30 financial controller interview questions and answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 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.

Financial controllers oversee an organisation's accounting functions to ensure the accuracy of its financial record-keeping and reporting. They play an integral role in helping businesses adhere to accounting standards and financial regulations. If you're applying for financial controller jobs, you might be wondering what type of questions to expect at an interview and how to answer them appropriately to demonstrate your suitability. In this article, we outline 30 general, background and in-depth financial controller interview questions and look at some example answers to help you prepare.

General financial controller interview questions

Below are some general financial controller interview questions that hiring managers may ask to find out more about you, your personality and why you're interested in working for their organisation:

  • 'Tell me about yourself.'

  • 'Which three words would you use to describe yourself?'

  • 'How do you stay motivated?'

  • 'Why would you like to work at this organisation?'

  • 'Where do you see yourself in five years?'

  • 'Why are you leaving your current position?'

  • 'What do you like the most about your current position?'

  • 'What's your biggest weakness?'

  • 'What do you do in your spare time?'

  • 'What qualities are you looking for in your next workplace?'

Related: 31 common interview questions and answers

Background interview questions for financial controller roles

Below are some common background interview questions for financial controller roles that hiring managers may ask to understand whether you're qualified for the position:

  • 'Tell me about your educational history.'

  • 'What are the key responsibilities of your current role?'

  • 'What's the most significant achievement you made in your current role?'

  • 'What's your proudest professional achievement?'

  • 'Do you have management experience?'

  • 'What skills have you developed in your most recent job?'

  • 'Describe the best role you've had and why.'

  • 'How would you describe your leadership style?'

  • 'When you've previously changed jobs, what motivated you to do this?'

  • 'What type of financial reporting or accounting software do you regularly use?'

Related: How to give leadership experience examples

In-depth interview questions for financial controller roles

Below are in-depth interview questions for financial controller roles that recruiters may ask to understand whether you'd be a good fit for the hiring organisation and if you have the necessary hard and soft skills to fulfil the role's responsibilities:

  • 'What's the most challenging financial project you've worked on?'

  • 'Give an example of how you've increased revenue in your most recent role?'

  • 'What do you wish to accomplish in the first six months of this role?'

  • 'How do you stay organised at work?'

  • 'Tell me about a time when you overcame a difficult challenge at work.'

  • 'What are the financial weaknesses you see in the industry?'

  • 'Did you reduce expenses in your previous roles and, if so, how?'

  • 'How do you motivate those who report to you?'

  • 'Have you ever developed new financial control systems and, if so, what were they?'

  • 'How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends in accounting and finance?'

Example answers to interview questions for financial controller roles

Here are some of the above interview questions for financial controller roles, with explanations of what interviewers are looking for when they ask them, alongside their respective example answers:

Have you ever developed new financial control systems and, if so, what were they?

This question allows the hiring manager to assess your ability to innovate and take charge of an organisation's financial processes rather than simply following existing protocols. Financial controllers play a vital role in optimising an organisation's finances, so experience in developing new systems is essential. The interviewer may also be looking for evidence of your critical thinking and analytical skills.

Example answer: 'In my current role, we had a problem with late payments from clients and I identified that this was due to slow invoicing on our behalf. To rectify this, I created a new, streamlined communication and invoicing system to use with clients who made regular monthly payments to ensure that we sent invoices more quickly. As a result of my actions, late client payments fell by 45% within six months'.

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Give an example of how you've increased revenue in your most recent role

Financial controllers frequently review accounts to identify potential areas of improvement, with the ultimate goal of reducing an organisation's expenses and improving profits. This question identifies your ability to make the organisation's bottom line a priority and your skill in analysing data and identifying problems and opportunities. It also assesses your ability to solve problems or to turn opportunities into results.

Example answer: 'I noticed a gradual increase in the cost of credit card processing fees when I was analysing expenses. After conducting research into the issue, I discovered that my predecessor hadn't reviewed or renegotiated the contract with the processing company since originally signing with them. Due to this, I negotiated with the processing company, sought quotes from alternative providers and established a new contract with far cheaper fees. This saved the organisation thousands of pounds every year'.

Tell me about a time when you overcame a difficult challenge at work

This question assesses your ability to stay calm during stressful situations. Additionally, it allows the interviewer to identify how you find solutions to complex challenges. A financial controller is a senior position, so it's vital to demonstrate your ability to make decisions confidently and solve problems with authority.

Example answer: 'I identified some inconsistencies in financial reports from a manager and, when I investigated, I found evidence of the manager submitting false information. It was a difficult situation because I had a good relationship with the manager in question but, in line with my ethical responsibilities, I put the company's financial interests first. I submitted my findings to the board of directors and then focused on creating new, accurate reports with the correct financial information. The board disciplined the manager appropriately and we didn't experience any further inconsistencies'.

How do you motivate those who report to you?

Financial controllers are senior members of staff who usually manage a team of junior accounting employees. This question assesses your ability to lead effectively by keeping your team motivated and enthusiastic about their work. When asking these types of questions, hiring managers are looking for evidence of your communication and interpersonal skills.

Example answer: 'My experience has shown me that when you give people the opportunity to learn and take on greater responsibilities, they become motivated to work hard and better themselves. For this reason, I strive to periodically give members of my team new responsibilities so that they can learn new skills and gain more experience. This has the added benefit of keeping their workload fresh and interesting so they're less likely to experience burnout'.

Related: Using motivation in management to help your team succeed

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends in accounting and finance?

Since financial controllers are responsible for ensuring that their organisation adheres to the relevant financial legislation and accounting standards, it's vital that they stay up-to-date with the latest industry developments. This question assesses whether you're keeping track of the latest industry trends and determines how passionate you are about your role and the industry in general. Alongside this, it allows you to share your learning and communication styles as you explain how you stay connected and informed.

Example answer: 'I'm a member of several regional and national networking groups that allow me to check in with my peers regularly and keep up-to-date with new industry developments. Since I'm a chartered accountant, I understand the value of continuing professional development and regularly attend seminars and conferences to help me stay aware of the latest accounting and financial best practices'.

Related: How to write a professional development plan (with example)

What do you wish to accomplish in the first six months of this role?

This question allows hiring managers to understand how much research you've done into their organisation and why you feel passionate about working there. By providing an answer to this interview question, the hiring manager can assess your ability to use your own initiative and apply your critical thinking skills. Based on your action plan, they can also understand if you're likely to be a good fit for the organisation and its work culture.

Example answer: 'My understanding of this organisation is that you use a wide variety of national and international vendors and I'm curious to see what opportunities there are to make savings. I'd prioritise a review of all the current contracts to analyse their costs and then negotiate better terms with vendors. My goal would be to reduce costs and strengthen vendor relationships to ensure better rates in the future'.

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