Common Interview Questions – And How You Should Answer Them

Whether you’re a current student applying for internships or a recent graduate looking to start your career, you’ll have to nail your interviews to get the job.

At Froehling Anderson, we work with dozens of interns to get them ready for the interview process. As you pursue your internship opportunities or job, use these tips on how to answer those common interview questions. With a little extra prep work, you can make the impression you need to land the job.

“What are your strengths?”

Come prepared to share with the employer your strengths, along with an example of how you were able to use your strengths in a specific work or school assignment. This question is as much about storytelling as it is about relaying your experience. How well do you deliver information and make real-world connections? Can you relate the content you’ve learned in the classroom to real-life experiences? This is also an opportunity to get specific as well — as a CPA, what area(s) do you excel at?

“What are your weaknesses?”

This is the classic “trick question” of any job interview. The purpose of this question is to gauge your self-awareness and your desire to improve. That said, you want to strike a balance between pure honesty and capability. You don’t want to share a weakness that could disqualify you from the role — like “being late.”

Instead, choose weaknesses that won’t impede your role and emphasize how you are improving on those weaknesses. Examples could be fear of public speaking, too detail-oriented or trouble with delegation. All of these are weaknesses that you can improve on, so explain what you’re doing to work on them. For instance, if public speaking is not your strength, tell your interviewer about how you’ve recently volunteered to host a webinar with a classmate.

“Tell me about yourself.”

Try to keep this to work related details and accomplishments, like how you tutor younger students in accounting topics or that you are actively involved in your school’s accounting club. However, more employers are interested in their employees’ lives and interests outside of work, so you can also share any hobbies or interests you have. You never know, you may have a common interest with your interviewer that may help them remember you! Don’t get too personal, however. It’s best to avoid religion, politics and other contentious topics.

“Tell us why we should hire you.”

Be confident, yet humble. Never compare yourself to others, simply outline the value the company would receive by hiring you. Let them know that you want the job. This is where you should put the research you’ve done on the company to good use. Think about the company culture of the organization and how you would fit in.

“What are your career goals?”

Make sure that your career goals sound as if you want to advance within the organization that you are interviewing for. If it sounds like the job you’re interviewing for is just a stepping stone to a career outside of the organization, you won’t get the position. If you’re honestly not sure what role you would want to advance to in the future, that’s an acceptable answer as well — employers like young and motivated employees who are flexible and willing to learn. Focus on those attributes to make it clear that you’re willing to try new things to find your niche.

“What motivates you?”

Refrain from saying money, time off or other benefits. Instead, list out things like company culture, learning new things, being challenged and so on. Remember with this question that it’s “what motivates you at work,” so keep your answers related to the job.

“Do you prefer working on a team or alone?”

You should always answer this in a way that shows that you can work in any situation that is required to get the job done. Give examples of how you’ve had to work both independently and on a team. Even so, it’s okay to lean one way more than the other as long as you have specific examples. For instance, you may say that you prefer to work independently so that you can come to a group well-prepared and ready to collaborate. Alternatively, you may say you prefer working in groups because you do your best brainstorming when around your colleagues.

“Tell us about a time that you had to resolve a conflict with a co-worker.”

This is not the time to give the details about some slug that you had to work with. Instead, come prepared to share a conflict situation and how it was resolved or what you learned from it. When telling the story, avoid falling into the trap of you as hero vs. co-worker as villain. Instead, approach it from the perspective of two people with different perspectives learning to work together.

“How do you handle stress?”

Come prepared to share a story of a stressful situation and how you were able to get through it. Additionally, share any stress-busting methods that you use during busy times. This could be things like breathing exercises, taking a 5-minute walking break or listening to calming music. Accountants run into stressful situations — especially around tax season — so your potential employer is looking to see if you recognize this and how you cope.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

Do research on the company prior to your interview and prepare a list of questions. You should create your list based off of who you are interviewing with, such as your potential manager, a coworker or human resources. If you come with a good list of questions, you will leave a positive impression. Some great questions to add to your list include:

For your potential manager:

  • What is your management style?
  • What would my day-to-day role look like?
  • What qualities, traits or habits should someone have to be successful in this role?

For a coworker:

  •  How would you describe the company culture?
  • What is your favorite part of working here?
  • What tips do you have for someone who is just starting here?

For human resources:

  • What career advancement opportunities does this company have?
  • Can you tell me about the company’s benefits?
  • What is the salary range for this position?

General Interview Tips for Accountants

When answering any interview question, always stay positive and never speak poorly of another employee or employer. Watch your body language and make sure that you listen to the interviewer. It’s okay to pause before you answer a question and it’s also acceptable to ask the question again.

If you are not happy with how you’ve answered a question, don’t let that throw you off. Most people being interviewed don’t have perfect answers throughout the interview, so shake it off and be prepared to answer the next question. Don’t try to dodge a question; answer all questions to the best of your ability and never lie in an interview.

Before every interview, practice answering the basic questions. Think about examples to share that will help paint a picture of the type of work performance you’ll bring to the job.

Lastly, give yourself a pep talk before the interview to help yourself be more confident and prepared.

Expand Your Horizons with a Career at Froehling Anderson

Whether you’re looking for your first job out of college or in search of a firm to better align with your career goals, we invite you to explore our testimonials, read about our opportunities, and get to know our culture.

From our mentoring program to our cross-team collaborations, we support each other in delivering outstanding client service, energized and delighted to help our clients reach and exceed their goals.