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

Tax laws are incredibly complicated and constantly changing. Companies and individuals can suffer financial or legal consequences if they break tax laws, even inadvertently. Tax specialists are responsible for making sure that their clients/companies file accurate tax returns and remain compliant, making it essential for them to remain up to date with these ever-changing laws and regulations.

What to listen for

  • Examples of specific methods used and informational outlets consulted in order to stay current with accounting developments
  • A great answer may reference a code or regulation that has recently changed, giving a detailed description of the change and how they responded to it

Why this matters

Tax specialists need to be able to create reports and pull data from a variety of different databases and applications. Since technology is always evolving, it’s useful to know whether your candidate is comfortable learning new software when required, especially if they’re not familiar with the accounting and financial platforms your company currently uses.

What to listen for

  • Mentions of specific accounting programs and a demonstrated familiarity with their functions and purposes
  • Ideal answers will demonstrate a willingness to learn new tools on an ongoing basis as the job requires

Why this matters

Hiring a tax specialist can not only help companies remain compliant—it can also help them minimize the amount of tax they owe. Top tax specialists have a deep understanding of the nuances and minutiae of tax and accounting laws and employ this knowledge in a way that produces the best possible outcome for their company.

What to listen for

  • A thorough understanding of applicable tax laws, codes, and regulations
  • A demonstrated ability to maximize corporate tax returns while maintaining regulatory compliance

Why this matters

A tax specialist essentially serves as a liaison between the individuals and organizations paying taxes and the agencies collecting them. A discrepancy in a tax return or filing can result in fines and reputational damage, so knowing that your new hire is experienced in rectifying such errors can help your organization save money and prevent legal exposure.

What to listen for

  • A proven track record of producing tangible results for clients
  • The ability to navigate complex bureaucratic institutions
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills that drive a speedy resolution

Why this matters

Tax specialists must be able to spot mistakes and discrepancies to prevent their organization from facing an unnecessary audit or other penalties. You need to know that your new hire will be proactive in correcting discrepancies and communicating those errors to other team members, even if that person is in a senior position.

What to listen for

  • A proactive approach to problem-solving
  • The ability to communicate mistakes in a way that preserves relationships and builds trust
  • A strong desire to act in the company’s best interests, even if that means asserting oneself to a superior

Why this matters

Tax specialists often deal with hard, non-negotiable deadlines when it comes to filing, submitting, and reporting taxes—and missing one could have major consequences for their employer. The ability to manage their time well and work effectively under tight time constraints is crucial to carrying out their duties.

What to listen for

  • A proven track record of successfully meeting challenging deadlines
  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Top answer may highlight proactive steps the candidate takes to get ahead of important deadlines

Why this matters

Unfortunately, delivering unfavorable financial news to leaders is often part of a tax specialist’s job. Great tax professionals know that the sooner stakeholders are made aware of unforeseen or undesirable circumstances, the sooner they can be dealt with, so they won’t shy away from discussing the details.

What to listen for

  • Clear and effective verbal communication skills
  • A willingness to confront difficult situations
  • Ideal answers may mention presenting both the problem and potential solutions the company can adopt moving forward

Why this matters

Often, tax specialists will need to work with or talk to people who don’t have the same background in accounting or finance that they do. A good tax specialist should be able to explain complex financial policy to colleagues and clients in a way that’s easy for them to understand, ensuring they’re able to take any necessary steps that the specialist recommends.

What to listen for

  • The ability to break down complex policies into simple concepts, without using jargon
  • Patience and empathy when talking to laypersons, with an emphasis on answering questions and ensuring comprehension
  • Genuine passion for the field is a plus

Why this matters

From evolving regulations to automation and artificial intelligence, there are many factors that could disrupt or change the work that tax professionals do. It’s good to know whether your candidate keeps up to date with industry trends and is willing to learn new things as their role evolves.

What to listen for

  • Awareness of how their role might evolve over time and a willingness to adapt
  • Evidence that the candidate stays abreast of industry news and trends
  • A positive yet grounded outlook on future technologies and trends is a plus