The Accounting Interview: Questions That Test Emotional IQ


Your potential employee looks great on paper, but do they have the self-awareness, empathy and social skills to be a valuable member of your team. Questions that measure technical fit often take priority in an accounting interview. Fair enough, but questions that test emotional intelligence are equally important. After all, the wrong hire can come with a high cost, and not just to your budget.

Question 1: Describe a time when you had to solve a problem under pressure. What was your process? What was the outcome?
Top performers have several key differentiators, and one of them is how they manage challenges under pressure. In fact, “90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in pressurized situations in order to remain calm and in control” (From an article entitled “Why Emotional Intelligence is More Important to Hiring Than You Think.”).

Question 2: If you were leading a team and business priorities changed, how would you implement the shift?
This question tests your candidate’s communication style and empathy. Does your candidate understand how shifting business priorities can affect a team? How do they communicate the shift? How flexible is their thinking?

Question 3: What skill or area of expertise do you feel that you are missing?
The way a candidate answers this question will help you measure their self-awareness. Great candidates are always looking to grow and are comfortable discussing a skill gap, and how they plan to address it.

Question 4: Tell me about a day when things did not go as planned. What did you do?
Motivation, grit and resilience are hallmarks of a great hire. Look for candidates who show calm in the face of chaos. You want someone who is solutions-focused, owns their mistakes and grows from them.

Read: Performance Traits and Hiring Decisions” to learn which emotional intelligence traits differentiate an average hire from a great one.

Question 5: Can you teach me how to (insert a process the candidate should understand) as if I’ve never heard it before?
A strong candidate will check-in with you as the explanation progresses. For example, “Is what I’m saying making sense?” Test your candidate by asking questions that show a lack of understanding. Does your candidate reveal impatience in their facial expression or body language, or do they ask questions to gather information about why you’re confused and how to make it better?

Question 6: If you were to start a company, what kind of people would you hire and why?
This question will help you determine how aligned your candidate is with your organization’s values. It will also show if they will mesh with your existing team. Finally, if the candidate explains that they would hire people with complementary skill sets and then articulates what those skills are, award bonus points. Your candidate has just shown a high degree of self-awareness.

Emotional intelligence is about an individual’s self-awareness, motivation, empathy and social skills. It plays a key role in defining the success of your hire and as such should be evaluated in your accounting interview.

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