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Certified Public Accountant (CPA) interview questions and answers

Use these sample Certified Public Accountant (CPA) interview questions to test candidates’ skills as part of your hiring process.

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

10 good certified public accountant interview questions

  1. If you missed the deadline for paying our company’s taxes, what would you do? How would you inform your manager if we had to pay a fine, in this case?
  2. How would you help a manager decide if an investment was a good idea?
  3. How would you set up an internal control system for processing invoices?
  4. If you had to explain a financial procedure to a non-financial audience, how would you ensure they understand all the details? For example, tell us in plain terms about the process of preparing a department’s budget.
  5. What accounting software have you used? What features increase your productivity?
  6. How do you check large datasheets for accuracy?
  7. Describe your familiarity with accounting standards such as FASB and GAAP.
  8. What information and tools do you need to create an annual tax return forecast?
  9. Where and how do you use discounted cash flow (DCF)?
  10. What is your role in the month-end closing process?

Here are 10 essential interview questions and sample answers to help identify the best candidates for this role.

1. If you missed the deadline for paying our company’s taxes, what would you do? How would you inform your manager if we had to pay a fine, in this case?

This question assesses the candidate’s problem-solving skills and their ability to handle stressful situations.

Sample answer:

“First, I’d verify the reason for the oversight. Then, I’d immediately communicate the situation to my manager, outlining the potential consequences and suggesting a plan of action. Transparency and promptness are key in such situations.”

2. How would you help a manager decide if an investment was a good idea?

This question evaluates the candidate’s analytical skills and their ability to provide financial advice.

Sample answer:

“I’d start by conducting a thorough financial analysis, considering ROI, potential risks, and market trends. I’d then present my findings in a clear and concise manner, providing both pros and cons, to help the manager make an informed decision.”

3. How would you set up an internal control system for processing invoices?

This question tests the candidate’s knowledge of internal controls and their ability to implement efficient processes.

Sample answer:

“I’d begin by mapping the current process, identifying any gaps or inefficiencies. Then, I’d implement a system where invoices are reviewed by multiple parties, use automated software for tracking, and regularly audit the process for compliance.”

4. If you had to explain a financial procedure to a non-financial audience, how would you ensure they understand all the details? For example, tell us in plain terms about the process of preparing a department’s budget.

This question gauges the candidate’s communication skills and their ability to simplify complex topics.

Sample answer:

“I’d break down the process into simple steps, avoiding jargon. For a department’s budget, I’d explain it as planning our spending, much like planning household expenses, ensuring we have enough for necessities and saving for future projects.”

5. What accounting software have you used? What features increase your productivity?

This question assesses the candidate’s familiarity with accounting tools and their ability to use technology to enhance efficiency.

Sample answer:

“I’ve used QuickBooks and SAP. Features like automated invoice processing, real-time financial reporting, and integration with other business tools have significantly increased my productivity.”

6. How do you check large datasheets for accuracy?

This question probes the candidate’s meticulousness and their approach to ensuring data integrity.

Sample answer:

“I use a combination of software tools for automated checks and manual sampling methods. Regular audits and cross-referencing with other data sources also help in ensuring accuracy.”

7. Describe your familiarity with accounting standards such as FASB and GAAP.

This question assesses the candidate’s knowledge of key accounting standards.

Sample answer:

“I’ve been working with GAAP standards throughout my career and have attended several workshops on FASB updates. Staying updated with these standards is crucial for accurate financial reporting.”

8. What information and tools do you need to create an annual tax return forecast?

This question evaluates the candidate’s foresight and planning skills.

Sample answer:

“I’d need historical tax return data, current financial statements, any anticipated financial changes, and tax planning software to create an accurate forecast.”

9. Where and how do you use discounted cash flow (DCF)?

This question tests the candidate’s knowledge of financial valuation methods.

Sample answer:

“I use DCF primarily for investment appraisal and business valuation. It helps in determining the present value of expected future cash flows, providing a clearer picture of potential investment returns.”

10. What is your role in the month-end closing process?

This question delves into the candidate’s experience with crucial accounting processes.

Sample answer:

“I oversee the reconciliation of accounts, ensure all financial transactions are recorded, and collaborate with different departments to finalize financial statements. I also address any discrepancies that arise.”

What does a good Certified Public Accountant candidate look like?

A competent CPA possesses a strong foundation in accounting principles, is detail-oriented, and has excellent analytical skills. They should also demonstrate ethical judgment, effective communication skills, and a commitment to continuous learning in the ever-evolving financial landscape.

Red flags

Beware of candidates who lack attention to detail, are unfamiliar with standard accounting software, or have difficulty explaining complex financial concepts in simple terms. A reluctance to adhere to ethical standards or a history of frequent job changes might also be concerning.



Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Interview Questions

Certified Public Accountants (CPA) perform general financial transactions, monitor bookkeeping activities and conduct regular audits to make sure documents, expenditures and investments are accurate.

Ideal candidates for this role will hold an Accounting or Finance degree along with a CPA certification. They’ve also previously worked as Senior Accountants or in similar roles. When interviewing, test candidates’ knowledge of accounting software that you use. It’s useful if candidates have hands-on experience with relevant tools, as they will easily be able to get up to speed on your software.

Beyond thorough knowledge of accounting and budgeting procedures, your candidates should be team-oriented, since they’ll collaborate with various departments and partners. Individuals who meet deadlines and keep organized records of financial documents will stand out.

Let’s summarize some of the questions and add a few more divided into specific types.

Operational and Situational questions

  • If you missed the deadline for paying our company’s taxes, what would you do? How would you inform your manager if we had to pay a fine, in this case?
  • How would you help a manager decide if an investment was a good idea?
  • How would you set up an internal control system for processing invoices?
  • If you had to explain a financial procedure to non-financial audience, how would you ensure they understand all the details? For example, tell us in plain terms about the process of preparing a department’s budget.

Role-specific questions

  • What accounting software have you used? What features increase your productivity?
  • How do you check large datasheets for accuracy?
  • Describe your familiarity with accounting standards such as FASB and GAAP.
  • What information and tools do you need to create an annual tax return forecast?
  • Where and how do you use discounted cash flow (DCF)?
  • What is your role in the month-end closing process?

Behavioral questions

  • Describe a time when you helped your company or a client decrease costs.
  • How do you keep up with tax law changes?
  • Recall a time you analyzed financial risks and prevented senior executives from making a bad investment.
  • How do you stay motivated while doing repetitive tasks, like processing invoices?
  • Describe a time when your attention to detail saved you from making a mistake at work (e.g. in a report.)

Frequently asked questions

Ready to fine-tune this interview kit?
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