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What Does An Accounting Assistant Do? The Full Guide To Succeeding In This Role

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ccounting assistants are incredibly important to the accounting and payroll department of a company, and are relied upon to carry out a plethora of duties and responsibilities to ensure that no mistakes are made. 

We found answers to the most common questions about accounting assistants and have created a complete guide to being a successful accounting assistant. You’ll find the answers to to the following queries:

  • What do accounting assistants do?
  • What makes a good accounting assistant?
  • How much do accounting assistants make?
  • How to become an accounting assistant
  • How to prepare for an accounting assistant interview
  • 10 best questions and answers for an accounting assistant

What Do Accounting Assistants Do?

Accounting assistants are entry-level accounting professionals who handle basic financial duties. Although becoming an accounting assistant or accounting clerk may be the first step that someone makes towards a higher role in the accounting department, they still have to perform a number of important tasks on a day to day basis.

Duties required of an accounting assistant include being responsible for financial records, cash, and invoices, monitoring budgets and bank statements, processing wages and expenses, handling financial or insurance claims, administrative tasks like filing, photocopying, and corresponding with customers or clients.

The majority of accounting assistants work from Monday to Friday on a 9:00am to 5:00pm basis, unless other arrangements are made, like part time or contracted workers. 

Every business has employees, and every employee needs to be paid. This means that every business has an accounts payable department and needs accounting assistants to help it run. These businesses can range from small startups to huge corporations, and the responsibilities can vary for each company.

Smaller companies give the accounting assistants the opportunities to interact and get to know customers and clients, as well as gaining experience in more areas of accounting, and larger companies allow an accounting assistant to grow and rise through the ranks to become a junior accountant or higher.

What Makes A Good Accounting Assistant?

Accounting assistants are expected to carry out multiple duties unsupervised, while making no mistakes. So a good accounting assistant will pay close attention to detail, have a very good ability to multitask, be able to stay calm and continue to perform their duties accurately while under the pressure of deadlines, and have very good communication skills.

Knowledge of accounting and financial principles is always a plus when it comes to hiring an accounting assistant, and someone who values honesty and discretion is desired. It’s also good for an accounting assistant to have good mathematical skills and have the ability to use basic office programs and accounting software. 

How Much Do Accounting Assistants Make?

Accounting assistants bring home an average wage of $20.43 per hour, which works out to around $39,840 per year before tax.

How To Become An Accounting Assistant

Most businesses looking to hire an accounting assistant are looking for someone with the skills mentioned earlier, as well as a high school diploma, at minimum. An Accounting Assistant Certificate or an Accounting and Payroll Diploma are also preferred by employers. 

The knowledge and skills gained when completing a certification in accounting prepares individuals for the day to day tasks of accounting and teaches curriculum based on the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

If someone wishes to apply to apply for the position but has no relevant qualifications, employers would expect them to have decent bookkeeping experience from former roles. An accounting clerk can also be promoted to the role of accounting assistant after years of experience.

How To Prepare For An Accounting Assistant Interview

Reading this blog should give you a very good idea of what skills and experience employers looking to hire an accounting assistant are expecting. Reading thoroughly through the job description and looking at similar job ads will also help you to prepare for your interview.

  • Practice - Make yourself aware of the company by reading the latest news, checking social media, and researching the company’s values. Have a friend run through common interview questions with you and have a full mock interview.
  • Plan - If you are planning to commute to the interview, be sure to have a trial run-through of your commute to ensure that you have not overlooked any traffic or transport disruptions. If the interview is via video or phone call, test out your technology before the interview and make sure that your device can support an hour-long interview using the correct software.
  • Be Professional - Show enthusiasm for the company and for the role, make eye contact, smile, and be very aware of the first impression that you are making.

10 Best Interview Questions And Answers For An Accounting Assistant

  1. Q: Tell us something about yourself.

A: This role is for an entry level position and so you don’t want to appear to be overqualified, but you also want to give examples of your education and work history if it’s relevant to the role. While the interviewer is asking you to describe yourself and your interest, you do need to be aware that this is an interview and those interests should reflect how well you’ll do in this role.

