ACCOUNTANCY PRACTICE INTERVIEW
Try a practice interview for accountancy, answering typical questions and also getting tips on how you should answer. There are also other questions students have been asked at accountancy interviews.
Assessment is by meeting the core competencies. These are the ones used by KPMG
The sort of evidence you could offer includes:
- Practice Interview for Accountancy
- Other questions students have been asked
- Tests given to candidates
- Group exercises
- Tips from interviewees
- Accountancy Careers page (separate page)
- What can I do with my degree in Accountancy? (separate page)
Before your interview make sure that you are well-informed about the firm, the accounting industry and the business world generally:
- Read the finance pages of a good quality broadsheet newspaper for the couple of weeks leading up to the interview;
Accountancy Age www.accountancyage.com and Accounting Web www.accountingweb.co.uk are good for inside information on larger firms and professional developments;
- If you are applying to a small local firm, local newspapers and business development organisations will help you to get to know who the firm’s clients are likely to be and what local issues are affecting them: see our pages on SMEs for some links.
- Also see our Accountancy Careers Page and Interview Reports
- Read your copy of your application form very carefully. Some accountancy application forms for small firms are very short, and if so the interviewer may pick up on every point that you have written about. Even more so than usual answer questions honestly - honesty is essential in the job!
There follow some of the questions that might be asked at interviews for chartered accountancy training contracts. General interview questions are not asked here, so you might also like to try the general or multiple choice interviews as well for standard interview questions that can be thrown at any candidate, also our answers to 150 common interview questions. Click on "First Question" to begin. Think carefully about how you would answer, then click on "Show Answer Tips" to get an idea of how you should be answering.
If you have been to an interview or assessment centre recently please fill in our interview report form to help other students.
- Why do you want to work in corporate tax/audit? (Grant Thornton, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Smith and Williamson, KPMG)
- Why do you want to do accountancy? (Burgess Hodgson)
- Why would you be suited to accountancy? (Burgess Hodgson)
- Why do you want to work in this particular location? (Ernst & Young - tax, Burgess Hodgson)
- Why do you want to work in this city? (KPMG - audit)
- Why do you want to do accountancy? (Burgess Hodgson, Tenon, Mazars, Deloitte)
- Why did you choose our firm rather than other firms? (KPMG - audit, Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton, Baker Tilley, Smith and Williamson, Burgess Hodgson, PWC)
- What do you know about our firm? (KPMG)
- What other firms have you applied to? (Tenon, Deloitte - Tax)
- Have you applied to any other accountancy firms? If so why? (Burgess Hodgson)
- Did you apply for any other big 4 companies? (KPMG - audit)
- Why the big 4? (Deloitte - Tax)
- Questions on the application form. (Ernst and Young) (PWC)
- Why do you want to be an auditor? (KPMG) (PWC)
- What do you want to do as an auditor? (KPMG)
- Why did you not want to become a solicitor? (law graduate)
- What other careers are you considering? (PWC)
- Why did you choose the A-Level subjects/degree subject you did? (Baker Tilley, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Burgess Hodgson, Grant Thornton)
- Why did you choose to study at Kent? (Burgess Hodgson)
- Discussed A Level grades and degree modules. (Tenon)
- Are you satisfied with your academic achievements? (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Why do you have a a grade C at maths? (Burgess Hodgson)
- What module at University was the most difficult? (Mazars)
- How did you prepare for your exams? (Grant Thornton - tax)
- Did I like your course? (Burgess Hodgson)
- What are your interests outside your degree? (Tenon)
- Why would you be an asset to the company? (Baker Tilley - audit)
- What is important in an employee? (Grant Thornton)
- What sort of image do you have? (KPMG - audit)
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? (Tenon)
- How do you see your career progressing? (Ernst & Young - tax, Mazars)
- Family background. (Tenon)
- What work experience has been the most rewarding? (Tenon)
- Questions about extra-curricular activities: music, sport etc. (Burgess Hodgson)
- Most of the questions are covered in the interview booklet and the video in the Careers Service. (PWC)
Most of the questions are related to your application form and some just come out from the conversation you develop. (PWC)
Competency questions. See our page on How to Answer Competency-based Questions
- Describe a situation where you had to work in a group.
