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Accounting

12 interview tips to help you hire new accountants for your firm

Job fit is critical when hiring new accountants for your firm. The right accountant in the right role means a happy, engaged, and thriving employee. That is why matching candidates’ skills, experience, and attitudes to the job description and requirements is crucial.

Another important factor to evaluate is organizational or cultural fit. A candidate may check all the boxes for the job, but what about that person’s standards, beliefs, and expectations? They should also match your company values and corporate culture.

Aside from resumes, assessments, and background checks, the job interview is essential for hiring decisions. It is an opportunity to dig deeper and analyze for the right fit. If you are interviewing new accountants, you should be well-prepared and methodical.

Here are 12 best practices to implement before and during interviews for new accountants.

1. Write a detailed job description

Make sure the job description is detailed and specific. This helps screen candidates. At the same time, it provides you with a guideline for conducting the interview and assessing job fit.

2. Appreciate and promote diversity in your accounting practice

Firms benefit from fresh perspectives and different viewpoints. Welcome candidates from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and skillsets as a diverse accounting team can lead to more creative solutions and comprehensive problem-solving.

Download our free special report, A roadmap for accounting firms to expand inclusion of diverse accountants, for more on diversity and inclusion.

3. Look for soft skills, not just accounting and technical skills

Technical skills and work experience are essential. However, include those outside the accounting profession or industry in your candidate pool. Soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication are just as critical.

4. Coordinate with other interviewers

Meet ahead with team members who will also conduct the interview. You can avoid being redundant by deciding who will ask specific questions. However, there are certain questions that everyone should ask to obtain various viewpoints.

5. Schedule enough time and give prospective accountants your full attention

Block off time so you don’t feel rushed or get distracted during an interview. Giving your full attention shows respect to candidates who will also form their impression of you and your firm.

6. Read resumes in advance

Save time by carefully reviewing each resume beforehand. You can avoid asking questions that are already answered in the resume. Instead, you can focus on clarifying items their resume does not address, evaluating soft skills, and determining problem-solving abilities.

7. Plan your interview agenda

Create a specific agenda with a set of prepared questions. Don’t just wing it. Completely unstructured interviews waste time and make you look unprepared. On the other hand, don’t be too strict with a script. Allow for open-ended discussions. To get you started, here are five alternative accounting interview questions you can use to elevate your firm’s talent recruitment.

8. Conduct yourself professionally

Your behavior will set the tone for the interview. Be friendly, but not too casual. Be professional, but not too serious.

9. Ask the same interview questions

You will only be able to compare candidates if you ask the same set of questions during each interview. You can go off-script to dig deeper or clarify. However, be consistent with your initial questions.

10. Ask a variety of interview questions

There are closed questions that get you the facts, open-ended questions that reveal attitudes and opinions, situational questions that show thinking process, and out-of-the-box questions that bare a candidate’s creativity. Switch them up to gain deeper insights into each candidate.

11. Listen more

Follow the 80/20 rule wherein you spend 80% of the time listening and 20% talking. Let candidates do most of the talking. And make sure to give them a chance to ask questions. This is an equally important opportunity for them to gather information on you and your firm, so they can judge for themselves if they are a good fit.

12. Notice non-verbal cues

What people say may be different from how they say it. Observe candidates’ body language and facial expressions. If they appear more passionate about one aspect of the job compared to another, ask questions and delve deeper into their interests and long-term career goals. If, on the other hand, they show nervousness about certain topics or skills sets, try to get a better understanding of their relative strengths, weaknesses, and growth opportunity.

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