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Competency Based Interview Questions for Accountants in 2020

Based on the increased accountant recruitment activity we’ve seen in the past month, there’s a fair chance many of you have shortlisted promising candidates about now and getting interviews arranged.

Before deciding which interview questions to ask, an employer of accountants needs to know what they are looking for.  Luckily for you, that work has been done by the collective might of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA), who put considerable research into what makes an effective accountant in a world shifting from compliance to advisory work.

The ACCA identified 7 core competencies associated with success in a changing accounting world.

So, what are the most effective interview questions to use to uncover whether your accountant candidate is likely to perform in a changed world?

They won’t be the questions you were using a few years ago, so click through to get interview questions specifically for accountants in 2020 from Lominger, the world’s most well-respected developers of quality competency/behavioural interview questions:

Competency Based Interviewing Checklist

Before we run through the competency interview questions, let’s quickly review what competency-based interviewing is and whether you need support in delivering this technique.

This method is hardly new but remains the most highly rated interview technique in structuring interviews to get consistent results and is based on the premise that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

The core element is to insist that candidates provide you with specific examples of actual experiences and to avoid hypothetical scenarios and generalisations at all costs.

If you are not trained in Competency or Behavioural Interview Techniques, we strongly recommend that you bring someone who is onto your recruitment panel until you get trained and comfortable.

1. Technical & Ethical 

The skills and abilities to perform activities consistently to a defined standard”


  • Tell me about a time when your professional integrity as an accountant was tested by a client or colleague.
    • How did you react to the situation?
    • How did you explain the risk to the client or colleague?
    • What did you learn from the experience?


  • How do you keep up to date with accounting technical knowledge?
    • Describe your most recent improvement in technical knowledge

Interviewing people on how good they are technically is never as good as asking them to prove their technical competence.  Take a look at for a suite of accounting technical tests to add to your selection process


2. Intelligence

“The ability to acquire and use knowledge: thinking, reasoning and solving problems”.

  • When you and your peers work on difficult problems, where do you usually come in the order of getting it?
  • Have you ever worked for a boss who was not intellectually strong?  How did you handle the situation?  What challenges did you face?
  • What has been one of the most difficult concepts or initiatives you have had to develop, sell and then implement?  Why?
  • What is the toughest, purely intellectual problem that you have solved?

3. Creativity

“The ability to use existing knowledge in a new situation, to make connections, explore potential outcomes, and generate new ideas”

  • Describe an idea that you came up with that has been successful.
  • How do you test whether a new idea has merit?
    • Tell me about a time when you used this approach
  • Describe a time when you challenged the ideas of others and this led to something new.
  • Tell me about a new work process you came up with to solve an old problem.

4. Digitally Savvy

“Awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices, strategies and culture”

  • Using examples from inside or outside of work, describe what you see as the most cutting edge technologies that you use to your benefit every week
  • Do you see your career threatened by technological advances?
    • What do you intend to do to turn those threats into opportunities?
  • What emerging technologies do you think will have the greatest impact on the accounting industry?

5. Emotional Intelligence

“Ability to identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them”

  • When someone has information that they are nervous about sharing with you, what do you do to ensure you get the full picture?
  • Describe a time when you needed the input of an extremely busy senior manager.  How did you approach the situation?
  • Describe a time you needed to deliver bad news to someone more senior than you.
  • Internal and external customer focus is critical in this role.  Give an example of a time when your internal and external customers were in conflict with the outcome you were trying to provide.

6. Vision

“The ability to predict future trends accurately by extrapolating existing trends and facts and filling the gaps by thinking innovatively”.

  • What would describe as your most innovative achievement?
  • Tell me about a time when you took a good idea from beginning to end.

7. Experience

“The ability and skills to understand customer expectations, meet desired outcomes and create value”

Tell me about a situation where the lack of focus around the customer lost you the business.

What follow-up action did you take?

  • What has been one of the most difficult problems you have handled?
    • How did you solve it?
  • Tell me about a time when you found that a work problem was more than it appeared to be at first.
    • How did you solve it?

Author Bio

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop, and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before jointly setting up Accountests in 2013. Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests for accountants and bookkeepers.


P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways we can help you grow your Accounting or Bookkeeping business:

1. Grab a free copy of our book – Accountants 20-Hour Workweek

It’s the blueprint to structure, staff and scale your firm whilst dramatically reducing your work hours. — Click Here

2. Join the Wize WaterCooler and connect with other Accountants who are scaling too

It’s our new Facebook community where business-minded Accountants and Bookkeepers learn to build a firm that runs without them. — Click Here

3. Join our new WizePulse Implementation Program

We’re putting together a new mentoring case study group this month. If you’d like to get the plan, tools and advice from the Wize Mentors to scale your firm… just send us a message with the word “Pulse” – Click Here

4. Work with the Wize Guys privately

If you’d like to work directly with the Wize Mentor team to take you from stuck to scale…just send us a message with the word “Growth”… tell us a little about your firm and what you’d like help with, and we’ll get you all the details! – Click Here