As a recruiter or HR manager for an accounting firm (or the accounting department of a larger company), you’ll need to use a simple checklist during the candidate review process. So, get out your red pen and check off boxes during the early rounds of screening and selection. For example, does the candidate have a relevant four-year degree? Check. Does the candidate require relocation expenses? Check. Adequate years of experience? Check. And so on.

But after these initial checks, the task will become more complicated, especially for reviewers with a limited personal background in finance or accounting. During second- and third-round interviews, keep your questions focused and relevant, and make sure you’re looking in the right direction, so you can spot positive signs and red flags. Here are a few questions to add to your list.

What’s your approach to business development and customer management?

Accounting pros may be great with numbers and versed in obscure tax laws, but do they understand where they’ll fit within your business model? And do they recognize their secondary roles in business growth and customer relationship management? Do they make an effort to invest personally in company success, or are they happy to disappear behind the scenes and serve as small cogs in the machine?

How do you handle pressure and errors?

Ask your candidate to describe an event from the past in which they made a mistake—technical, financial or ethical—and what happened as a result. Then take a measurement of two things: the depth and gravity of the “mistake,” and the judgement the candidate exercised while dealing with the issue. A candidate who chooses to discuss a serious mistake—one with gravity and high stakes—will demonstrate honesty, perspective and a wide breadth of personal and professional experience.

Describe your familiarity with (insert critical software platform).

Which apps, platforms and tools will the candidate rely on the most in this role? Of course, these tools may be replaced or outdated in a few years, but the answer the candidate provides will give you insight into their adaptability and comfort with relevant technologies.

Describe your approach to (insert problem the candidate will encounter on the job).

Fill in the blank with any of the most serious challenges you know your candidate will deal with in this role and stay specific. Instead of focusing on the tasks that are a fundamental part of the job description, choose something like “difficult people,” “unexpected schedule changes,” “extensive travel” or “rigid company policies and excessive red tape.”

For more on how to assess your candidate’s readiness for a financial or accounting role, contact the expert Milwaukee management team at Extension.


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