If you are ready to hire a full-time bookkeeper or ever wondered about your current bookkeeper? After almost 20 years of corporate accounting experience, here are some conclusions we've come to about hiring bookkeepers.
How you can spot a great bookkeeper:
1. Great bookkeepers are fast workers. Let's face the reality that people tend to have a natural pace for working (think grocery store check-out clerk). Bookkeeping is comprised of a large volume of routine tasks, and bookkeeper are generally paid for their time not their output. You are going to want someone who has an uptempo natural pace so that you get better value for pay.
2) Great bookkeepers are efficient. Speed and efficiency are close cousins but great bookkeepers will look for ways to leverage their time to get more done in less time. It's not just about working faster, it's about working smarter.
3) Great bookkeepers pay attention to details. Garbage in, garbage out. If your bookkeeper is prone to making too many mistakes your whole system is at risk. Great bookkeepers will perform month end reconciliations and have a review process to catch errors for optimal time/accuracy balances.
4) Great bookkeepers are usually introverts. Keep this in mind when interviewing as it may be difficult to pull information from them. Once hired, they will produce more than their more outgoing colleagues. Extraverted bookkeepers can make great bookkeeping team leads so don't rule them out necessarily, but your accounting department will most likely employ more introverts than extraverts as your company grows.
5) Great bookkeepers are eager to take on new technologies. Unfortunately most bookkeepers prefer routine a little too much so it is very hard to come by good bookkeepers that are eager to seek out new technologies to speed up their work or increase accuracy. When deciding between two hires, pick the one who seems the most willing to strive for continuous improvement and can share good examples where they have used technology in their personal life.
6) Great bookkeepers are honest about their capabilities at spreadsheets. It's surprising how many people claim to be excel experts and can't do basic functionality. Regardless of the inherent imperfections of spreadsheets they are still the best generic scratchpad tool in the market. Perhaps more importantly though, in my experience the bookkeepers who overstate their capabilities also tend to miss key deadlines putting the company at risk of penalties and fines.
7) Great bookkeepers are extremely organized. Record keeping is an art onto itself and great bookkeepers will have pristine files. They will be able to pull files from three years ago without hesitation in mere seconds. Files saved in online directories will have common naming schemes that will influence the appropriate order.
8) Great bookkeepers have had some accounting training. Bookkeeping is not a regulated profession. There are many self-taught bookkeepers out there and unfortunately the work speaks for itself. A college accounting program is worth much more than years of experience when it comes to bookkeeping performance. I will now choose an educated bookkeeper with no experience over a seasoned bookkeeper with no formal training every time.
Bookkeeping performance balances between speed and accuracy and most of that is dictated by personality and attitude.
Bonus Secret tip: What many don't realize is that great bookkeepers are not corporate Accountants. A great bookkeeper still requires the guidance of an experienced Accountant to ensure systems and processes are established in a meaningful and effective way. Have a CFO-type review your GL and processes for a cost-effective fix to ensure you get awesome results from your great bookkeeper(s).