- Tell me about a time you have had to work in a team? (BDO)
- Describe a problem you faced while in a team? (Grant Thornton - tax)
- Describe a team project that proved unsuccessful? (Grant Thornton - tax)
- Question on teamwork, your role and how you deal with bad team situation. (Ernst and Young)
The ability of an interviewee to articulate their work experience is more important than the nature of this experience - being aware of competencies developed through casual work and that this IS of interest to employers.
Key messages: apply early, research the firm and the chosen career path and link your experience to the competencies sought.
- What has been your greatest achievement so far? (Mazars, Ernst & Young - tax)
- What has been your greatest obstacle and how did you overcome it? (Mazars)
- Describe a goal you set yourself and how you went about achieving it. (Grant Thornton)
- Questions about how you cope in difficult situations. (Ernst and Young)
- Influencing and persuaion
- Describe a situation where you had to change someone's opinion.
- Describe a situation where you have influenced other people? (Grant Thornton)
- Describe a situation where you have been persuaded to change your mind. (Grant Thornton)
- How someone influenced you when you were deciding about an issue? (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Question about advice given to you, did you take the advice, your immediate reaction to the advice – why, and why or why not you did not take the advice. (Ernst and Young)
- What type of leadership skills have you achieved at school as a class and school prefect? (PWC)
- How would you motivate a group of people who had never worked together before? (Grant Thornton)
- How would you chair a meeting? (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Team-work, leadership questions (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Describe a time when you showed initiative in the workplace. (Grant Thornton)
- Two examples of each competency: planning and organisation, teamwork, initiative. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Questions on teamwork; working under pressure; initiative (Smith and Williamson - tax)
- Tell me about a time when you took a risk.
- Asked on presentations I did and looking back at how I performed, how would I have improved performance. (PWC)
- Name a time you have had to give a presentation. (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Tell me about a time when you delegated.
- Tell me about a time you have had negative criticism
- Give me two examples of where you have been in a situation of conflict, and explain how you choose to do the right thing.
- How I solved a complex problem? (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Give an example of when you worked under pressure? (Grant Thornton - tax)
- Tell me about a time when you've had to compile a project for someone else to look at? (BDO)
- Tell me about a time when you have had to give feedback to someone on something they have done? (BDO)
- Questions about your determination and drive. (Ernst and Young)
Commercial Awareness Questions. See our page on How to answer Commercial Awareness Questions
- What do you know about ACA/ACCA? (Burgess Hodgson)
- What recent stories in the business news have caught your eye?
- Can you discuss any recent developments which have affected our firm and the accounting industry?
- Give a brief explanation on the background to the credit crunch
- What issues may affect Deloitte as a whole? (Deloitte - Tax)
- What do you know about KPMG? (KPMG - audit)
- What differentiates E &Y from its competitors? (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Discuss a business story you have seen in the news recently? (Grant Thornton - tax)
- What has been in news recently that would affect Smith and Williamson? (Smith and Williamson - tax)
- How has accountancy changed over the last ten years? (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Had to do a case study and give a presentation on your findings. How would Baker Tilly be involved in the situation? (Baker Tilley - audit)
- What do you think you need to be a successful accountant? (Tenon)
- What do you think you will be doing in your first year with us?
- Name and discuss a business development that has caught your eye recently. (Grant Thornton)
- What is going on in the commercial world? (PWC)
- Questions relating to current affairs, relating to them. (Ernst and Young)
- We were given a recent newspaper article and asked to read it and give our opinion. (Grant Thornton)
- Asked about the organisation I worked with previously. What would I want to change about it if I was given the chance? (PWC)
Second interviews. See our page on second interviews
- Very similar to first interview. E.g. why I want to work for this firm?
