Why this matters:

One of a staff accountant’s main responsibilities is to assist in the monthly, quarterly, half-year, and year-end closing processes, so companies can pay the appropriate taxes and generate informed decisions. Candidates who can confidently walk you through this process will be best prepared to help the company accurately report their finances.

What to listen for:

  • The ability to thoroughly explain general ledger account reconciliation
  • Emphasis on ensuring the accuracy of invoices, cash account balances, and payroll taxes
  • The ability to provide a high-level and straightforward overview of intricate processes

Why this matters:

Whether analyzing a company’s income, measuring expenses against budgets, or monitoring progress toward financial goals, staff accountants must use their math skills to ensure that all data is accurately reported on accounting software. Selecting candidates with authoritative math and computer skills will limit the legal risk of misreporting a company’s finances.

What to listen for:

  • Indications of strong math skills, whether self-taught or gained through instruction
  • Explanations of how their expertise would add value to the company and ensure accurate reporting
  • Familiarity with accounting software such as QuickBooks and Xero

Why this matters:

This question will provide a preview of the candidate’s accounting knowledge and give them the opportunity to share areas in which they would like to grow. Though this position offers many hands-on opportunities to learn about accounting processes, candidates should come to the job already well-versed in topics related to the preservation and growth of financial resources.

What to listen for:

  • Mastery of financial concepts such as assets, liabilities, and P & L statements
  • Demonstrated knowledge of GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) is an added bonus
  • Readiness to learn on the job whatever they do not know

Why this matters:

Not only should staff accountants complete all of their accounting tasks with accuracy, but they should also feel free to identify and suggest improvements to the accounting and reporting process. This question will showcase candidates able to bring this extra value to the company as well as those who will be on the lookout to protect their clients’ financial interests.

What to listen for:

  • Taking action not only to point out the inefficiency, but also to come up with potential solutions
  • Motivation to take proactive measures to prevent mistakes and solve problems
  • The ability to apply a detailed approach to their tasks and a high-level perspective to workflows

Why this matters:

As a staff accountant, the candidate would be working alongside other finance professionals, such as auditors, tax accountants, and investment accountants. With typically less experience than their coworkers, staff accountants should be able to fill a supportive role within the workplace: preparing reports, summarizing account information, and analyzing trends.

What to listen for:

  • Openness to collaboration and drive to be helpful to team members
  • Indications they would be happy to perform impromptu supportive tasks to work toward a goal
  • Understanding of the importance of teamwork in helping senior management make informed decisions

 

Why this matters:

Accounting activities are crucial to senior leadership’s understanding of how much income a company is generating and how much they are spending. Because this information is so integral, staff accountants are often subject to strict deadlines and cyclical increases in their responsibilities. Candidates should be prepared to deliver prompt work and put in more hours during periods of intense accounting review.

 

What to listen for:

  • Experience producing timely work when presented with a hard deadline
  • Willingness to put in extra hours in high-pressure periods like the month-end close
  • The ability to stay measured and productive under stress

Why this matters:

Whether performing their normal accounting duties, adapting to special requests from management, or going above and beyond in the account closing process, multitasking is a highly valued skill among staff accountants. This question will reveal the candidate’s ability to cope with many ongoing responsibilities in a professional and productive manner.

What to listen for:

  • Organizational strategies such as maintaining detailed lists or planning out their time
  • The ability to prioritize tasks for completion
  • A quality control system which emphasizes the careful review of their work

Why this matters:

The staff accountant position is a relatively junior one within the accounting department, which  offers those with an interest in general accounting the chance to acquire skills. Candidates who have aspirations of rising within the accounting department at the company will be those most likely to take advantage of this opportunity for growth and mentorship.

What to listen for:

  • Eagerness to take direction from a director or certified public accountant (CPA)
  • The desire to take on additional responsibilities and grow into more senior positions at the company
  • The active pursuit of a CPA license is ideal

Why this matters:

New regulations and best practices are constantly changing the way accountants operate. This means staff accountants should be open to updating their approach and always stay informed of new communication from the Federal Reserve and other financial bodies. This will ensure that their practices are always compliant with federal, state, and local legislation.

What to listen for:

  • Indications that they would pursue opportunities like webinars, workshops, and networking events
  • Demonstrated knowledge of legal, tax, and compliance regulations
  • A growth mindset and willingness to improve
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