Answering difficult interview questions – 4 top tips to remember

November 10th 2023 | Posted by phil scott

An interview can take many guises and, for lots of accountancy roles, candidates will find themselves going through many interviews before a decision is made.

The interview process is a chance for a prospective employer to find out about you, your experience and how suitable you would be for that particular role and their company.

You could find your interview could take many different forms, ranging from a casual informal conversation to a more detailed formal meeting, a panel interview or a presentation with a Q&A session.

Whatever the format of the interview, there is likely to be a range of questions posed to find out about your skills, capabilities, aptitude & personality.  In many cases, you’ll find yourself coming up against a few difficult questions at the interview stage.  It’s these ‘difficult’ questions that help an employer dig beneath the surface, find out what makes you tick and really evaluate if you are right them and they are right for you.

Don’t be afraid of difficult interview questions. With some preparation, thinking and a calm approach these can be easily overcome.

Here are 4 top tips to help you tackle those tricky questions in an interview for an accountancy role.

1. Listen to the question carefully

When you’re faced with a difficult interview question (perhaps asking you to look at a time where something’s gone wrong or another negative scenario), make sure you listen carefully to the question.

Focus on what is being asked and make sure your response completely answers these specifics. Don’t be afraid in answering the exact question they want to know, even if it means giving what may seem like negative information about yourself or an experience.

Avoid the temptation of skimming over the difficult question being asked and give an answer to the ‘easier’ question you would prefer it to be. This could make you look as if you don’t want to give the full answer to what they want to know.  Listen carefully, formulate your thoughts and answer the question a clear way, giving as positive an answer as possible.

2. Take a moment to think

No interviewer expects a response to come without any thinking time, especially for a difficult question. They are expecting you to take a moment to think about what you want to say and what key information you are trying to deliver.

Don’t be anxious about allowing a small moment of silence while you create the answer in your mind. The chances of your answer being more appropriate, more to the point and more what the interview is looking for, will be increased by taking the time to collect your thoughts first.

3. Give your answer a beginning, middle and end

When faced with a difficult question (or even an easy interview question!), it’s important to make sure your answer is easy to follow and takes the interviewer on a brief journey through the scenario, highlighting key points and competencies.

Give your answer a beginning, middle and end by posing the problem at the start, giving the detail of the solution or the main information about the activity and summing up with a conclusion that highlights the key information you want them to remember, eg what you did well, why it worked, how you stood out and how it relates to the new business.

You want to make it as easy as possible for the interviewer to take away the critical information and giving a clear answer in this way can make a difference.

4. Be direct, honest and upfront

In an interview, being direct, honest and upfront for every question must be a given.  Even when a difficult question s thrown your way, your prospective employer deserves an honest approach.

Tackle the question head-on, be truthful and open and turn a difficult question to your advantage. Demonstrating your commitment to an honest approach will stand you in good stead overall as it shows you are a trustworthy and truthful individual.

If you are interested in new career opportunities, get in touch with us at Accountancy Recruit to discuss current opportunities.