Need to sort out your payroll and tax returns? Then you’re probably looking to hire an accountant. Here’s our guide on how to go about taking on a top quality professional accountant.
We will look at what accountants do, what skills to look for in accountants, what questions to ask and how to make sure you end up with the cream of the crop.
What do Accountants do?
Accountants can do much more than simply organise your finances. They can provide valuable input to help you make key business decisions, help inform your business plan and advise you on things such as which company legal structure might be best for you.
If you are a small startup, you might not need to hire a full-time accountant. You may only need someone for a few hours every now and then. But it’s good to understand exactly how they can benefit your business.
Tasks and responsibilities for an accountant typically include:
- Preparing budget and financial forecasts
- Researching and analysing accounting data to provide quantitative information on performance
- Preparing tax returns, balance sheets and profit/loss statements
- Preparing periodic reports for management and boards
- Overseeing financial transactions by auditing documents
- Keeping up with the latest policy and legislation changes
- Database management, including keeping all financial information secure and confidential
- Recommending financial actions based on analysis of options
- Providing financial input to inform strategic business decisions
- Making company payments and sorting out payroll
What skills to look for in Accountants?
#1 Financial skills
Starting with the obvious, an accountant won’t last more than five minutes in the job unless they have sound financial skills. This includes good maths skills as well as bookkeeping skills and knowledge of tax laws and financial regulations.
#2 IT skill
An on-the-ball accountant will need good working knowledge of the most up-to-date accounting software, will need to be a whizz with spreadsheets and should have no trouble creating online reports.
#3 Attention to detail
You can’t afford an accountant who will incorrectly interpret data or overlook accounting discrepancies. Accounting is a very detail-oriented career and you’ll need someone who is highly focused.
#4 Organisational skills
Accountants need to manage multiple portfolios and databases and generally keep on track of a consistently busy schedule that involves a lot of responsibility.
#5 Communication skills
This includes the ability to present complex financial information in an accessible way to a range of audiences, through both written reports and oral presentations.
Integrity and transparency are vital characteristics for accountancy. Accountants have the ‘keys to the safe’ and you need to be sure you can trust them 100 percent.
#7 Time management
Good accountants will be highly efficient, with strong ability to manage heavy workloads, juggle priorities and meet tight deadlines.
#8 Research and analysis skills
A lot of accountancy is about being able to analyse and interpret data to inform business decisions, optimize spending or reduce tax liability.
#9 Leadership skills
You will need someone with the confidence to take the reins and make strong decisions to take the business forward, not someone who passively presents financial information without making suggestions.
#10 Problem-solving skills
If you have any kind of financial issue, you’ll need to rely on an accountant who can come up with a suitable solution, fast!
How to hire Accountants?
Accountancy is a role that’s heavily reliant on key skills. It makes good sense to test these skills as early on as possible so that you can be confident you’re taking on someone who’s up to the tasks.
The best way of doing this is to offer a tailored skills test as a first step. Whether you’re recruiting through referrals, social media, job boards or another method, testing the skills of candidates is far better than wading through a ton of resumes and cover letters.
Accountancy is a role that’s heavily reliant on key skills.
You can set up a pre-employment skills test using real-life job simulations, which has several advantages over the traditional resume approach.
- It automatically weeds out the weakest and most unsuitable candidates, leaving you to interview and assess the best of the bunch.
- It’s more reliable than resumes. Applicants can exaggerate or fabricate skills on a resume and you may not realise this until after you’ve taken them on. If they’ve passed the skills test, you know they have what it takes.
- It’s more efficient, saving some poor recruiter from hours spent pouring over a stack of resumes. Some companies that have switched to skills tests have reported reducing their hire time by up to 75 percent.
- As time in business terms equates to money, this will earn you a financial saving too. Something your successful accountancy candidate should be quick to appreciate!
What questions to ask from Accountants?
Here are a few ideas for suitable questions you can ask accountant candidates that will assess their skills, along with what to look out for in the answers:
Closed question about financial skills
Any accountancy skills test will have to include a few questions to gauge a candidate’s skills and knowledge of finance and accounting procedures. You can include both closed questions, where the candidate has to choose the right answer from a list, and open questions which give them a change to be more creative and thoughtful.
Open question about financial skills
This gives the candidate a chance to express their knowledge and draw on their experience. You’ll be looking for answers that are detailed, use correct accounting terminology and show command of the profession rather than vague answers that show no depth of understanding.
Question about problem-solving skills
Be sure to really put candidates to the test with a few problems to get them thinking, rather than having them just demonstrate their competence. What you’re looking for with the question below is examples of being able to take control of the situation and perhaps think creatively. Red flags here would be inability to find a solution, unrealistic suggestions or plans to delegate to another member of staff.
Question about research and analysis skills
Accountants spend a lot of their time analysing data in order to produce up-to-date reports. They need to know both what to analyse and how to analyse it. You can use simple closed questions such as this one to assess whether candidates are on the right track.
Question about communication skills
Businesses rely on accountants with good communication skills to keep top-level staff and board members informed on the financial health of the company with informative reports and presentations. This requires not just understanding the myriad figures entered on the various accounting sheets but an ability to translate that information concisely to give everyone a clear picture.
Now it’s time to put everything into practice. If you’re ready to hire an Olympic-standard accountant, set up a skills test and filter out the best with some great questions and job simulations!
See our selection of soft skills questions on subjects ranging from communication to handling stress here.
Read about how to set up real world job simulations here.
To access more test questions and answers for hiring Accountants, start your 14-day free trial with Hundred5 here
Best of luck!