- Questions were more in depth about my abilities. Scenario based questions. (Ernst & Young - tax)
- How I motivate myself? How I exceeded expectations? Can I cope under pressure? (Ernst & Young - tax)
- If I see myself as a partner, involved in a difficult team and how I went about to establish a good team spirit? (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Gained confidence of someone that was not very keen on helping me? (Ernst & Young - tax)
- We were given lunch at second interview. It may appear an informal occasion but don't be deceived. Ask lots of questions and look enthusiastic.
- In the first interview the questions were focused mainly on my application form. Other questions concerned my school life before university, my interest in business, what did I know about the firm and why did I want to work in Tax. (Deloitte)
In the second interview the first 45mins involved a discussion of a business case study, and then developed into more detailed questions regarding team work, current issues that were affecting the firm, and why I had applied to Deloitte (Deloitte)
- In the second interview I was given a business case study. I had 20mins to prepare an overview of the business it concerned, and highlight key areas that I then had to discuss with the partner that my interview was with. After this interview I was taken to lunch by a graduate trainee that had been with the firm for 2 years, this was not a part of the selection process but a chance for me to find out more about the firm. (Deloitte)
Partner interviews with accountancy firms
The final stage of selection will probably be an interview with a partner. This may be more of an informal chat, rather than a structured interview. The main purpose is usually for the partner to see if your personality would fit in well with his or her team, so they may be looking for a friendly, pleasant and easy to work with individual who has a got a sense of humour! One students, who had already done a summer placement working with the partner, said that the partner interview took place by phone with the partner in her conservatory and focused mainly on scuba diving as the student was an expert on this and the partner was shortly going on a holiday where she might do this! Another focused on the student's support for Liverpool FC and a third centered around cricket as the firm's cricket team was short of a good fast bowler!
- The partner interview is similar to the first interview (competency-based questions) but the partners tend to delve a bit deeper and you need to be able to explain your answers in a bit more depth.
- Became more like an informal conversation than an interview: spent 20 minutes talking about downloading music files off the web!
- Second interview was with a partner, seemed a lot less structured than the first interview. More focused on personality, and making sure you genuinely want the position. Why Deloitte, why tax, again, just make sure you have strong reasons, and that you can justify anything you say, be prepared to be able to answer questions about anything you say. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Second interview is tougher and the interviewer is a senior manager or partner, so you have to be prepared and remain up-to-date. I was asked about my previous work experience which was not covered in my first interview. And, the same morning, a government report reviewed the fast food business. As I worked in Burger King I was asked to comment on that. Similarly, questions related to the profession and problems and scams facing it. (PWC)
- What do you want to get out of your career with HW Fisher?
Tests given to candidates. See our practice aptitude tests
- Numerical Reasoning 30 minutes to do 36 questions. Statistics-based: interpreting data from tables and graphs. Calculator provided.
- Verbal reasoning 30 minutes to do 36 questions. Given 9 passages of writing (about 3 paragraphs each) and had to answer four questions on each.
