Accounting Clerks perform bookkeeping and administrative tasks to support your company’s financial department. Their job duties require confidentiality, excellent organization, and fluent communication. In addition to being accounting professionals, the successful candidate must also be skilled at a variety of clerical tasks and office management.
Your ideal Accounting Clerk will be comfortable working with deadlines and always be able to identify the key features of any task. Their accounting abilities will mesh with organizational skills, and you will be able to trust them with not only collecting and filing data but also writing reports, preparing financial documents and researching information. Look for real-world accounting experience and superb customer service skills.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests, and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Accounting Clerk interview questions to help you get started:
1. Introduce yourself and your qualifications for this position.
What you want to hear: A good Accounting Clerk is always prepared; strong candidates are professionals who thrive on detail and efficiency, meaning they are able to quickly and thoroughly cover their relevant background. Responses should touch upon analytical skills, accounting practices, software knowledge, attention to detail and excellent communication.
Red flag: In any field, being able to clearly articulate one’s own qualifications demonstrates research and self-awareness. Candidates who miss key points may be inexperienced or lack understanding of the role and what it entails.
2. A client asks you to perform a task within the scope of your job, but you’ve never done it before. How do you proceed?
What you want to hear: Accounting Clerks hold an important and multifaceted position, and some tasks may not have been on their radar before now. Candidates should be comfortable asking for clarification from clients and assistance from others in their department as well as managers and other supervisors.
Red flag: Every work task is an opportunity to show one’s commitment to your company and your clients. This question helps gauge a candidate’s insight and determine how well they can communicate with both clients and colleagues. A candidate who doesn’t find it necessary to ask for clarification or assistance when needed could miss vital pieces of information or complete the task incorrectly, leading to company-wide losses.
3. What are some tools you use every day as an Accounting Clerk?
What you want to hear: Listen for basic accounting software proficiency with tools such as Quickbooks, Freshbooks, or Xero. Additionally, more general administrative tools like Microsoft Office programs like Word, PowerPoint and Excel are all industry-standards and important in daily tasks. Email, G-Suite and Quickbooks are also noteworthy.
Red flag: Computer literacy and technological know-how is more important than ever in today’s workplace. As companies continually rely more on cloud data and digital records, a candidate must be able to comfortably use all the most popular programs and seamlessly keep online data organized. Be wary of candidates who cannot name office programs or explain a time when they’ve utilized them.
4. What core competencies do you believe you can bring to our company as an Accounting Clerk?
What you want to hear: Confidence, not arrogance, is key to this question. Answers will vary, but high-quality responses will tie into an Accounting Clerk’s role and be supported by an example of how the strength is used in the workplace. These answers may range across various competencies such as managing tight deadlines, maintaining client accountability, conflict deescalation tactics, or accuracy in data reporting and cataloging.
Red flag: Strengths are something personal but demonstrable; a candidate who is too vague may not be as qualified as they claim, and those who seem unable to list any defining characteristics or skills may lack ambition or experience.
5. What do you do if a high-profile client provided you with financial information that you discovered to be exaggerated?
What you want to hear: Accounting must be rooted in accuracy, honesty and ethics. Regardless of a client’s stature, an Accounting Clerk can never falsify information or write reports that they know are not financially accurate. Discussing the figures with a department accountant and reaching out to the client are ideal actions to take and show the candidate’s dedication to integrity and professionalism.
Red flag: One of the core principles of financial professionals is to promote financial accountability. Clients may seek documentation that is inaccurate for their own benefit, and it is the professional’s job to point this out. Not seeing a problem with inaccurate data completely defies the nature of the position.
6. How do you protect client information and maintain confidentiality?
What you want to hear: Financial information should be protected, and an Accounting Clerk must know how to do that. They should never disclose information to third-parties, only access information through secured platforms, and store paper records in locked file cabinets.
Red flag: A breach of confidentiality can result in serious legal consequences. Candidates who do not express the importance of protecting the security of the company and its customers pose a major liability risk; if a candidate has not worked with confidential information, they should still mention steps they would take to protect data and express a willingness to go through training.
7. How do you prioritize important and daily tasks?
What you want to hear: The ideal candidate will understand the importance of task lists, prioritization and differentiation of daily assignments, and tasks associated with tight client deadlines. Accounting Clerks must have effective communication with colleagues and managers in the event of changing deadlines or new tasks that may arise within the department and occasionally engage in multitasking to meet those requirements.
Red flag: A candidate who does not know how to structure their day is likely to overlook details and frequently miss deadlines. Knowing how to stay on-task and ask for clarification when needed is also vital to preventing burnout or sloppy mistakes, which is likely to occur if an employee doesn’t know how to effectively manage their responsibilities.
8. What is your familiarity with audits and reconciliations?
What you want to hear: Technical questions like these help you determine a candidate’s level of experience. There are strong candidates who may not have direct experience, but they should express their knowledge of the topics and a desire to learn new skills.
Red flag: If a candidate demonstrates a limited understanding of audits and reconciliations consider probing into other relevant areas as well. Although Accounting Clerks are not always at the forefront of various activities, their exposure to such activities can reduce future training needs.
9. What is the difference between Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR)?
What you want to hear: AP and AR are fundamental accounting principles, and knowing how to distinguish and manage both is important to job success. Accounts Payable refers to the amount of money a company owes while Accounts Receivable are assets that a company is entitled to based on sales or services they have provided to customers.
Red flag: Unfamiliarity with basic accounting terminology will lead to misunderstanding of job responsibilities and impact work performance. It’s important to test candidates on elementary concepts to ensure individuals are as educated and qualified as they claim to be.
10. What are the essential elements of a good invoice?
What you want to hear: Invoices establish a client’s financial obligation to pay the company for goods or services they have received. Small businesses are especially reliant on invoices to ensure the company is paid for the work it produces. An invoice should always include the name of the customer, the date of purchases or services, the deadline for payment and the total amount due.
Red flag: Invoices are some of the simplest and most important documents that an Accounting Clerk may produce on a daily basis. Inexperience with them can lead to financial loss and inaccurate reporting.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Accounting Clerk position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Are familiar with industry software like Quickbooks, Microsoft Word and Excel.
- Can clearly discuss financial data and related subjects in layman’s terms.
- Understand the best practices in accounting.
- Possess excellent numeracy, organization and strong communication skills.