Published On : August 24, 2010
If you've scored an interview for a staff auditor position, you're obviously well qualified on paper. You've got the GPA, the extracurricular activities or a solid resume of financial experience. The interview, however, is a completely different ballgame. Audit is a common training ground for graduates breaking into public accounting, but it's also a target for experienced accountants who are transferring from industry positions or from other CPA firms.
It's important to thoroughly prepare yourself before meeting with accounting professionals. This means practicing common interview questions, researching the company's products and services and fine-tuning your physical appearance. Hiring managers tend to focus on academic experiences when interviewing junior associates, whereas experienced accounting professionals should be ready to discuss their compliance knowledge, past projects and scope of practice. Audit work, in particular, is highly regulated and very client focused, so here are a few specific staff auditor interview tips to improve your candidacy.
Staff Auditor Interview Tips
Highlight Your Personality and Soft Skills: A lot of people think accountants are stuffy and introverted. This is far from the truth, particularly within the assurance sector. As an auditor, you are held to a high degree of professionalism. As an interviewee, you'll be expected to communicate with finesse, assertiveness and an overall pleasant demeanor. If you're interviewing as an entry-level candidate, be prepared to discuss previous school activities, community involvement and even personal interests. Hiring managers will want to know about past leadership roles and how you went about accomplishing personal goals. Unlike tax associates, auditors have much more client interaction. They spend a large portion of their days on site away from the office. The more personality you showcase in your interview, the more confidence you'll gain from partners.
Express Your Passion for Teamwork. This is one of the most important staff auditor interview tips. Again, assurance is much more collaborative than tax. High-profile firms typically work on high-profile audits for major corporations, and you may find yourself working with the same team for an entire six-month engagement. Furthermore, not all clients will offer you a large, fancy meeting space. When you're packed into a cramped break room every day with five other associates, you need to be a team player and someone whom others enjoy being around. Therefore, it's important to make this a key discussion point when you're interviewing at firms. You may be asked to describe how you handled a previous disagreement or a particular team member who wasn't carrying weight.
Ask About Travel: As a staff auditor, you may be on location with clients for much of the year. For major firms, this could mean both domestic and international assignments, whereas regional firms may only require periodic overnight stays. Even internal audit departments at corporations may require travel, and your willingness to be mobile can have a big impact on the hiring decision.
Show Up Ready to Talk Compliance: Senior associates should have a firm knowledge of and experience with GAAP, FASB and SEC reporting. Likewise, most junior associates are fresh out of school or CPA prep and should be competent with issues related to compliance.
Inquire About Growth Opportunities: Never shy away from questions about advancement. In fact, many firms will actually pay for your CPA prep course and licensing fees. Moreover, the accounting profession has a clear hierarchy, particular in the public arena. Partners don't expect you to stay a junior associate for long, and even senior associates should inquire about continuing education opportunities and the company's typical progression structure.
Always Do Your Research Beforehand: This applies to audit work and the accounting profession as a whole. Companies don't look too highly on candidates who know next to nothing about the organization they are applying for, so be sure to spend some time on the firm's website. Research employee profiles on LinkedIn, and show up prepared with thoughtful questions about the business. Skill level is only part of the holistic selection process, especially in public accounting. A hiring manager will want to know what drew you to the firm and how well you would fit in with the culture of the organization.
Accounting is a dynamic field, and these staff auditor interview tips can help you display what partners and department managers are looking for in long-term candidates.