Here’s the One Interview Question an Accounting Manager Dreads, and How to Answer It

Preparing for an Accounting Manager Interview

Interviewing for an Accounting Manager job is stressful. With the current economic situation and high unemployment, the pressure to perform in an interview may be greater than usual.

As competition for accounting manager jobs is fierce, you need to work harder than ever to stand out. Preparing for your interview is key – whether a virtual interview or in-person.

There’s always that one question that Accounting Manager candidates dread. A question that appears impossible to answer – because however you answer is filled with risk. What question is it that is so often answered poorly? And how can you craft an answer that will impress the hiring manager so much that they may want to offer you the job immediately?

What Companies Are Looking for in Accounting Managers

Before we jump into the question and how to answer it, it’s important to understand what companies are looking for in their accounting manager.

Not all Accounting Manager roles are the same. The responsibilities, role, software used, and much more can vary from company to company. Typically, an accounting manager’s responsibilities may include:

  • Coordinating monthly, quarterly, and year-end GAAP consolidated financial statements
  • Performing detailed reviews of monthly corporate financial workbooks and the accompanying financial statements
  • Managing inter-company processes, allocations, and eliminations
  • Treasury functions including bank account set up, etc.
  • Manage chart of accounts as well as job cost categories and jobs
  • Managing budget process including consolidated budget
  • Supervising Accounting staff

Understanding the key elements of the role for which you are applying is crucial to answering the dreaded question successfully – and all other interview questions you may face.

The Dreaded Interview Question

When preparing for your Accounting Manager interview you have probably mulled over the possible questions you may be asked. One that most candidates find particularly nerve-wracking is:

Give me an example of a time that you made a mistake that damaged a relationship. What did you do to rectify the situation? What did you learn?

This is a competency-based interview question. These types of questions are popular with hiring managers as they help establish if you can carry out the role.

Why is this a difficult question to answer?

If this question fills you with fear, it’s understandable. It’s a question that makes the best candidates fumble. Talking about your mistakes and failures seems like exactly the opposite of what you want to do in an interview. After all, aren’t you trying to impress the hiring manager?

It may seem counter-intuitive to talk about mistakes and failures, but, in reality, this will help demonstrate to the hiring manager your level of self-awareness – and that’s important in management roles.

How should you answer this question?

Everyone makes mistakes. You should formulate your response to show that you are aware of your past errors and have developed positively because of them.

You need to find a good middle ground for your answer. You don’t want to come across as though you are perfect and don’t make mistakes. No one is that perfect. However, you also won’t want to appear to be prone to errors and repeating them.

A great tip for preparing your answer is to familiarize yourself with the STAR method. STAR stands for:

  • Situation: The background your interviewer needs to know to build a picture for the story.
  • Task: What role did you take on?
  • Action: The action you took to address the situation.
  • Result: What was the outcome?

To answer the question, you first need to think about a mistake you made that affected one of your internal relationships. Then think about your responsibilities in the situation. It is always better to admit that you know where your fault was rather than try and pass the blame to a colleague or other party.

From here, the most important thing to share is how you were aware of the mistake and the actions you took to rectify the situation. You can then go on to share what you learned from the experience and how your future behavior changed to ensure you did not make the same mistake again.

To Sum Up

Interviews are tough. Especially for Accounting Manager jobs. However, understanding the role you are applying for and preparing answers to likely questions will help your confidence in the interview room. You’ll be able to relax and show the real you, and why you are the best candidate for the role.

Be humble enough to admit you aren’t infallible, but simultaneously demonstrate that you learn from mistakes and adapt your working practices to continuously improve your performance.

For help finding your next Accounting Manager role, submit your resume to 6 Degrees.

Take the next step in your job search today