accountancy and financial management

21 Jun 2023, 15:38

You can't know exactly what questions you're going to be asked in an interview for a graduate job in accountancy, but there are some common questions that you're likely to encounter.

Accountancy interviews

Good teamplayers who can also take responsibility are just as important as leaders.

1. Can you give an example of when you had to lead a team?

Why this question?

If you have had previous leadership experience you can demonstrate that you can lead others and become a business leader in the future. The term ‘leadership experience’ also encompasses a range of general skills such as interpersonal, motivational and time management skills.

How to answer:

it is important to choose a leadership example that is both recent and interesting. The assessor needs to be convinced that the candidate possesses the full range of leadership skills so use anecdotal evidence as much as possible. It’s also important to structure your response, setting the context, explaining how you achieved your aims and what you learned.

2. Tell us about a time when you had to work as part of a team

Why this question?

Interviewers need to find out which interpersonal skills a graduate possesses, for example being a good teamplayer or teamleader, skilled at building relationships, able to react appropriately to different people’s needs, good at giving and receiving feedback and so on.

How to answer:

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, and the biggest mistake people make is thinking they have to prove they are a leader. Good teamplayers who can also take responsibility are just as important. A good answer will show you’ve thought about the part you played and what you learnt from the experience.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Why this question?

Recruiters are looking for a summary of the key skills the candidate thinks he or she would bring to the organisation. It gives an insight into how self-aware the candidate is and his or her expectations in relation to the steep learning curve that lies ahead.

How to answer:

Listen to the question! Often only strengths are mentioned initially, so don’t volunteer weaknesses unless asked. Give specific examples drawn from your experience for each of your strengths, which should be relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, a finance manager job description will likely include 'teamworking skills' as a requirement, so give an example of a time when you worked particularly well with other people (perhaps you took a leadership rule, while making sure everyone felt included and listened to). Try to spend less time talking about your weaknesses. Demonstrate what you have learned from them and what positive actions you have taken to mitigate them.

4. Why do you want to work for us?

Why this question?

Recruiters are trying to assess your motivation. The best employee is one who actively wants to work for the firm, as opposed to just any accountancy firm. These kinds of employees are also more likley to stick around.

How to answer:

Demonstrate that you've really done your research on the employer, that you have a sense of its culture, main service lines, competitors etc. Prepare a few examples specific to the employer (a recent project, for example, or information you've gleaned from talking with current employees) which show you really want to work for that firm in particular.

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