Hiring the right accountant can make or break your business.
It might sound dramatic, but think of your personal finances. You wouldn’t swipe your debit card on a major purchase without knowing how much was in your bank account or agree to lend a friend money without asking some questions about why they need it. So why would you make similar financial decisions for your business without comparable information?
To be truly successful, businesses must keep tabs on their finances and enlist expert advice when managing the company’s money starts becoming complex. If business owners don’t know where they stand on a monthly or annual basis, their chances of surviving in the midst of cut-throat competition decreases exponentially.
Despite the importance of financial management in a business, only 3% of business owners are able to read their financial statements. The task of ensuring that everything is indeed in order usually falls on the company’s accountant. This is why hiring the right accountant to meet your business’s unique needs is very important. In this article, we outline the role of a good accountant and provide tips and strategies to help you hire an accountant for your business.
The Role Of An Accountant
Why hire an accountant? Before you hire an accountant for your business, you need to understand their three basic roles:
The primary role of an accountant is to be well versed with your financial statements and manage your tax situation. If your accountant does not prepare the actual taxes they will be the intermediary with the tax CPA This allows the accountant to help you make informed decisions about your business and finances. Accountants are also uniquely qualified to offer advice on insurance, business expansion, and spending. In short, insights that help business owners and managers make the right decisions.
Accountants are in charge of setting up bookkeeping and accounting systems for your business. A good accounting system helps you make forecasts, evaluate profitability, and set reasonable prices. Tracking budgets, predicting trends, determining the breakeven and monitoring costs and expenses are all tasks that accountants can help you manage.
Auditing services that include constructing your business’s financial statements from scratch, or conducting an audit for loan purposes are all taken care of by accountants. Often auditors are thought of as the outside accountants assessing the quality and accuracy of the financial statements. These auditors often leave the public sector of accounting and are a great next accountant for your business based on the strong training they received in the public accounting sector.
Hiring The Right Accountant
Now that you know what an accountant is supposed to do, how do you hire a good accountant for the job? What to look for in an accountant? What qualities, skills, and qualifications does the right accountant have? These are the questions that we have answered below:
It is very important to know what qualifications to look for before you hire an accountant.
Most accountants can handle basic tasks like financial statements and bookkeeping. For more technical information like tax advice and audit, owners and hiring managers should keep a lookout for certified and licensed accountants.
A CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is not the same as a CMA (Certified Management Accountant). Both CPA’s and CMA’s have the following requirements:
- Pass their respective exams,
- Meet specific educational requirements to sit for their exams,
- Work experience and
- Continuing education.
What’s the difference? Ultimately a CMA, can take a more active role in managing in addition to meeting your daily accounting needs. The CMA’s work experience must be two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management. A Certified Public Accountant has extensive training but lacks the actual management experience. CPA’s are excellent at advising where a CMA is stronger at managing.
Not all accountants have the same type of industry expertise and since no two businesses operate in the same way, it is important to determine what type of expertise and experience you need your accountant to have. For example, an accountant who has worked with manufacturers will not have the same expertise as somebody working in construction or small businesses like non-profits or retail shops. Choosing the right accountant for your firm, therefore, requires asking the right questions during the interview process.
Businesses also need to consider the duties that the accountant will perform. This requires some inspection of your own business needs. Do you want someone to prepare your tax returns? Manage your financial statements? Or do you need more technical financial assistance, such as retirement planning advice, auditing services for bank loans and financial planning management? Finding an accountant with the expertise of these complex accounting services means businesses must first determine what their own needs are and then seek candidates who match their expectations.
Key Skills And Personality Traits
Handling a business’s financial records is no easy task. Accounting goes beyond crunching numbers. When hiring an accountant for your business, it is important to keep a lookout for the skills and traits listed below:
Time management skills
The primary job of an accountant is to keep the figures, financial data and paperwork of your business in check. Professional accountants must devise ways to find information quickly and efficiently. Testing your accountant’s time management skills is, therefore, a crucial requirement.
Attention to detail
Numbers can be tricky to deal with; even a small mistake in figures can have disastrous consequences. As financial planning and tax compliance are part of the accountant’s job description, the ability to give attention to even the smallest of details ensures that mistakes are minimized.
It goes without saying that any accountant you hire should be a trustworthy candidate. An accountant will be entrusted with confidential financial details of your business and to avoid accountant fraud, it is important that you find a trustworthy candidate. Hiring accountants through a firm or referrals is an easy way to ensure authentic candidates. Verifying their qualifications and certifications received is also a good way to sift through the job applications that your business may receive.
Contrary to popular opinion, accounting is not a solitary act. Professional accountants work collaboratively with different sectors in the organization and must be able to communicate effectively. Providing insights to staff members, decision making, working in a team and distilling expert information about the company’s financial workings are all part of the accountant’s job description. A common link between all these skills is the ability to communicate quickly, and effectively.