- Numerical and verbal reasoning: SHL tests sat before interview. (Grant Thornton)
- Online numerical and verbal tests prior to interview. Each test lasted 20 minutes. Numerical test consisted of 20 questions involving percentages, graphs and tables. Verbal test consisted of a number of short business related passages. You had answer from true, false, cannot say. (Tenon)
- Online tests prior to interview. Numerical and Verbal. Test results were given at interview. An equal standard mark for both sections is set. Numerical questions: graphs, tables, percentages Verbal questions: business passages. Answer true, false or cannot say. (Mazars)
- Numerical and verbal reasoning tests lasting 30 mins and 20 mins. (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Numerical: sat before interview. (Smith and Williamson - tax)
- Verbal and numerical reasoning sat after application was submitted before first interview. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Numerical and verbal reasoning. Each test lasted 30 minutes. The numerical test involved calculating percentages, interpreting graphs and tables etc. The verbal reasoning test requires you to read a passage of text and then say whether a particular statement is true, false or cannot say using the information in the passage. Bring a calculator for the numerical test. (Grant Thornton - tax)
- Numerical and verbal reasoning took place prior to the first interview. 20minutes each. Numerical was a mixture of percentages, ratios, exchange rates. Similar to other big four tests. Verbal was agree/disagree/cannot say questions. Read the passage slowly and carefully and the answer should be pretty obvious. Don't rush it as some companies negative mark on them, it's probably better to not finish but get all the ones you attempt correct than finish it all but get half wrong. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning. (Ernst and Young)
- Numerical and verbal. Each lasted about 35 minutes. (Deloitte)
- Numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning are sat online, before the first interview. You can also be randomly retested at first interview - so make sure you do them yourself! The numerical was 21 questions in 20 minutes. The verbal was 30 questions in 15 minutes. They are pretty standard questions, you can do practice ones on SHL. (BDO)
- Numerical and verbal reasoning. Numerical lasted 35mins, verbal reasoning lasted 25mins. The numerical test consisted of 35 questions, each relating to graphs or tables, and a typical question would have been to calculate percentages, ratios etc. The verbal test consisted of 10 case studies on which you were asked 48 questions. A statement was given relating to a certain case and you had to say whether the statement was true, false or cannot tell from the information given to you. (Grant Thornton)
- 1st stage: numerical, verbal and personality. 2nd stage: numerical and verbal but much, much tougher. Typical questions are given on www.shldirect.com Numerical – 25 minutes for 28 questions. Diagrammatical – 25 minutes for 28 questions. (PWC)
- Practise numerical and verbal reasoning tests as much as possible. See our practice aptitude tests
Group exercises. See our page on assessment centre exercises
- Had to advise a travel company about the content they should have on their website. Had to pick a company to make the website (1 hour)
- Case Study: this involved reading through a mass of information including graphs and answering four questions. One question was numerical, the others involved extracting answers and forming conclusions from the information given. one hour was allowed and the timing was tight. this was followed by a group discussion on the case study where we had to reach a group consensus.
- We were given some paper, pens, glue and other craft stuff and asked to build a long and creative paper chain. We had 20 minutes to discuss and plan the chain, and then just five minutes to make it. This exercise is marked on two factors: the length of the chain and; the creativity of the chain. If the chain is short but highly decorative, or very long but plain, you will not score full marks: the team must produce a long, and well decorated chain.
- Given background to a 'failing' company (a restaurant chain). There are two different proposals of how to expand/take the business forward and, as a team, you have to decide on the advantages/disadvantages of each option, make a recommendation and say how the firm could help the client in doing all of this.
- At the assessment centre, the most challenging experience was the the in-tray exercise. This was a simulated Inbox exercise (including the arrival of unexpected emails) and included the need to refer to other given sources of information. Answers were multiple choice. (70 minutes)
A further 50 minute Inbox exercise followed during which we were expected to give two longer email responses, including recommendations for action. This addressed time management skills as both tasks must be completed within the allotted time and writing skills: grammar, punctuation, spelling, content and a good email style were assessed.
