5 Valuable Government Accountant Interview Tips


You’ve spent a lot of time building up your skill set and crafting the perfectly worded resume. It has finally paid off with a call from the human resources department. You have been invited to interview for the position. If things go well, you could end up with the job you have always wanted. Moving your career forward is the ultimate goal, but there is a lot of competition. You will need to make a good impression and stand out from the rest to ensure your application moves along to the next level of the hiring process.

Most federal government accountant job interviews are behavioral based. That means you will be given a set of hypothetical questions that describe common situations. You will need to describe ways that you have responded in the past or ways you think you might respond in the future. The person conducting the interview is looking for more than just the right answer, making government accountant interview tips a must.

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Government Accountant Interview Tips

Use Your Qualifications to Demonstrate Organization and Communication: Your potential employer has already seen your list of college degree, certifications, and licenses. Now that you are in the interview, you can reinforce these qualifications while showing off your organizational and communication abilities. Have all of your personal and professional information neatly arranged and ready to present, and discuss your college degree as well as any licensing you may have. If you are a certified public accountant, talk about how you prepared for your exams. If your focus of study in college was something other than accounting, like business administration or mathematics, make sure you are ready to describe how your alternative education further benefits the agency.

Know the Details About the Agency: A government accountant job is unlike working as a bookkeeper for a private company. The funding comes primarily from taxpayers, and there are a host of regulations that you will be expected to become familiar with. Special laws may apply, and an agency can be audited or assessed for compliance. Research news articles, and be familiar with recent legislation that impacts the agency you are interviewing for. You should know the overall mission of the agency, its service region, and who the directors are required to answer to. Oftentimes, a public record of expenses and funds is published for the public to review. Research this information prior to your interview to help you develop intelligent questions to ask, and to help you to anticipate any unique questions the interviewer may throw your way.

Be Ready to Demonstrate Your Technical Skills: While advanced mathematics are not necessary for most accounting positions, speed and accuracy are essential. Basic calculations ought to become second nature for most bookkeeping professionals, but during an interview, your nerves can distract you. Practice making quick calculations under stress so that you are prepared to respond with confidence if a math problem is presented to you. Getting the right answer isn’t always the point; you need to be able to respond with confidence while under pressure.

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Describe Your Moral Character: A government agency must work under the scrutiny of the public, but this doesn’t mean that fraud and theft do not occur. For this reason, testing the moral character of any government accountant applicant is essential. You may be asked to solve a moral dilemma. Everyone knows not to steal or lie to an investigator, but hesitating or refusing to answer a portion of the question can send the wrong signal to your interviewer. You should already know the standards of ethics for accountants, but be ready to deal with hypothetical questions that challenge your preconceived ideas.

Insist on Discussing Advancement: An interview is a time for you to ask questions as well. Develop questions that drive at your future in the agency. Find out specifically what kind of professional experience you will be able to build. Will you be working as a general accountant, or will there be high profile reports or audits you will be involved with? Is there an opportunity to work with the agency leaders to build financial strategies or long-term plans? Eventually you want to advance your career, and you need to make it clear from the beginning that the job you accept will provide you with the opportunity to do that.

Clearly communicate your confidence and professional capabilities to have the best chance of continuing in the selection process. Know as much as you can before the interview begins, and demonstrate to the hiring managers that you are the best fit for the role with these government accountant interview tips.