All businesses require flexibility and adaptability. But for accountants, this is an extremely crucial trait for they must embrace the challenges of a changing economy such as making the required shift to automation and AI technology. Even the day-to-day tasks of a business organization require accelerated pace and adjustments and accountants must quickly adapt to and take advantage of the business’s fast-paced daily operations – only then can they provide efficient services.
Choosing the Right Accountant
Once you have identified the traits and certifications you are looking for in an accountant for your business, the next step is to choose the right one.
Referrals are the number one way to find quality candidates, resulting in faster hiring, improved employee retention, and ultimately, higher business profitability.
Working with a recruiter is also a good way to help you pick the right accountant. Recruitment agencies usually have a talent database in place that they can tap into for easy recruitment, thereby saving you time and money. Other places to ask for referrals include corporate business associates, and industry trade associations; the more well connected your accountant, the better networking and accounting services they are likely to provide.
Interviews and reference checks
Small businesses cannot afford to make hiring mistakes, especially when hiring accountants. This is because accountants have access to your business’s records and other proprietary and confidential information. Businesses must, therefore, interview and scrutinize candidates carefully. Check for experience, personality traits, and digital software expertise thoroughly. Communication at this process must, therefore, be direct and straightforward. Finally, make sure you double-check all the references provided by the candidate. Careful due diligence should be applied at this process, as the quality of the reference can provide definite clues as to the suitability of the applicant.
The average compensation for an accountant is $50,000. This amount will vary depending upon the following:
- Technical ability
- Location (Cost of Living)
The compensation factors listed above allow the range to vary from the mid $40’s to low $80’s.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Accountant?
The cost to hire an accountant depends on a number of factors, like whether you’re hiring them full- or part-time and what tasks you’re looking for them to manage. Even then, the cost can vary widely based on where you live and the level of experience they have.
According to the IRS, the cost to hire an accountant to prepare a business’ taxes range from around $100 for a simple sole proprietorship to $800 for a C-corporation.
If you’re hiring an accountant to do ongoing work, like bookkeeping and payroll, you can expect to pay an hourly rate ranging from $37 to upwards of $250 for a CPA.
Hiring an accountant as a full-time employee comes with additional costs, like onboarding and benefits. According to estimates by payroll provider ADP, when you factor in paid leave, insurance, retirement, and legally required payments like FICA, the true cost of an accountant making $50,000 would be around $65,000 a year for the employer, in addition to about $4,000 in hiring costs for things like labor and training.
Interview Questions To Ask When Hiring An Accountant
1. What experience do you have working with businesses like mine?
You want an accountant that has experience not only in your industry, but ideally working with a business of a similar size and structure.
2. How do you keep up with the latest financial laws and guidelines?
Look for someone who can easily list industry publications, websites, or other means for learning about changes to tax code and financial legislation.
3. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
Integrity is essential in a job that manages money. The right candidate should take accountability for their mistake and explain how they did what was necessary to make it right.
4. How would your colleagues/clients describe you?
This question can be useful in pinning down specific traits that you’re looking for, like someone who’s easy to get in touch with, dependable, meticulous at record-keeping, and so on.
5. One of our biggest goals this year is X. How would you help us achieve it?
One of the reasons you’re hiring an accountant is to gain access to the expertise you don’t personally have. This is a good chance to identify if their knowledge applies to what you want to accomplish.
6. How do you use automation in your work?
To run smoothly, a growing business needs to leverage automation. A good accountant should be able to help you extend that to your finances.
7. What steps do you take when you start working for a new company?
A strong candidate should easily be able to list off basic onboarding steps, which might include things like running financial reports and setting up accounting software.
8. How do you manage a heavy workload?
Since accounting is a field that can be subject to heavy swings in work volume, it’s important to understand how well an accountant can manage stress and shifting priorities.
Accountants play an important role in small and big businesses alike, as they are tasked with the complete responsibility of your company’s financial management.
Additionally, managers, creditors, and investors can all seek their expertise, and advice to make efficient business decisions. Hence, hiring an accountant is no easy feat and as the steps above indicate, it takes time and consistent effort. In short, as with any recruitment process, the challenges of hiring the right accountant are numerous and daunting.
Fortunately, you can overcome these common recruitment challenges by partnering with the right recruitment agency. Indeed, working with a professional recruitment agency can help unravel the various uncertainties associated with recruitment and hiring practices.
Partner With Expert Recruiters to Help You Secure The Best Accounting Talent
Not all recruiters are the same – the key to success is to find and partner with an agency that is able to understand and deliver exactly what your business needs.
That’s why at 4 Corner Resources, we’re passionate about delivering quality customer service. Our first step is to understand your accounting needs, and then work on shortlisting trustworthy and qualified candidates who can go on to become valued employees.
Thanks to our client-centric approach, we are continually ranked as one of the top recruitment and staffing agencies in Orlando. As a nationally-recognized professional staffing agency, we have a diverse portfolio of clients from across the country. We also have the necessary experience to help you find the best accountant for your business – contact us today!
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