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Competency based assistant accountant interview

  • 01-02-2022 5:06pm
    Registered Users Posts: 230 ✭✭

    Hi all, I am a qualified accounts technician and am halfway through my ACCA exams. I have an interview next week for a job as an assistant accountant that I would absolutely love to get. I have been told it is a competency based interview. I have been in my current role (accounts/general admin) for 15 years so am seriously out of the loop when it comes to interviews etc. The idea of competency based is filling me with horror and I have no idea how to tackle it. Would anyone have any suggestions of questions they might ask and tips for how I could prepare? This is the list of key responsibilities from the job spec:

    Key Responsibilities 

    • Assist with preparation of monthly management reporting 

    • Assist with preparation of year end Financial accounts for audit and liaising with external auditors 

    • Assist with Annual budgeting and forecasting process 

    • Preparation of both routine and ad hoc management reports 

    • Preparation of Vat returns 

    • Oversee the input/reconciliations of data in the ERP system SAGE 

    • Assist with continuous improvement of financial reporting processes • Other ad hoc projects and duties as required 


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,831 ✭✭✭Alkers

    I'm not an accountant so I can't help with the specific examples, but for competency based interviews, they want you to demonstrate how you have achieved the above or similar responsbilities previosuly. The guidance that is generally given is that your response should include:

    Situation - Present a challenging situation you found yourself in

    Task - What did you need to achieve from the situation?

    Action - What action did you personally take to achieve this?

    Result - What was the result of your action?

  • Posts: 3,505 [Deleted User]

    They could ask you about your CV - make sure you know what you've written, inside-out.

    They could try to tease out your level of technical knowledge. You could prepare by:

    - look into the company, their industry, and the depts you'll interact with, in order to anticipate the kinds of figures/accounts they work with and the kind of MI they have an interest in. If you can look at a prior year annual return, even better.

    - brush up on management reporting, tax reporting, ROS, and SAGE, and if you have a different ERP at your current company, brush up on that too so that you can talk about it.

    For competencies, as noted by Alkers above, plan some STAR responses for likely questions around:

    - interaction with audit teams/requests/experience delivering time-critical docs to 3rd parties.

    - collaborating cross-team to create budgets/forecasting, identifying relevant info you need and getting it from the business. Communication would be a key skill to highlight.

    - a time you identified improvements that could be made to a process/report, what you did to improve it, the results of that work.

    - a time you experienced conflict and how you resolved it, or a time you had to influence others and how you managed it.

    Go through the job spec with a fine tooth comb and try to frame your own experience with the kind of language they use. For example where I would say "MI" (management information) they say "monthly management reporting" - use their terms when speaking to them. Try to reflect the job spec back at them.

    Finally the one thing I do before any interview is prepare myself to say "I dont know" in a few different ways for a range of scenarios, so that if something comes up that does stump me, I can at least respond calmly and confidently, admit I don't know, and indicate what I would do in a real-life situation to close that knowledge gap if it came up (this could be how you'd find the info yourself or how you'd find the right person to refer to).

  • Registered Users Posts: 230 ✭✭Navy blue

    Thanks so much for the replies. That's an interesting point you make True-or-False about saying 'I don't know'. One of the items on the job spec is assisting with monthly management accounting reports/forecasting/budgeting process. That's something I wouldn't have any experience of performing (but have studied it) Would I be better just being honest and saying that I don't have experience of but that it's something I have been adept at in my studies and would be very keen to further my experience?

  • Posts: 3,505 [Deleted User]

    Yeah that sounds like a good response to me. Since you've anticipated this question in advance, is there anything reporting-adjacent you could mention? Anything you currently work on where you're reporting/logging/monitoring figures, even if they're not strictly accounting-based?