Preparing for a technical accounting assessment

You identify a job you’re interested in.

You review the job description and you think you’re the perfect fit.

You prepare a cover letter and update your CV and apply for the position.

You get a call back from the recruiter or company and they ask you to come in for an interview.

You ace the interview.

They ask you to come back in for a technical assessment.

You get nervous as you don’t know how to prepare for the technical assessment.

If you can relate to this situation, then this article is for you! In this article, we will talk about technical accounting assessments and how to prepare for them.

Why do employers use technical assessments?

There are a few reasons why employers use technical assessments, especially for their accounting hires:

  • It is difficult to validate a candidate’s technical skills through their CV and interviews

Most human resource professionals and recruiters do not have an accounting background. This makes it difficult for them to truly understand whether the candidate’s past experience is useful for the job they are hiring for.

  • Many candidates are dishonest about their qualifications

While we would expect all candidates to be honest, unfortunately this is not always the reality. We’ve filtered through hundreds of CVs. We’ve seen first hand that many candidates will state that they are proficient in Excel or QuickBooks, but when it comes time to answer questions about Excel or QuickBooks, they are unable to answer even basic questions. We’ve also seen candidates state that they’ve done bank reconciliations at their internships, but when it comes time to explain how to do a bank reconciliation, they are unable to explain what a bank reconciliation is, or how to prepare one.

  • Accountants need to be able to excel once they join a company

Most companies do not have sophisticated internal training programs for their accountants. They cannot spend weeks or months onboarding their new accountant and teaching them about all their processes. Since it is such an important role with lots of responsibility, employers expect their accountants to be able to learn the processes on their own and effectively complete their tasks.

For these reasons, employers need to ensure that the accountant their hire is technically able to perform the job requirements and excel in that role once they are hired.

How do you prepare for a technical assessment?

Some employers may give you an indication of the technical assessment beforehand, such as tell you that there will be a written component and a computer-based component. Others will not provide any information. It will be up to you to prepare for what you think you will get tested on.

So how should you prepare?

  • First, review the job requirements carefully.

What you will be tested on will likely closely be aligned to the job requirements. Does the position require you to enter transactions into an accounting system, prepare accruals, and close the month? If so, there is a good chance that you will get tested on financial accounting and double-entry bookkeeping. Does the position require you to analyze large amounts of data? If so, there is a good chance that you will be assessed on your Excel skills.

After reviewing the job requirements, you should get an idea of what you will get tested on.

  • Go through each of the job responsibilities and have an answer prepared for the question “How would you perform XX?”

Now that you know that you will likely be tested on tasks that are contained within the job responsibilities, would you be able to explain how to perform each task if you were asked to?

As an example, you could be asked: “What is an accrual and how would you prepare accruals at the end of the month?” If that is one of the key tasks and you can’t answer the question, you are likely not prepared for a technical assessment.

Spend time going through each of the job responsibilities and coming up with answers to questions relating to them.

  • Open your computer and practice

Don’t remember how to perform a VLOOKUP or a Pivot Table? Open your computer and practice! There are a lot of resources available online that will allow you to practice your Excel skills. You can even access free trials and demos of QuickBooks Online.

Not 100% confident on your journal entries? Go online and find practice questions and then prepare them! Actually, sit down and write out or type your answers. Do your best to simulate the exact situation you’ll be in at the assessment.

We regularly perform technical accounting assessments for employers and recruiters. If you need a technical accounting assessment to screen your candidates, please contact us.

If you are about to write a technical accounting assessment and want to practice, register for an account on our website and you can take a free multiple-choice assessment.

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