If you run a small business, it can be difficult to find a good bookkeeper when you have an open position. Many other small business owners find themselves in the same predicament as you. One of the ways that you can help yourself find the right bookkeeper to help with your basic accounting and clerical tasks is to go into the interview process with a game plan.
You'll want to screen your candidates fairly and ask the right questions so that you have the highest chances of determining what bookkeeping candidates will most likely succeed and stay with your organization.
Organize the interviews so they are spaced out and you're not pressed for time for each one; your interviewees will feel more comfortable in the interview process, and you will get a better understanding of their past experiences, technical knowledge, and expertise with your accounting software.
- When you're looking to hire a bookkeeper for your business, ask interview questions that help you learn about their clerical and accounting skills.
- Prepare your questions in advance and ask them fairly to every candidate so you can get a sense of who really stands out from the crowd with the right experience.
- You'll also want to find a bookkeeper who you trust and enjoy working with, so ask some soft skills questions, like about their communication style, too.
Interview Questions To "Break The Ice" With Bookkeeper Candidates
Regardless of whether you are interviewing an entry-level candidate or an experienced professional, the interviewing process can be intimidating for your bookkeeper interviewees and stressful for you.
To settle everyone's nerves, you can start the interview with soft, icebreaker questions. You can ask general, open-ended questions such as the following:
- Please tell me about yourself.
- Why did you apply for this bookkeeping position?
- Why did you choose this career?
- Why are you interested in leaving your current job?
- What goals do you have in your career? How do you plan to achieve them?
- What do you see yourself doing five or 10 years from now?
These types of questions will not give you insights into whether or not your candidate is a good choice for the position. But you may learn something important about your candidate through these open-ended questions, and it will give a chance for any nervousness or anxiety to settle down.
General Work Experience
Ask specific questions about a candidate's work experience. For entry-level candidates, ask about prior employment or about how they handled projects during their schooling so you can evaluate their commitment and dedication in that area since they likely won't have a lengthy work history.
A few questions to ask to understand a candidate's work style and experience include:
- How would you describe your work style?
- What did you like most/least about your last job?
- What were the responsibilities of your last position?
- What do you think of your previous boss?
- What's one positive thing your last boss would say about you?
- What’s one negative thing your last boss would say about you?
- Can you give examples of ideas you've had or implemented in previous jobs?
Remember, you need to be sure a candidate is a good fit for your small business. A highly ambitious and aggressive person may look good on paper, but may not fit your company's culture if you're more laid back.
Questions To Evaluate Bookkeeping Knowledge and Expertise
Verify that your candidate has the technical skills to be successful in their bookkeeping position. While some candidates may be good at passing exams and racking up bookkeeping certifications or other accounting certifications, they may not necessarily have the mindset needed to apply those skills to real-world tasks. You can ask the following questions:
- What types of financial reports have you prepared and how was the data used by your previous employer?
- Which accounting software programs are you familiar with?
- How do you customize a report in QuickBooks?
- Tell me how and when you would post an adjusting entry.
- Do the accounts payable accounts normally have a debit or credit balance?
- How would you know if someone accidentally posted an adjusting journal entry to accounts receivable?
- When do we have to send vendors 1099s?
- What is depreciation expense?
These bookkeeping questions will test accounting knowledge as well as applied knowledge that has been learned on the job at other bookkeeping positions.
Evaluating Soft Skills
Don't forget the importance of interpersonal and soft skills. Many people think that accountants and bookkeepers just crunch numbers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. While that may be true in some cases, your bookkeeper will probably have a lot of interaction with employees, contractors, vendors, and you. You want someone you can work with easily and trust that he won't damage relationships with your key customers when they forget to pay on time.
Some good soft skills questions you can ask are:
- How would you handle a situation where an employee makes the same mistake repeatedly?
- Tell me about a difficult situation you encountered at work and how you handled the situation.
- If a customer called in angry about charges on an invoice, what would you do?
These types of questions will let you see what type of interpersonal skills your bookkeeping candidate possesses.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does a bookeeper do?
A bookkeeper works to help small businesses keep their finances in order. They gather financial information, organize it, and document it so that others in the business can use it to make financial decisions and recommendations.
What's the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?
The main job of a bookkeeper is to gather, record, and organize the financial information for your business. An accountant, on the other hand, is someone who analyzes financial information. They often work together, yet have different tasks.