Has your accounting firm’s customer base grown to the point that it’s now difficult to keep up with everyone’s books? Are you and the other accountants completely dispersed due to the workload? Well, first off, congratulations on the growth and success of your business. Now is the time to be proactive and hire a new accountant to avoid burnout and turnover in your ranks. The last thing you want right now is for your accounting practice to fall victim to the “big quit” that plagues so many other businesses these days.
From my experience as CEO and founder of CMA Exam Academy—a Certified Management Accountant exam exam program—and as a CMA, I’ve discovered how crucial asking the right questions is in identifying star candidates during the interview process. It is so important to go beyond the usual generic questions related to previous work experience. To hire the best candidate for your accounting firm, be über-strategic by asking these three questions.
How do you manage your personal finances?
The accountant you end up hiring will be responsible for managing the financial health of the people and/or companies your business represents, so it’s important that you know how they manage their own finances. You wouldn’t want to hire someone who can’t explain how they’re managing their own current financial situation and investing for future growth, because how could they explain to clients how they’re optimizing their financial health? Therefore, this is a great question to ask in interviews, as each answer will show the level of attention to detail and care that comes with being an accountant.
As each candidate answers this question, think about their philosophical view of money management and the kinds of systems they have in place to keep their own finances in check. For example, a candidate may talk a lot about their love for investing in the stock market or saving money for retirement. Or maybe the candidate talks about fun and innovative software they use to set up and stick to the budget each month. It is relevant to see how much they focus and plan their own finances; this can be indicative of the level of care they will take in accounting for your film’s clients.
If you had enough money to buy a car, would you buy it or finance it instead?
This question shows how each candidate approaches risk tolerance and investment, two major aspects of most accounting positions. If an applicant says they would buy the car with cash, it shows they have a low tolerance for risk; they want to buy the whole car right away because they can potentially save thousands of dollars by not having to be tied down to a one-year interest-bearing loan. They are also concerned about possible unforeseen events that could adversely affect their future financial situation.
Now, if an applicant says they would take out a loan or otherwise finance the vehicle, that shows they have a higher risk tolerance and are more comfortable making large investments at long term. The key here is whether they would take out a loan because they think they could get a better return on their money by investing it instead of putting it all into a depreciating asset like a car. This type of candidate would be a great fit for any accounting firm that places a high value on investment for long-term growth and future value projections.
If you could have filled the position of your previous boss, what would you have done differently to manage someone in your place today?
This question will reveal a lot about each candidate. First, it will show their management style preference. The candidate can share that if he had had his former boss’s job, he would have given someone in his position today much more freedom with his projects and never micromanaged. Or they can share that they would have implemented a much deeper onboarding period with extensive training for each new team member and would still have given very detailed instructions for each project. It’s important to analyze these responses because you’ll see if their management preferences match those of your business.
This question will also reveal the general working style of the candidate. If they say they would have given someone much more freedom in their place today and never would have micromanaged, that tells you that the candidate is self-reliant and wants autonomy in their work. But if they say that they would have given extensive training and detailed instructions for all projects, it means that the candidate appreciates order and following established protocols. Again, ask yourself if their working style would mesh well with that of you and the other accountants in your firm.
Their answer to this question could also reveal the value they place on teamwork, the freedom to choose their work situation (in-office, hybrid or fully remote) and company culture. For example, they may say they would have helped someone in their place today bond with their team members by hosting fun company meetings. Or they can say that they would have let someone in their place today work from home if they felt it maximized their productivity and job performance. So pay close attention to their answers, as this information will really show what having this person working at your company would look like.
To wrap it all up
Asking strategic questions will help you find star candidates when interviewing for a new accountant at your firm. Be sure to ask candidates the above three questions during their interviews, as they will reveal valuable insights into how they would manage your company’s client finances and their approach to risk tolerance and safety. investment. These questions will also reveal their management preferences, working styles, the importance they place on company culture and much more. Now go ahead and find a fantastic new accountant for your firm!
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.
Nathan Liao is the founder and CEO of CMA Exam Academy. As a CMA and CMA Coach, Nathan mentors accounting and finance professionals in over 80 countries to achieve their CMA certification in as little as eight months.
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