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Ask These 3 Interview Questions to Hire the Best Accountant for Your Firm

March 28, 2022, 8:45 AM

Has your accounting firm’s client base expanded to the point where it’s now hard to stay on top of everyone’s books? Are you and the other accountants completely spread thin due to the workload? Well, first off, congratulations on the growth and success of your firm. Now, it’s time to be proactive and hire a new accountant to prevent burnout and turnover among your ranks. The last thing you want right now is for your accounting practice to fall victim to the “Great Resignation” that is plaguing so many other businesses these days.

In my experience as the CEO and founder of CMA Exam Academy—a certified management accountant exam review program—and as a CMA, I have discovered how crucial asking the right questions is for pinpointing star candidates during the interview process. It is so important to go deeper than the usual, generic questions related to past work experience. To hire the best applicant for your accounting firm, be über-strategic by asking these three questions.

How Do You Manage Your Personal Finances?

The accountant you end up hiring will be in charge of handling the financial health of the people and/or companies your firm represents, so it is paramount that you know how they manage their own finances. You wouldn’t want to hire someone who cannot articulate how they are managing their own current financial situation and investing for future growth, because how would they be able to articulate to clients how they are optimizing their financial health? Therefore, this is a great question to ask during interviews, as each answer will show the level of attention to detail and care that translates into an accountant job.

When each applicant answers this question, consider their philosophical outlook on money management and what kinds of systems they have in place to stay on top of their own finances. For example, an applicant may talk a lot about their love for investing in the stock market or saving money for their retirement. Or maybe the applicant talks about fun and innovative software programs they use to set up and stick to each month’s budget. It is pertinent to see how much focus and planning they put into their own finances; it can be telling as to the level of care they will have for your film’s clients’ bookkeeping.

If You Had Enough Money to Buy a Car Outright, Would You Do It, Or Would You Finance It Instead?

This question shows how each applicant approaches risk tolerance and investing—two major aspects of most accounting positions. If an applicant says that they would buy the car with cash, it shows that they have a low risk tolerance; they want to purchase the car in full right away because they can potentially save thousands of dollars from not having to be tied to a years-long loan with interest. They are also concerned about possible unforeseen events that could hurt their future financial standing.

Now, if an applicant says they would take out a loan or finance the vehicle in another way, this shows that they have a higher risk tolerance and are more comfortable with making large, long-term investments. The key here is to know if they would take a loan because they believe they could get a better return on their cash by investing it instead of putting it all into a depreciating asset like a car. This kind of applicant would be a great fit for any accounting firm that places great value on investing for long-term growth and future value projections.

If You Could Have Had Your Previous Boss’s Position, What Would You Have Done Differently to Manage Someone in Your Shoes Today?

This question will reveal a lot about each applicant. First, it will show their management style preference. The applicant may share that if they’d had their previous boss’s position, they would have given someone in their shoes today much more freedom with their projects and never micromanaged. Or they may share that they would have implemented a much more thorough onboarding period with in-depth training for each new team member and that they would have always given very detailed instructions for each project. It is important to analyze these answers, as you will see if their management preferences fit your firm’s.

This question will also reveal the applicant’s overall work style. If they say they would have given a lot more freedom to someone in their shoes today and would never have micromanaged, that will tell you that the applicant is self-driven and desires autonomy in their work. But if they say they would have given in-depth training and detailed instructions for all projects, then this means that the applicant values order and following set protocols. Again, think about whether their working style would mesh well with that of you and the other accountants at your firm.

Their answer to this question also could reveal how much value they place on teamwork, the freedom to choose their working situation—in-office, hybrid, or fully remote—and company culture. For example, they may say they would have helped someone in their shoes today bond with their team members by setting up fun company get-togethers. Or they may say that they would have let someone in their shoes today work from home if they felt that it optimized their productivity and work output. So pay close attention to their answers, as these insights will really show what it would be like to have this person working at your firm.

To Wrap It All Up

Asking strategic questions will help you find star candidates when you’re interviewing for a new accountant at your firm. Make sure to ask applicants the above three questions during their interviews, as they will reveal valuable insights regarding how they would manage your firm’s clients’ finances and how they approach risk tolerance and investing. These questions will also reveal their management preferences, work styles, how much they value company culture, and much more. Now, go out there and find a fantastic new accountant for your practice!

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Nathan Liao is the founder and CEO of CMA Exam Academy. As a CMA and CMA coach, Nathan mentors accounting and finance professionals in more than 80 countries to earn their CMA certification in as little as eight months.

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