Incorporate accountability into your firm’s interviewing process
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Incorporate accountability into your firm’s interviewing process

1 year ago · 187.4 KB Download



Original content provided by Reality-Based Leadership, with edits by the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS).

There are five core competencies which are critical to incorporating accountability into firms and achieving positive business results; personal accountability, reality-based thinking, capitalizing on change, firm alignment, and driving results. Firms can improve efficiency, uncover the untapped resource of human potential, and turn excuses into results by incorporating these five competencies into their interviewing process and hiring personally accountable employees.

First, remember these guidelines:

Before the interview

  • Download the Accountability interview worksheet (located at the bottom of this article). Use the numerical rating scale as a quantitative metric to support your candidate selection. Use similar worksheets for each candidate with the same questions for comparison purposes.

  • Determine which questions to ask for each competency. Remember you should probably only ask 3-5 questions per competency if you inquire appropriately.

  • Familiarize yourself with the interview questions so that you are comfortable and can listen actively to the candidate.

  • If applicable, determine how many people will be interviewing each candidate. Discuss the competency rating scale to assist each interviewer with consistency.

During the interview

  • Ask the selected interview questions and encourage specific examples that include actions and results.

  • Ask clarifying questions beyond the initial interview questions to better understand a candidate’s experience demonstrating each competence

  • Listen actively and take notes of key points to assist you with recollection.

  • Avoid answering questions for the candidate by approving/disapproving of their answers.

  • Refrain from making your final decision until after you’ve asked all the questions because your assessment of a candidate might vary from your initial impression as the interview progresses.

After the interview

  • Rank the candidates based on how they responded in the interview.

  • If applicable, meet with other interviewers to discuss each candidate.

Interviewing for the core competencies

Let’s review the five core competencies in more detail:

Personal accountability - Candidates with high personal accountability demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Has the mindset that results happen because of one’s actions, not in spite of them; that they choose their own destiny.

  • Demonstrates perseverance in the face of obstacles.

  • Is a great problem-solver.

  • Exhibits ownership of one’s results.

  • Shows unwavering acceptance of the consequences of one’s actions.

  • Does not blame others.

  • Learns from both failures and results.

  • Is able to identify and account for one’s own part in outcomes, and is able to turn learning into development plans, new competencies, and future results.

Avoid candidates who:

  • Attempt one approach and quit.

  • Expect others to make situations easier.

  • Are resentful.

  • Need validation from others to do their best.

  • Shift blame for failure.

  • Can’t think of a time when they have failed.

Interview questions to assess personal accountability:

  • Describe a project that you worked on that failed. What was your part in that?

  • Describe a time when you worked with a boss who you believe didn’t support you.

  • Describe a time when you were coached on subpar performance. What was your response?

  • Describe a time when a peer or a direct report did not pull his/her weight on your team.

Reality-based thinking - Candidates who display reality-based thinking demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Do not argue with reality.

  • Have a positive outlook.

  • Think the best of others.

  • Forgive others often.

  • Focus on productive work.

  • Base results on internal thoughts and personal actions.

  • Learn from failures.

  • Demonstrate integrity and are authentic

Avoid candidates who:

  • Get sidetracked by others’ actions.

  • Create drama.

  • Assign motives to people and their actions.

  • Lose focus on the bottom line.

Interview questions to assess reality-based thinking:

  • Describe a conflict you had to resolve. Share your thought process and how you arrived at the resolution.

  • Describe a time when you helped an employee or peer that was viewed as a performance problem.

  • Describe a time when you learned to get along with a “difficult” employee.

  • Describe a time when you believed you were absolutely right or certain about something but turned out to be wrong. What did you do next?

Capitalizing on change - Candidates who are successful at capitalizing on change demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Are flexible and can shift out of their comfort zone.

  • Adjust quickly and with ease.

  • See change as opportunity.

  • Can teach others.

  • Anticipate obstacles.

  • Are willing to try unproven ideas.

Avoid candidates who:

  • Only want to try proven approaches.

  • Are not adaptable.

  • Lose composure.

  • Freeze.

  • Place conditions on the vision of what the firm wants to accomplish.

Interview questions to assess capitalizing on change:

  • Describe a time when you spoke up in a public way to advocate for a new approach suggested by leadership.

  • Describe a time when you or your team had to learn a new skill very quickly. Have you applied your knowledge in different situations since then? If so, how?

  • Describe a time when you had to implement a decision, but you did not have all necessary information.

  • Describe a time when you personally took a risk. What would you do differently?

  • Describe how you interact with new employees or bosses.

Firm alignment - Candidates who understand the importance of firm alignment demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Build confidence in their direct reports.

  • Implement projects flawlessly.

  • Focus team energy on “how we can” versus “how we can’t.”

  • Communicate the importance of a task.

  • Keep personal opinions to him/herself.

  • Authentically support the direction of the firm.

  • Can shoulder tough criticism

Avoid candidates who:

  • Are not comfortable sharing negative messages.

  • Create drama.

  • Fear consequences.

  • Share opinions freely, often after the decision has been made.

Interview questions to assess firm alignment:

  • Describe a time when you disagreed with a decision you were required to implement.

  • Describe a time when you were right and upper management was wrong.

  • Describe a time when your direct reports did not believe they could meet new metrics required from upper management.

  • Describe a time when you made a personal sacrifice to protect the brand of your firm/organization or to retain a client/customer.

Driving results - Candidates who are successful at driving results demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Meet deadlines.

  • Are more concerned with results than with being right.

  • Do more than what’s required to exceed goals.

  • Avoids blaming others.

  • Finds areas of agreement to move a project forward.

  • Use feedback as information to improve.

  • Avoid excuses.

  • Have high standards.

  • Understand what she/he did to contribute to the results.

Avoid candidates who:

  • Expect credit for effort even when missing the goal.

  • Do not learn from failures.

  • Blame people and circumstances for short-comings.

  • Make excuses.

Interview questions to assess driving results:

  • Describe a time when your team was not meeting their goals. How did you adjust your leadership style to improve the situation?

  • Describe a time when you were working with a less-than-stellar team to accomplish a goal.

  • Tell me about one of your failures.

  • List the various sources where you get feedback.

To get started, download this worksheet to introduce the five core competencies into your interviewing process and begin hiring personally accountable employees.

Download the Accountability interview worksheet

File name: accountability-interview-worksheet.pdf

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