Accounting

Accounting jobs are stable, pay well, and allow for continued professional growth. The types of jobs in this field vary, demanding different skill sets specific to each role.

Take a look at some of the accounting jobs we highlight:

Staff Accountant: As the backbone of any accounting team, the Staff Accountant creates financial statements, completes key tasks within the monthly close process, and supports the Accounting Department in a number of ways. This position is perfect for starting a career in accounting. Learn more about the role of Staff Accountant.

Accounting Manager: The Accounting Manager takes on a number of responsibilities, including overseeing financial records, preparing financial documents, and leading accounting projects. This role manages the accounting team, so excellent leadership and mentor skills are a must. Learn more about the role of Accounting Manager.

Controller: A Controller manages a company’s finances with the help of internal reporting controls, which this position is responsible for establishing and enforcing. Preparing budgets, summarizing trends, and monitoring tax legislation are also responsibilities taken on by a Controller, in addition to other tasks. Learn more about the role of Controller.

What Interview Questions You Can Expect at an Accounting Interview

Here’s a useful infographic:

Describe how double-entry accounting works

This is a fairly basic question and each candidate should explain how every transaction impacts at least two general ledger accounts.  If you push the candidate to speak about specific debt and credit entries, you’ll have more insight into how technically involved this candidate will be.

Walk me through the three financial statements

You’d be surprised with how many entry-level candidates fail this basic question.  If you have any doubts on candidate ability up front, you might consider asking this question.

What methods would you use for estimating bad debt?

This question should open a conversation about the ways the candidate has approached the process in the past. Is this candidate going to be able to set accounting policy as your company grows or will they need a lot of direction?  The answer will reveal a lot about the current level and potential growth of the candidate.

Why is it easier for someone to commit fraud using a journal entry than with a general ledger?

While the example might be extreme, look for how well the candidate understands the relationship between journal entries and the general ledger.  There are more business controls around entries in made to a general ledger vs. a specific journal entry.  A candidate with more formal training in forensic accounting should be able to explain this thoroughly and be able to provide examples.

Which enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems do you have experience with?

Most professionals, especially those with experience working for medium to large organizations, should have an answer for this.  If you company is in a growth phase, you’ll likely need to implement an enterprise solution such as NetSuite and will need to rely your accountants for implementation work.

What is your experience developing KPIs?

This is a finance question that should elicit answers useful in evaluating entry-level candidates all the way up to mid-career professionals who aspire to roles that come with budget and staff oversight responsibilities.

If your company received a $100 million growth investment, how would you develop a strategy to spend or invest that money?

Asking a candidate this will be useful in gauging a candidate’s ability to grow to a more senior role. Is this a question that piques their interest or do they shy away from answering?  It should also indicate if this candidate is a good fit for your organization’s culture.

If you could use only one statement to review the overall health of a company, which statement would you use and why?

This question helps you differentiate candidates who understand accounting/finance vs. those that enter numbers into an ERP.  The common answer is the cash flow statement since it gives a clear picture of how much cash the company is generating.  The A+ answer is the balance sheet that allows you to derive both the income statement and cash flow statement from it (provided you have statements for 2 operating periods).

How would you design an end-to-end budgeting process?

This is a subjective question, but most good budgeting has buy-in from all departments, is realistic yet strives for achievement, has been adjusted to allow for a margin of error, and is tied to the company’s overall strategic plan.

When should a company consider issuing debt instead of equity?

This question is more suited for senior candidates. If the firm has immediate steady cash flows and is able to support interest payments, debt is probably the right answer especially as the company will receive a tax shield from issuing debt. Conversely, most startups rely on equity to fund their operations and growth plans.

Which is cheaper debt or equity?

Debt is cheaper because it is paid before equity and has collateral backing it. Debt also ranks ahead of equity on liquidation.

What happens on the income statement if inventory goes up by $100?

Nothing.  This is a trick question.

What is working capital?

Working capital is defined as current assets (excluding cash) less current liabilities (excluding interest-bearing debt).

What does negative working capital mean?

Negative working capital is common in some industries such as e-commerce.  Customers purchase products via credit cards that usually have daily settlement periods so you get money up-front.  If inventory turns are high, and suppliers have 60-90 day credit terms, the company will receive cash from customers before it needs to pay suppliers.  Negative working capital for a healthy business is a sign of efficiency.

When do you capitalize rather than expense a purchase?

This question has several answers so make sure you dig into specifics.  Most commonly, if the purchase will be used in the business for more than one year, it is capitalized and depreciated (i.e. property, computers, and if it’s relevant to the candidate background, software expense).

How do you record PP&E and why is this important?

There are four areas to consider when accounting for PP&E on the balance sheet: initial purchase, depreciation, additions (capital expenditures), and dispositions.  In addition to these, you may also consider revaluation.  For many businesses PP&E is the main capital asset that generates revenue, profitability and cash flow.  Also probe if the candidate is aware and has specific knowledge around new 2018 GAAP requirements recording operating leases.

How does an inventory write down impact the three statements?

On the balance sheet, inventory is reduced by the amount of the write down, and so is shareholders’ equity. The income statement is hit with an expense in either COGS or a separate line item for the amount of the write down, reducing net income.  On the cash flow statement, the write down is added back to cash from operations since it’s a non-cash expense.

Assume it takes us 30 days to close our monthly books, what would you do to improve the close process?

This is a question for more senior candidates.  Areas that strong candidates will highlight would be items that aren’t integrated with the financial ERP such as inventory (difficult to value on an ongoing basis) or operating expenses (does the company have the right credit card software or expense policy in place)?

Why would two companies merge?  What major factors drive mergers and acquisitions?

There are many reasons: to achieve synergies (cost savings), enter new markets, gain new technology, rationalize/eliminate a competitor, and because it’s “accretive” to financial metrics.

If you were CFO of our company, what would keep you up at night?

This is an open ended but a great interview question.  You’ll be able to gauge strategic thinking of this candidate.  You can preface this by giving a high-level overview of the company’s current financial position or the industry in general.  If needed, prompt some answers by highlighting some recent initiatives for your business that impacted growth, margins, or your cash flow profile.  At the very least, the candidate should point towards the need to raise money or return capital to shareholders.

Finally, make sure you research the company beforehand. Know who the officers of the company. Know their products and verticals. Prep intelligent follow-up questions in the end. You want to sound interested and informed about the company.

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