This was followed by a 10 minute presentation (prepared in advance) and second interview. The presentation was on a business of my choice (avoiding the common choices of Tesco, M & S, Apple, Facebook!) Comment on the internal & external influences on the company and make some recommendations concerning future growth and direction. (KPMG)
- Etray exercise: had an hour to complete it. They sit you in front of a computer and send you emails (about 25). Each email has a passage, and 3 options at the bottom about what you want to do with the email. There are files on all the companies and calendars etc. on the side so you have all the info you need to make the correct decisions. I found it helpful to read through all the materials before i started going through the emails and maybe making some notes on what I thought would be important info. The emails you receive will depend on the answers you give. Just take your time, you have an hour so you can definitely get through it all. (Deloitte - Tax)
Written exercise. Is on the computer again, drafting an email giving a recommendation on a business decision. Just make sure you can justify your response properly, and give clear reasoning behind all your statements. Structure it like a formal letter of recommendation. Make sure you can justify all your responses - this is what the first part of the interview is on, you need to debrief a manager on your opinion of what you should do. You do get 10 minutes at the end to make notes which you can bring into your interview as well.
Trainee lunch was nice. Informal they weren't there to make notes on you or anything, so ask them anything you don't want to ask the partners!
This stage is a lot more about yourself and how well you would fit into the company. The partner interview is quite relaxed, there doesn't seem to be any set list of questions, but they pick up on everything so whatever you say make sure you can talk about it at length (e.g. if you bring up a commercial issue, make sure you know the background to it as well).
First part of the interview was questions about the etray and written exercise. Was in the style of a role play. Had to be able to justify your responses and your decision you chose to make in your written exercise: advising a company on which course of action to take. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Had to discuss within a group best way to invest some money given 3 options. Had to come to a solution all agreed on. (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Case Study Exercise - Presented with an article and points to consider. 10 mins to prepare. Questioned on different aspects,e.g. give an overview of the article, what are the causes, what solutions are there, the barriers to each solution etc. (Mazars)
- Assessment centre: case study, group discussion, client-meeting presentation , 2nd interview (Ernst & Young - tax)
- At an assessment day there are always people watching so be careful about what you say/who to/when you say it. Be friendly to the others. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Take initiatives e.g. in group discussion go use the flip chart, propose to use it, watch the time. Show enthusiasm: very important when telling about an event in assessment centre Biggest hurdle is the time. Always watch for the time while you are working. (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Contribute towards the group, they want team players. Do not forget to watch the interview and assessment day videos and visit the Careers Service. (PWC)
- Group discussion – work on your own for 25 minutes and come together as a group for a meeting and discuss proposal. (Ernst and Young)
- You have to discuss a case study with 3 other candidates and come up with ideas of how to help a company that isn't performing very well. No prior preparation required. You then have to have a one-on-one presentation with an assessor. You are given 30 minutes to do this. The presentation is on the case study in the group discussion. (BDO)
- Group discussion on a marketing project dealing with the launch of a product. Assessment Video is quite helpful. (PWC)
“Accountancy is far more about communication skills – getting complex ideas across – than number crunching” (Grant Thornton)
“The traditional image of accountants being geeky and introverted could not be further from the truth. We need people who can really make an impact when it comes to client and internal relationships” (KPMG)
“We don’t expect people to have detailed knowledge about the marketplace, but if you switch off the moment the Treasury is mentioned, or you have never thought to look at the financial press, this may not be the career for you” (KPMG)
“We want people who know what they’re applying for, can show why they have chosen it, what they've done to find out about it and what they can bring to it, using their past experiences” (Ernst & Young)
- Read up on the firm. Read a good quality broadsheet newspaper for the couple of weeks leading up to the interview: especially the finance pages. Accountancy Age www.accountancyage.com and Accounting Web www.accountingweb.co.uk are good for inside information on firms and professional developments;
- Research the firm thoroughly before you apply to make sure it is the right place for you. Show your passion, and be confident in your reasons for wanting to join the firm. (BDO)
- Read their literature, visit the website and prepare for your tests well. (Ernst and Young)
- Know your CV inside out!
