It is not a simple task to oversee the entire accounting division of a medium-sized or large business. This is a job for certified and experienced accountants who are business-savvy. People who can identify errors that nobody else in the company would notice.
As a Financial Controller, you will receive a substantial salary, but you will also be responsible for a number of responsibilities. In addition, not everyone in the company (or in the government) will like you. You will be responsible for pointing out their errors. Internal auditors may conduct periodic audits, but you will maintain continuous financial control.
This will all be reflected in the questions they ask you. Questions regarding your experience, technical questions, and even case studies may be used to evaluate your accounting skills. But they will also ask you behavioral questions to determine how you would handle difficult interpersonal situations associated with the position.
Let’s examine a few of these questions. I will demonstrate how to respond to them.
Why did you apply for a Financial Controller position?
Because the compensation is extraordinary, you enjoy being at the top, and there are few better jobs available to you with your qualifications. Perhaps these are the true motives (or at least the ones closest to your heart), but you should discuss other motives in your interview.
Describe your experience as an accountant or auditor and how it has prepared you for this position. Say that you’d love to have a large amount of responsibility and that you’re prepared to keep the entire accounting department running efficiently and accurately.
You can even say that a company employee referred you or headhunted you (often the case for this position). If so, they likely understand what they’re doing. If you have references from previous employers who can attest to your exceptional accounting skills, you can provide them to the interview panel.
Please provide some information about your prior work experience.
When recruiting for important positions, executives and top managers adore hearing a compelling tale. A narrative of your career beginning with a degree in accounting (or a relevant field), experience with one of the “big four” companies, the CPA exam, some successes and failures you’ve encountered, and the lessons you’ve learned from previous positions. Everything should culminate in your job application. Your narrative should make sense and demonstrate your suitability for the position.
Keep in mind that interviewers are observing you closely as you converse. Do you speak methodically? Can you discuss financial matters in layman’s terms? Will your new coworkers comprehend you? Are you enthusiastic about your career and the goals you hope to accomplish in your new position? Keep it in mind while discussing your past experience…
How would you describe a typical day as our company’s financial controller?
This depends greatly on the institution’s size and whether it is public or private. In spite of the fact that you may be responsible for recruiting accountants and analysts in some companies, among other things, your primary responsibility will always be to ensure that all accounting allocations are appropriately made and documented.
This means that you will spend the majority of your days analyzing existing financial documents (down to the level of individual invoices and receipts) or recommending how new transactions should be conducted so as to maximize the company’s efficiency.
Suppose you intend to spend a portion of your days with other employees. You will require proof of every transaction. The remaining time will be spent in the office. You will be comparing the information in these documents to the information in the books. You will look for discrepancies, verifying whether they are properly documented and reflect the actual revenues and expenses.
Imagine that you discovered an important discrepancy in the documents provided by one of the company’s top executives. How would you act?
The financial controller should sit outside of the organization’s hierarchy. They should respond exclusively to the board. This is the only way to guarantee that they can perform their duties without fear of losing their employment.
Therefore, I recommend stating that you would report it to the board (or CEO if there is no board) and allow them to determine what to do with the executive. In most instances, this is what is expected of the controller…
What do you expect from an internal auditor, accountants, and other accounting department employees?
First and foremost, you should have high expectations for yourself. You will be the most knowledgeable accountant in the organization, and you should not expect any assistance from accountants or auditors. Or from anyone else.
Within the organization, various groups pursue various objectives. You should attempt to remain outside of the maze and exert control over each of them in terms of corporate finances and their use.
What you can say is that you expect them to be transparent, to keep documents such as invoices and receipts, to communicate with you honestly and to provide the requested information.
Other questions you may be asked during a financial controller job interview
- Describe a conflict you had with a colleague at your previous job.
- Describe the most challenging accounting issue you had to solve in your previous position.
- Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with a colleague.
- How did you accomplish communicating your message?
- What is the meaning of integrity to you?
- Describe the greatest professional setback of your career.
- What experience do you have implementing accounting and financial reporting controls?
- Describe a time when you demonstrated initiative at work.
- Give an example of a time when your personal and professional interests collided at work.
- How do you define quality?
- Describe a time when you had to make a decision without all the necessary information.
- Describe an instance in which you utilized logic to solve a problem.
- Why should we not employ you?
Conclusion and moving forward
Your experience is the most important factor. However, it is not only about your actions. It is more important to demonstrate how your previous employers benefited from your work. And demonstrating to the interviewers that you can apply this knowledge to the new position.
Typically, you will be interviewed in front of a panel, which is always more stressful, and they will definitely ask you behavioral questions to determine how you would handle difficult situations that arise on a daily basis in the job of a controller. I wouldn’t say this interview is particularly challenging, but I would say that each company chooses its new controller with care.
They will not hire you simply because you are the only applicant or because they need a new controller quickly. They will take their time, check your references, and “grill” you with some challenging behavioral questions. Try to prepare for the difficulties. I hope you will eventually sign a fantastic employment contract. Good luck to you!