“I’m very detail-oriented and I’ve always had a talent for math. I have an Accounting and Payroll Diploma and graduated last year. During my course I had the fortune to do a practicum internship at a major accounting firm, where I learned the ins and outs of the business and the correct way to do things as an accounting assistant. I was put in charge  a few accounts during that time, and ran into a few challenges which gave me the opportunity to learn how to deal with with them”

  1. Q: Why do you want to work for our company?

A: This is where your thorough research will come into play. If it’s a big company, you need to show your ambitions to grow and move up in the company. If it’s a small business, be enthusiastic about the many tasks you’ll be able to do every day and the opportunity to communicate directly with the customers or clients.

[Big company answer] “The reason why I want to work for you is, after reading your mission statement and values I realized that they align with my own. I’m looking for a company that wants to be the best in their field and has ambitions to take every opportunity given to them. I’m looking to work for a company that I can commit to and stay with for a long time.”

[Small company answer] “I enjoy working as part of a team that appreciates each other and gives each other a chance to do multiple tasks and be directly involved with customers and clients. I like the closeness of the company and I believe that it’s somewhere that I can grow and develop further.”

  1. Q: What computer programs do you have experience with?

A: Talk about any and all relevant computer skills that you may have used. Everybody is expected to have basic knowledge of Microsoft Office and emails. You should mention the accounting software that you had a chance to work with during your studies and practicum. If it’s not the same software that they use, they will know what you’re talking about and they’ll have no problems training you up based on your transferable skills.

“I have experience with Microsoft Office and I believe my skills are very good in that area. During my studies I also had a chance to learn about different accounting software and how it functions. I understand how [accounting software] and [accounting software] run and I used them during my practicum experience to produce invoices and make sure all details were correct.”

  1. Q: What motivates you?

A: A role is accounting or finance can be considered a repetitive job that results in people getting bored easily, so employers will be interested to know how you stay focused and motivated. This is another question where your answers will need to relate to the specific job description and values of the company.

“I really enjoy being responsible for multiple accounts and duties, and I like to keep my coworkers and clients happy. Accounting is an area that I’m passionate about and so I want to focus on everything required of me and make my way up the ladder.”

  1. Q: What would you do if you disagreed with your superior?

A: This question is asking about your ability to defuse stressful situations and work as part of a team. Make it clear that while you do not deliberately try to upset coworkers, you take your role seriously and want to make sure that no mistakes are made, even by superiors.

“If i disagreed with a superior, I would double check my workings to ensure that I was correct in my thinking, and calmly and politely present my findings to them. I’m sure that my superior and I have the same values and that we both want to do the best job we can, and so we would be able to come to an agreement.”

  1. Q: Describe a conflict you had with a colleague. How did you resolve it?

A: You do not now want to reel off a list of bickers you’ve had with previous coworkers, but rather give examples that demonstrate your agreeableness and focus on your job.

“I’ve never had a major argument with a colleague, but usually if there is a disagreement, it’s usually due to lack of attention to detail and the situation has been resolved by us working together to double-check our work.”

  1. Q: In your opinion, what characterizes a great accounting assistant?

A: This is your chance to show off what you’ve learned in this blog. You should highlight your strengths and apply them to the accounting assistant role, while being aware of the job description for this role.

“I think a good accounting assistant needs to have a very good ability to multitask and pay close attention to detail. They should have knowledge and skills relevant to accounting and finance, and should be able to motivate themselves to do the best job possible.”

  1. Q: Give an example of when you use logic to solve a problem.

A: This is an important question in the accounting profession, because it questions your attention to detail and your ability to focus on your work. Show off your mathematical and critical thinking skills and try to think of an example from your own life.

“I think most problems can be solved with logic. It’s important for me to fully assess the situation and think of a rational and logical step forward, without being distracted by irrelevant details or emotion.”

  1. Q: How do you define success?

A: Similar to the motivation question, this question wants to know about your ambitions. Again, cater your answer to apply to the company and the job description.

“My idea of success is feeling like I’ve worked to the best of my ability and that my coworkers and family are happy with me and the work that I’ve done. I want to feel like I’ve accomplished tasks every day and have made a step forward rather than backwards.”

  1. Q: How do you show initiative at work?

A: This is a good chance to give facts and figures from previous roles  and explain how you made a difference at your previous company.

“During my practicum experience while studying for my Accounting and Payroll Diploma, I used my initiative to go above and beyond in the tasks I was given. Customer satisfaction rose 5 percentage points after I joined the company, and my employer was so impressed that he gave me more clients than they would a usual intern.”

This blog lays out the essential information that you’ll need to know when considering a career as an accounting assistant, or in the accounting field. For more information about how to get hired in the job you desire, take a look at our interview tips to overcome nerves.

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