The Top 12 Corporate Controller Interview Questions to Prepare For in 2023

Interviewing for a corporate controller position? This is an exciting opportunity but also a challenging one. As the head of accounting, a corporate controller holds a critical role in the financial health and success of a company.

When interviewing controllers, hiring managers want to see that you have the technical skills and strategic vision to oversee all financial operations They also want to get a sense of your management style and how you would fit into the company culture.

Here are the top 12 questions that controllers are most likely to ask, along with tips from experts on how to answer them:

1. Why are you interested in becoming a corporate controller?

This is your chance to explain why you’re passionate about this role and how your background makes you an excellent fit. Emphasize your interest in taking on a leadership position and overseeing all aspects of financial management. Share how you enjoy identifying ways to drive financial performance and growth. Demonstrate a strategic business-focused outlook.

2. What do you see as the core responsibilities of a corporate controller?

Hiring managers want to see that you have an accurate understanding of this critical role. Key responsibilities include overseeing all accounting operations, managing the accounting staff, ensuring compliance with accounting regulations and standards, producing financial statements, conducting audits, forecasting budgets, assessing financial risks, and advising executives on financial strategy.

3. How would you describe your management style?

Since controllers oversee large accounting teams, interviewers want insight into your leadership approach. Share how you empower employees through trust and accountability while still maintaining oversight. Give examples of how you motivate staff, foster professional growth, and promote collaboration. Avoid describing an overly hands-off or authoritarian style.

4. How do you handle high pressure situations where precision is crucial?

Controllers frequently deal with tight deadlines, limited resources, and high stakes results. Give an example of a time when you completed a difficult task correctly while under a lot of stress. Discuss how you stay focused, see the details, and avoid errors. Convey your ability to thrive in high pressure environments.

5. How do you ensure the accounting data you produce is 100% accurate?

Precision is critically important in this role. Discuss processes and systems you use to validate numbers, identify discrepancies, and catch errors. Share how you instill the importance of accuracy in your team. Demonstrate that you won’t cut corners when producing pivotal financial statements.

6. What experience do you have with financial reporting and compliance for a public company?

For public companies, controllers must ensure SOX compliance and produce reports required by the SEC. If you have experience in public company accounting, highlight your knowledge of regulatory requirements. If not, show a willingness to get up to speed quickly. In any case, convey an interest in this key aspect of the controller role.

7. How do you determine which accounting policies and procedures to implement?

Share how you evaluate systems to find the ones best suited to a company’s specific needs. Discuss how you stay up-to-date on the latest accounting rules and methods. Give examples of how you’ve developed or updated processes to boost efficiency, clarity, and compliance.

8. How would you go about reducing costs in the accounting department?

Demonstrate you can manage budgets and resources prudently by discussing cost control tactics like automating processes, renegotiating vendor contracts, optimizing staff assignments, and eliminating redundancies. Show how you balance cost reduction with minimizing risks and maintaining accuracy.

9. Describe your experience with financial forecasting and modeling.

Advanced financial analysis skills are key for controllers. Discuss financial models you’ve built to forecast revenues, costs, cash flow, investments, and other metrics. Share how you gather data, develop assumptions, run scenarios, and translate projections into actionable business insights. Demonstrate analytical expertise.

10. How would you go about improving the financial performance of a company?

Share specific ideas like performing competitor benchmarking, identifying opportunities to reduce operating expenses, advising on profitable investments, pinpointing unprofitable products/services to cut, and developing growth strategies. Convey your strong business acumen.

11. Tell me about a time you caught an accounting error that could have had major negative consequences.

Recounting an example demonstrates attention to detail and courage to speak up about discrepancies, even under pressure. Explain how you noticed the error, worked quickly to understand the scope, alerted management, and recommended solutions to correct it. Focus on how you minimized damage.

12. Where do you see your career in the next 5 years?

Share your professional goals and how this controller role can advance your career trajectory. Convey your interest in taking on greater responsibility and leadership. You might aim to become a Chief Financial Officer one day or hope to expand your experience across multiple industries. Align your aspirations with growth opportunities at the company.

Preparing powerful answers to these common controller interview questions will help you stand out from the competition. Highlight your technical expertise, leadership capabilities, analytical skills, and strategic outlook. With the right preparation, you can show interviewers you have everything it takes to excel as their next corporate controller. Now get out there and ace those interviews!

Toptal sourced essential questions that the best interim financial controllers can answer. Driven from our community, we encourage experts to submit questions and offer feedback.

corporate controller interview questions

Technical: How do you measure the accuracy of your work?

The candidate should be able to explain cogently a process for ensuring that errors are minimized. This will come down to a mix of technical skills for using spreadsheets and an understanding of how different accounting statements relate to each other. Exceptional candidates do not eschew responsibility, nor pass blame onto others. 2 .

Technical: Explain two differences between IFRS and US GAAP accounting principles.

Among other potential examples: 1. GAAP is rules-based, and IFRS is principles-based. 2. IFRS prohibits the use of last-in, first-out (LIFO) inventory accounting methods, GAAP rules do not. 3. GAAP requires financial statements to include a statement of comprehensive income. This element is optional under IFRS. 3 .

