As a small-business owner, you are likely juggling a lot of hats, and you probably don’t have much extra time in your day. For many small-business owners, hiring a bookkeeper can help reduce some of the day-to-day workload and free up time for other things.
If you’ve been doing your own bookkeeping, as many other small-business owners do, it may be difficult to trust someone else with the job. In fact, hiring the wrong person can create serious problems. The last thing you want is for a dishonest, unethical person to have access to your financial information, but by asking the right questions, you can reduce the risk of ending up with someone who should’ve chosen any career goal other than bookkeeping.
An interview can provide you with the information you need to determine if a bookkeeper can meet your expectations and do the best job for your business. Asking the right questions can mean the difference between hiring the right bookkeeper or someone who is inept.
Below are some sample interview questions that small-business owners should ask bookkeepers during the interview process.
How long have you been in business?
This is an important question because it gives you an idea of the level of experience a bookkeeper has, but that doesn’t mean you should only hire bookkeepers with decades of experience. You may find that someone with less experience is a better fit for your business, but by asking this question, you will get background information that can help you make a decision.
What bookkeeping experience do you have?
Don’t assume that those claiming to be bookkeepers are qualified and have the appropriate previous work experience and knowledge to handle your business’ bookkeeping needs. Make sure to find out more detailed information about their work experience. A good bookkeeper will have a solid understanding of accounts payable and receivable, balance sheets, and different types of financial reports, as well as excellent problem-solving skills.
Do you have special training or a degree in a related field?
While a degree is not necessary, a good professional bookkeeper will have some sort of training or related education. This could be on-the-job training, internships, or classes.
Which accounting software programs do you have experience using?
Any bookkeeper you hire should have excellent computer skills and experience using accounting software, such as QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks. It’s important to ask questions about how they use this bookkeeping software, what tasks they use it for, and how they can customize financial reports with it.
What experience do you have interacting with customers, clients, and vendors?
This is an important question for interviewing any service provider, including bookkeepers. You want a bookkeeper who has excellent customer service and communication skills. This is critical when interacting with your customers, vendors, and staff members. Remember, your bookkeeper will be representing you and your business.
How do you prevent errors in your work?
Asking this question will help you choose someone who pays attention to the little details that can sometimes fall through the cracks. Bookkeepers should be diligent about taking steps to prevent errors, such as entering data accurately, checking their work, and keeping receipts and other records. People aren’t perfect, and errors will happen sometimes, so it’s important for your bookkeeper to double-check records, maintain an organized accounting system, and do monthly bank reconciliations.
What would you do if a bank statement doesn’t reconcile?
A good bookkeeper will find the root of the problem when this happens. If your bank statement doesn’t align with your records, your bookkeeper needs to find out why and fix the problem. Transposed numbers, missing transactions, or data entry errors are typically the cause of these discrepancies, but occasionally these can be red flags that are signs of fraudulent activity.
What knowledge do you have about my business and my industry?
While a bookkeeper with general knowledge would work well for many businesses, this may not be the case for your business. Depending on the type of business you have, your bookkeeper may need to have industry-specific knowledge to be effective. Keep in mind that much of this industry-specific knowledge and terminology can be taught, so not knowing these things doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t hire someone.
What can I expect for response times?
If you have a question or concern that you need answers to now, you don’t want to wait for days for your bookkeeper to get back to you. The person you choose should be someone who provides you with financial statements on time and is prompt at returning calls and responding to emails.
How do you price your services?
Will your bookkeeper charge a monthly fee, an hourly rate, or a fixed rate? Asking this question will help you understand where your money is going.
Who will own the accounting software subscription?
You should make sure that your software subscription belongs to your business, rather than the bookkeeper. This allows you to own your data, which can be crucial if you have any disputes with your bookkeeper. The last thing you need is for your bookkeeper to keep you from having access to your information.
Being a bookkeeper doesn’t require any specialized training or certification like that required of a certified public accountant (CPA). Technically, anyone with basic accounting skills and knowledge of bookkeeping systems and financial reports can be a bookkeeper, so you have to be careful when choosing someone to handle your financial records.
Hiring the wrong person to be your bookkeeper can be disastrous. If the person doesn’t have the appropriate knowledge and skills needed to do the job, your records could be inaccurate, which could cause serious problems for your business. By taking the time to ask the right questions during the hiring process, you can reduce the risk of hiring someone who isn’t qualified to do the job or isn’t a good fit for your business.