- Most questions probed aspects of my application form in greater depth;
- Make sure that you re-read your application and have other relevant experiences in mind that you can also use in the interview to highlight your skills. Also ensure that you have prepared questions to ask your interviewers, appear keen and enthusiastic, and also try to be as natural as possible, even if you are a little nervous! Take the time to research the company and keep up to date on business issues. (Deloitte)
- Read your application and give strong examples. They seemed friendly: treat it as a chat and relax as they are quite people-focused and pride themselves on their open approach. (Grant Thornton)
- Prepare for the interview. Dress smartly. Try to remain calm and relaxed. The firm seems friendly and I was made to feel very welcome when i arrived for interview. (Grant Thornton - tax)
- Be yourself. They want to see what sort of person you would be to work with and whether you are capable of coping with the demands of the position. The interviewers were extremely friendly.(Tenon)
- The interviewer asked for lots of examples of skills used in past experiences. (See our competency questions page )
- The questions came very quickly so try to pause, think, and then answer. (Burgess Hodgson)
- Prepare for the interview! Dress smartly, be yourself, don't worry too much about the tests (the company didn’t seem too bothered about the scores!), and just try to relax. (Grant Thornton)
- Keep your knowledge up-to-date, speak slowly and with confidence and do not panic if challenged, stand by what you say. (PWC)
- Be sure why you want the job.
- Take your time to think through an answer for the competency based questions. They don't expect an answer straight away but of course don't sit there thinking for too long! (Mazars)
- Be yourself, relax. They were very friendly, made you feel relaxed. (Baker Tilley - audit)
- Try to think of questions to ask the interviewer beforehand, as the interviewer covered most of the questions I was going to ask during the course of the interview without the need for me to ask him anything. Friendly firm, polite people, can be quite daunting at first, but a generally nice place. (Burgess Hodgson)
- Telephone interview: supply good examples; talk slowly! (Smith and Williamson - tax)
- They like to talk about the company values as well, so try and slip that in there somewhere! They all seemed really friendly, the partners seemed approachable and willing to answer pretty much anything. The trainees seemed happy and genuinely liked their positions. Was the nicest place I had been for an interview in terms of the people, the offices and the overall impression. (Deloitte - Tax)
- Watch the Careers Service On-line Videos. Will help you a lot. Show eagerness and enthusiasm, in interview especially when you answer questions. KEEP SMILING even when you are under pressure: show that you can handle it. For sure you are gonna be nervous but once the interview starts, it just flows by bit. Prepare answers to all possible questions you may be asked. Enjoyed the interview and assessment centre. Interviewers were nice and friendly: nerve racking for sure at the start but they make you feel at ease. (Ernst & Young - tax)
- Ask questions during the interview. Why Auditing – they are looking for people ready to work in teams/people and not just figures. Make it clear how you can communicate well and how responsible you are. (PWC)
- Good company, all very relaxed and friendly. (Ernst and Young)
- Everyone I have met or corresponded with at Deloitte have been very friendly and approachable, so try to enjoy the interview process rather than worry about it. (Deloitte)
- Friendly firm, polite people: can be quite daunting at first, but a generally nice place. (Burgess Hodgson)
- Everyone was really nice, and I got a good vibe from the place (BDO)
- The company seemed really relaxed. Although the interview was nerve-racking, the two interviewers were really friendly and didn't make you feel stupid if you couldn't answer any of the questions. (PWC)
- The interview was at the London offices. Everybody was so friendly so there is no need to panic. Manager who interviewed me made it very easy as she was somebody I could talk to about anything! (PWC)
- We had an opportunity to ask questions to the current graduates employed at the company and they gave us a tour of the office. We also had an informal chat with a partner of the company. (Grant Thornton)
- Lunch and informal chat in-between the interview and group discussion on assessment day. (PWC)
Common reasons for failure (KPMG)
- Lack of evidence of communication skills in the interview and assessment centre process.
- Lack of evidence of building relationships at the assessment centre. (In other words, insufficient involvement with other students at the assessment centre)
- Inability to express why they have chosen to apply to the firm and how it differs from other firms.
- Lack of enthusiasm for the career path.
- Lack of commercial awareness. Candidates should clearly show a passion for business.