Technical: What changes do you think your job will see in the future, and how are you getting ready to keep up?

This is entirely subjective and can provide clues to the candidate’s vision and ambition. It’s also a less obvious way to see how well they keep up with changes in their field (and their credentials).

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Technically, what are the three most important qualities you would look for in a junior team member?

Assess for a broad mix that has a correct blend of both behavioral and technical qualities. One red flag would be answers that show a preference for hiring people who would be seen as “unthreatening” to the candidate’s position, either in terms of their skills or behavior. 5 .

Technical: How do you check the accuracy of reports that other team members have been given? What is your process for doing this?

An interesting answer stresses the need to give other team members tasks and authority, but makes sure there are enough checks and balances in place. On a technical level, precedent/dependent formula auditing and using control sheets in spreadsheets to group assumptions together are clear examples of processes that can be put into action. 6 .

Behavioral: Describe a time when you needed to learn a new product from scratch for controlling purposes.

This question shows how well the candidate can think about and understand how their business makes money, as well as how objective they are. If their answer includes both self-research and talking to internal product teams, for example, that shows that they question and confirm the basic assumptions that are given to them. 7 .

Behavioral: Tell me about a time when your work helped you find a business problem or chance to make things better. How did you work to communicate and implement this into commercial functions?.

Another way to find out more about the applicant’s business mindset is to see how naturally they want to improve efficiency and strive for commercial excellence, even though their role is usually seen as a process-driven, back-office function. 8 .

Behavioral: Elaborate on your process for prioritizing work.

Pay attention to the criteria used to prioritize work. Good points are when it is assessed based on timing, commercial importance, and spillover benefits to other priorities. When an arbitrary or subjective hierarchy is used, like the seniority of the person the request is for, that would be a bad thing. 9 .

Technical: Teach me something about a feature in Excel that I might not know much about.

The answer can be anything, so long as it’s not a very standard function (i. e. , =SUM) of the software. Pay more attention to how they can explain technical things without pictures and how learning these things helps them save time and/or work faster. 10 .

Behavior: Talk about a time when you had to deal with a difficult or evasive coworker and how you got around the problems.

Controllers may face opposition from members of the commercial team who are eager to meet goals and make deals that only benefit themselves. An effective controller is both inquisitive, persistent, and brave enough to get to the bottom of issues. In their answer, they should stress more on how they worked to settle the disagreement professionally, setting the stage for a better relationship in the future. 11 .

Behavioral: Have you ever been in an ethical situation where you had to do something that was against the rules because someone else had different goals for you?

When controllers try to meet the needs of commercial units while also meeting their duty to file objective accounts, they may find themselves in trouble. Assess for a convincing progression through the STAR framework – situation, task, action, and result. Pay specific attention to action and result aspects, more so over any salacious details of the situation.

A well-thought-out answer will show how the applicant sees ethics in their job and how they handle situations in a way that meets their duty. 12 .

Psychological: How do you stay up to date on the business changes at the company where you work?

Because of new accounting rules and the general growth of the business area they work in, a controller’s job will always be changing. People who are proactive and keep up with changes in policies and big trends in the industry show that they are more of a proactive worker than a reactive follower.

There is more to interviewing than tricky technical questions, so these are intended merely as a guide. Not every good candidate for the job will be able to answer all of them, and answering all of them doesn’t mean they are a good candidate. At the end of the day, hiring remains an art, a science — and a lot of work.

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Questions and answers sent in will be looked over and edited by Toptal, LLC, and may or may not be posted, at their sole discretion.

FINANCIAL CONTROLLER Interview Questions & ANSWERS! (How to PASS a Financial Controller Interview!)


How do I prepare for a controller interview?

Strong analytical skills, leadership qualities, and excellent communication skills are essential for a Financial Controller. How can a candidate demonstrate their financial acumen during the interview? Providing specific examples of financial projects or initiatives they have led can showcase their financial acumen.

What are the 3 C’s of interview questions?

In almost all of our training, we at some point focus on these three C’s. When it comes to interviewing, confidence, competence, and credibility are essential tools for success and often elude even the most experienced investigators.

What makes a good corporate controller?

A controller should be capable of handling an assortment of accounting related-tasks, including reviewing invoices, managing accountants, and negotiating contracts. Additionally, they must be up to date with your industry’s various regulations and compliance requirements.

What questions are asked in a controller interview?

If you’re interviewing for a controller position, you can expect to be asked a range of questions about your experience and skills. To help you prepare, we’ve gathered some of the most common controller interview questions and provided sample answers. 1. Are you familiar with the accounting software programs used in this industry?

What is a controller interview?

In the realm of finance, a Controller interview is not just a platform to showcase your expertise but also a strategic opportunity to evaluate the potential workplace. Asking incisive questions reflects your analytical acumen and demonstrates your proactive stance in understanding the role’s intricacies and the company’s financial landscape.

What skills do you need to be a corporate controller?

Most corporate controllers have master’s degrees in accounting or business administration. In addition, many are certified public accountants (CPAs) or certified management accountants (CMAs), qualifying them to answer your toughest accounting questions. Leadership skills are crucial for this role.

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