Top Big 4 Interview Questions to Prepare for Your Interview
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 7 October 2022
Published 7 May 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
The 'Big 4' refers to the four largest accounting companies in the country. If you want to work in the accounting industry, you can begin your career in a company with a recognised brand name. Learning more about the common Big 4 interview questions the accounting firms may ask could help you better prepare for interviews. In this article, we explore the common questions a Big Four firm may ask you and suggest some answers for you to reference when preparing your job applications.
Big 4 interview questions with sample answers
These are some Big 4 interview questions and sample answers you can use to prepare for a meeting with a hiring manager in an accounting firm:
1. What's one of the biggest challenges in the accounting field?
A hiring manager may ask this question to see if you've thought about the realities of working as an accountant. If you can show that you're aware of all aspects of accounting and have thought about how to overcome obstacles, you demonstrate your industry expertise. This may help you perform better than other candidates with a less comprehensive understanding of working in accounting. In your answer, consider describing a challenge you faced and how you managed it.
Example: 'I think one of the biggest challenges in the accounting field is keeping up to date with the industry's regulations and laws. Some requirements apply to both the company and the client. These legal concepts may be complex and unfamiliar to fresh graduates entering the accounting industry. It's important to set aside time to learn and educate yourself on these requirements to assist clients better. I educate myself on the latest changes by monitoring news alerts, subscribing to industry newsletters and tracking new legislation.'
2. Describe a time when you helped a company reduce its operating costs.
A hiring manager may ask this question to determine your resourcefulness and initiative. They may use your anecdote to assess your professional capabilities and decide whether to allow you to progress to the next stage of the hiring process. By explaining your past experiences, you can highlight how you can apply them to help future clients. Consider describing the situation and the steps you took to lower the company's operating costs.
Example: 'I used to work as an accountant at a hospital. They used various software to track patient records and financial information. I audited the software and discovered that multiple departments had subscribed to different programs with similar capabilities. I led an initiative to improve the software programs and eliminate those that the company didn't need. My calculations helped me determine that the company would see a 10% savings rate, and I delivered my findings to the chief financial officer. The feedback from the clients was positive, and they were happy about the cost savings.'
3. How do you remember small details when recording transactions and preparing journal entries?
A hiring manager for a Big Four firm may want to know whether you're meticulous. Accuracy is very important in the accounting field, since accountants work with numbers and decimals daily. A hiring manager may select candidates who are good with details, as this increases work productivity and reduces errors. In your answer, share your strategy for ensuring precision and emphasise that you take pride in your work.
Example: 'I constantly remind myself to pay attention to detail. To help myself, I have an index card on my desk that says 'Check and check again.' This note reminds me to implement this concept into my professional life because accountants cannot afford to make mistakes. I ensure the inclusion of every detail by automating tasks, keeping a to-do list and setting reminders in my digital calendar. I make sure to double-check my work and refer to the source material to ensure all numbers are correct.'
4. Describe how you would explain a complicated accounting concept to someone in another department.
If you accept a position at a Big Four firm, you may interact with people outside the accounting department. These individuals may not be familiar with complex accounting concepts. Being able to explain the work you do in simple terms is important, especially if you accept an advisory role. Being clear and articulate in your responses can also help you succeed in your job position. Your answer to this interview question can help you show your ability to work as part of a team, teach concepts and communicate with others.
Example: 'In my previous job, I met with a mid-sized business owner to share advice on proceeding with their company's operations. Their professional background was in botany, so they had a limited understanding of accounting topics. I prepared a slide show presentation for them, complete with graphs that summarised the business' revenue and expenses. After I delivered the presentation, I gave the owner a written summary and allowed them to review it and prepare any questions they had.'
5. What's the difference between accounts receivable and deferred revenue?
This is a basic interview question that determines a candidate's comprehension of terms that accountants work with. The hiring manager may ask this question to ascertain your knowledge and expertise in accounting concepts. In your answer, clearly define each term to convey their differences and emphasise your technical knowledge.
Example: 'Accounts receivable is the money that customers owe a business when the business has already provided the product or service. Deferred revenue is the money that customers have paid for a product or service that they are yet to receive. Accounts receivable is an asset, while deferred revenue is a liability.'
6. Why are you suitable to be a big four accountant?
Here, highlight skills or qualities you possess that make a good accountant. To make sure the hiring manager thinks you're a good fit for the job, consider mentioning skills or traits listed in the job description. You may also want to mention these skills or traits in your resume and cover letter to reiterate your abilities.
Example: 'I possess a variety of traits and skills that make me a good accountant. For example, I am good at working with numbers. I rarely make mistakes and am very meticulous when checking my work. My strengths also include quick mental sums, so I can process mathematical formulas quickly. I am also a good communicator, so I believe I can build a strong rapport with clients and with other staff members in the company.'
7. Explain a time when you were the most satisfied with your job as an accountant.
The hiring manager may ask this question to understand personal details about you, such as what motivates you to work hard. Use an anecdote to explain why you gain satisfaction from being an accountant. This way, they can decide if your personality suits the existing team.
Example: 'My favourite moment in my 12-year accounting career occurred last year, when I helped a client save over 50% in operating costs. As I reviewed their books and financial documents, I found many instances of overlapping expenses. After highlighting these overlaps to the client, the client did an internal audit and restructured certain departments to reduce duplicate costs. As 50% is a significant saving, the client commended my professionalism to my boss, which gained me more recognition in the industry. I'm glad my efforts helped a client, and I look forward to continuing this.'
8. What is the main skill you believe an accountant requires?
This is a basic question regarding your understanding of what the role requires. Time management, critical thinking, persuasion and financial literacy skills are possible answers. Think about some examples to explain and elaborate on your answer.
Example: 'The most valuable skill for me is time management. As a professional, I have many work commitments to prioritise each day. I find that scheduling my time helps me work through the tasks more quickly and efficiently. It also allows me to understand which tasks I can delegate to others to keep the projects moving. Managing my time also ensures that I have enough rest to maximise my work productivity throughout the day.'
Related: How To Become a Freelance Accountant
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