Man looking at two computer monitors
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

This question can help you determine a candidate’s level and type of experience, as well as their aptitude for overcoming challenges. Preparing taxes for an individual requires a different procedure than for a business or an international client, so it’s good to know if they have experience dealing with the specific challenges that they can anticipate on the job—and whether they’re adaptable.

What to listen for

  • Knowledge of and experience dealing with common tax challenges
  • Evidence that the candidate can adapt to new situations and challenges—and find a successful resolution
  • A positive outlook on challenging situations is a plus

Why this matters

Whether they’re offering advice internally or supporting clients, tax preparers should be able to quickly evaluate a person or company’s circumstances and offer appropriate recommendations, based on their knowledge and experience. This question will not only help you determine if a candidate knows their stuff, but will give you a sense of their communication style.

What to listen for

  • Evidence that the candidate would evaluate the specific circumstances before making recommendations
  • Examples of relevant deductions, such as business insurance premiums
  • A clear and knowledgeable style of delivery that fosters trust

Why this matters

Tax laws change constantly, so it’s important that your new hire knows how and when to get the most recent updates on filing practices and regulations. They must always remain on top of potential legislation that could impact tax preparation, and should proactively seek out information from reputable sources.

What to listen for

  • A commitment to ongoing research
  • References to reputable industry sources, such as the annual IRS Nationwide Tax Forum
  • Examples of recent tax changes and how this impacts future tax planning

Why this matters

Tax preparers must keep sensitive information confidential, but they should also abide by a strong code of ethics. While their fiduciary responsibility is to their company or client, they may be asked to defend their actions in front of government agencies and other regulatory bodies, so a keen understanding of how to balance confidentiality with lawfulness is essential.

What to listen for

  • Good judgment and the ability to make difficult decisions
  • A great answer will show that the candidate understands their responsibility to uphold the law and will pursue proper legal actions if required

Why this matters

Taxes can be a touchy subject for some people, so you need to know that your newest tax preparer will have a friendly approach that puts people at ease. Even if the candidate doesn’t have customer-facing experience, the way they’ve handled delicate situations in the past can give you a good idea of how they’ll approach customer service in the future.

What to listen for

  • Strong interpersonal skills and a clear, informative communication style
  • Evidence that the candidate can diffuse difficult situations with grace, helping to maintain positive relationships

Why this matters

This question can tell you a lot about a candidate’s attention to detail and problem-solving skills, as well as their professional ethics. Tax preparation involves juggling many different documents and pieces of information, so errors may happen from time to time. The important thing is how the candidate handled the problem—though, ideally, any previous mistakes made would be minor and never repeated.

What to listen for

  • Answers should show that the candidate quickly fixed or reported the error as appropriate and took steps to avoid similar mistakes in the future
  • Major, careless mistakes could indicate that the candidate lacks attention to detail

Why this matters

While many people only think about taxes once a year, tax preparers should be accustomed to adhering to tax deadlines year-round, especially if you offer tax services to other businesses. Your candidate’s answer may also speak to their general time management skills, which are particularly important if they’ll be juggling many different accounts.

What to listen for

  • Concrete examples of methods the candidate uses to maximize their time and ensure deadlines are never missed, such as setting calendar reminders
  • A thoughtful answer that shows they understand the vital importance of meeting tax deadlines

Why this matters

Tax preparation software is constantly evolving and improving, so it’s useful to know whether your candidate is comfortable learning new technologies and helping others get up to speed. This can also give you a sense of their communication skills and tell you whether they have a team player mentality, since teaching others requires time and patience.

What to listen for

  • A clear indication that the candidate is comfortable learning new technology as required, and a desire to improve their own and their colleagues’ skills
  • A patient, supportive approach when training others

Why this matters

If you’re looking for someone who has the potential to enhance your team or even grow into a leadership role within your company, it helps to understand where their interests and passions lie. Tax preparation can provide a reliable income and flexible schedule, but does your candidate find true fulfillment in the work? Do they take steps beyond what is required of them to grow their knowledge and develop their skill set?

What to listen for

  • A genuine passion for finance, accounting, or topics related to these fields is a plus
  • Evidence that the candidate is invested in growing their career, such as attendance at industry conferences