Designing Technical Tests (Accounting-Specific) for Interviews

According to research presented on mycareer.com.au ‘35% of applicants in Australia are lying about skills and experience during job interviews’. These findings underline just how important it is that organisations adopt effective assessment practices at interview to properly screen candidates for skills, sorting those who ‘can’ from those who ‘cannot’.

Designing Technical Tests (Accounting-Specific) for Interviews

There are a range of techniques available to employers to assess candidate skills, ranging from structured interviews, in tray exercises, personality tests and skills and attainment tests. In this article we will focus on how employers can use skill/technical tests effectively during their interview process to screen candidates.

There are effectively two ways to deliver tests to applicants; the first is to simply choose a battery of ready made, third party accountancy tests, the second is to design the questions yourself and deliver them on paper or via excel.

Use a Third Party Library of Tests

There are many online providers of technical accountancy tests such as Brain Bench or One Test Australia. When testing for a skill such as accounting where rules can vary by country, we recommend that you use an Australian provider like One Test as you know these tests will be developed according to Australian accounting rules and therefore be relevant to your business. The site includes tests covering all the key skills areas within accounting-
e.g. Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Bookkeeping, General Accounting, MYOB Accounting, Cost Accounting, Business Income Tax, commercial collections, financial analysis, general ledger and much more.

These tests are an extremely practical way of designing and delivering a battery of tests to several interviewees with minimal administrative involvement which may be a blessing for your busy department or practice. One thing we do recommend is that you have some of your best accountants from within the business complete the tests and then you will have a benchmark against which to assess new candidates, ensuring that you maintain standards or indeed raise the bar within the business.

Designing Tests Yourself

If you find that you are not satisfied with the pre-prepared questions you may wish to design your own questions. The advantage of this approach is that you can choose the exact questions that you want, but the disadvantages are that it can be a time consuming exercise and less cost efficient than simply buying them ready-made. If it is your preference to design the tests yourself, then we can offer several words of wisdom to help you design and deliver tests more effectively.
1. Establish the core technical skill set that is required to perform the role to be assessed.

2. Ask one of the best performing employees within the function to design interview questions which assess the core technical skill set.

3. Consider working with an occupational psychologist or testing specialist as they will help you to design a more valid and reliable test.

4. Ask other employees who perform the role to take the tests and establish a benchmark for your organisation.

5. Ensure that there is a quiet and uninterrupted environment for candidates to take the test.

6. Always give candidates advanced warning of tests as this is considered good practice.
It may also interest you to know that some tests providers will enable you to design your own questions and upload to them their system, so that candidates can take the test using the third party on-line system. This saves you considerable time and effort administering the test.
Another kind of test that you may contemplate designing is an ‘in-tray exercise’. This requires you giving candidates a typical task to do that they might receive in their in tray. It would most likely be some form of excel based analysis, and should take 1 to 2 hours to complete. Once again, get other staff members to complete the test in order to get a benchmark against which to assess candidates.