19 Common Big 4 Interview Questions With Sample Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 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.

Competitive interview processes mean candidates can benefit from an explanation of the questions companies in the Big 4 may ask. Candidates interviewing for the Big 4 accountancy firms may improve their chances of success if they have extensive experience and academic qualifications. Understanding how to answer questions likely to arise in a Big 4 interview may help you prepare structured answers that impress a hiring manager. In this article, we discuss Big 4 interviews, highlight some general and industry-specific interview questions and provide sample answers to help you prepare.

What are Big 4 interview questions?

Big 4 interview questions refer to the questions most often included in interviews for the four biggest accountancy and finance management firms. These firms include two of the most widely globalised accountancy firms, KPMG and Price Waterhouse Coopers. The four accountancy firms have an extremely competitive hiring process for both graduates and experienced accountancy officials, meaning they recruit candidates who perform impressively in interviews. These interviews may comprise general, industry-specific and experience and background questions.

These questions measure how suitable the candidate is for the role. Employers use targeted questions to assess the candidate's knowledge and ability to use key skills necessary for working within the industry. Candidates typically use their answers as an opportunity to express their knowledge and passion for the industry to persuade the hiring manager they're a suitable candidate for the role. From the answers, hiring managers then assess how competent the candidate is and compare them to other interviewees.

Related: What is Financial Accounting? (With Examples)

5 general Big 4 interview questions

Employers use general interview questions to measure a candidate's personality. This is an important part of an interview as this is typically where a company assesses the candidate's compatibility with the business. Employers use targeted questions to assess whether the candidate has similarly aligned values to the business, typically by asking questions related to work ethic, teamwork and task strategies.

When answering these questions, you may benefit from letting your personality determine most of your answers. You may also reference previous experience but rely more on your character traits to structure your answers. You may wish to include references to how your personality supports your career and how this may benefit the employer. Doing this may improve your chances of success. Here are some general questions you might hear in an interview:

  1. Has there been a time when you overcame work-related stress, and how did you do this?

  2. Where do you see this job taking you in 10 years?

  3. What is your approach to managing many tasks at once?

  4. What about this firm interests you the most?

  5. What is your strategy when trying to motivate your colleagues?

Related: How to Become an Accountant: A Comprehensive Guide

5 questions about experience and background

Questions about experience and background seek to discover any industry-specific knowledge and skills the candidate learned in a previous role and their academic qualifications. This section might ask the candidate to reference scenarios from a previous position where they used a particular skill. For example, the employer may ask the candidate how they managed a business in a financial situation and the outcome of their actions.

Questions may also surround the candidate's qualifications and how they believe these have contributed to their personal and professional development. To answer these questions, you can give examples based on your previous experience and details of additional skills you gained by completing a degree or professional certification. Doing this may demonstrate a good level of competence to a hiring manager and help you progress to the next stage of the application process. The following are some common questions about experience and background:

  1. How has your previous experience prepared you for this role?

  2. What level of education have you attained, and how has this prepared you for a role in finance and accounting?

  3. What skills have you gained from your education and additional certifications?

  4. Describe a previous scenario where you used your skills to rectify a financial and accounting issue.

  5. What are some of the most important lessons you learned from your previous experience?

Related: Different Types of Finance Jobs (With Duties and Salaries)

5 questions about technical ability

Questions about technical ability typically assess how able the candidate is to fulfil their primary responsibilities. This means the employer uses questions to measure the candidate's ability to fulfil tasks and how much industry-specific knowledge they have from their education or previous experience. Technical ability questions may include asking the candidate to explain scenarios from a previous position where they employed a particular technique or asking them to describe what skills help when fulfilling certain tasks.

To answer these questions, you can mention anecdotes from previous roles. Doing this may impress the employer and increase your chances of success. Here are some examples of technical-ability and industry-specific questions:

  1. From your previous employment experience, how does this firm differ in terms of client interaction and financial technique?

  2. When you picture the ideal candidate, what do you see?

  3. What are the main skills you need for succeeding in this industry?

  4. How would you guide a client about to make an investment decision you don't think would benefit them or that may put them at financial risk?

  5. How do you conduct a thorough financial analysis? Give a detailed explanation.

4 interview questions with sample answers

To help you answer some questions potential employers may ask, here are four sample answers to questions that commonly arise during interviews:

1. How do you manage large-scale problems at work?

Questions about problem-solving are valuable opportunities to explain how you approach issues methodically. To answer this question, ensure that you emphasise the solution more than the problem itself. Here's an example of how to answer this:

Example: 'I would use the method I learned in my accounting and finance degree. First, I would work collaboratively with senior professionals to address the immediate risks posed by the problem. From this, I'd create a comprehensive plan with risk analysis to map out potential solutions and outcomes. Next, I'd implement the plan and see whether it resolves the issue. In the unlikely event this fails, I would look for other solutions until I found the one that solved the issue. Doing this in a logical order helps me approach issues with a clear plan in mind.'

2. What would you consider some of your strengths, and how do you think they help your career?

This question measures your level of self-awareness, as this is a desirable quality in candidates. Hiring managers are likely to want to see how your strengths could benefit their business, so try to highlight these in your response. Here's an example:

Example: 'Based on my performance in my previous role, I feel I show good attention to detail and compliance. I try to be thorough and appreciative of the correct processes involved in each task. This means that I do my best to ensure a high standard of compliance with government regulatory requirements, reducing the risk of the business facing fines or legal issues. My attention to detail helps me conduct intensive financial analysis on behalf of a client, helping increase client retention and profit.'

3. How would you advise a company that seeks to manage its operational costs?

This question focuses on your technical ability, meaning it proves how competent you are in fulfilling the job's primary responsibilities. When answering this question, you may reference an experience from your previous role to evidence your points. Here's how you can answer this:

Example: 'To decrease operational costs, I would conduct a thorough financial analysis of all outgoings and identify areas for potential savings. This may involve reassessing suppliers or company subscriptions. Even cutting the number of subscriptions to accounting or auditing software and centralising processes may create savings in operational costs.'

4. What do you think are the biggest challenges a business faces financially?

This question is another example of technical ability and tests your theoretical knowledge of the finance and accounting industry. To answer this, consider briefly outlining the main challenges and their consequences for a business. Here's how you may answer this:

Example: 'From my experience, I have identified four distinct problems that businesses, particularly small ones, face in the current climate. First, a fundamental cash-flow problem can make it harder for businesses to scale up. Second, poor employee and talent retention can make it harder to secure high-profit contracts. Third, increasing overheads often reduces profit and may limit further investment. Finally, businesses may have difficulty paying salaries and utility bills if they have high interest rate payments.'

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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