10 Key Questions to Ask a Bookkeeper Before Hiring Them
As a business owner, you know better than anyone how valuable it is to maintain accurate and organized financial records. Businesses of all sizes and structures can benefit from employing a professional bookkeeper.
Comprehensive, reliable bookkeeping requires a specialized skill set. From data-entry, to bank reconciliation, to cash flow management, the responsibilities of a bookkeeper can be far-reaching. When searching for a bookkeeper for your business, it can be difficult to know if a candidate is experienced and competent enough to manage your financial records.
To make the best decision possible, you should always research your options and do your due diligence. Keep reading to discover our top 10 questions to ask when hiring a bookkeeper for your business.
What is a Bookkeeper’s Role?
Bookkeepers are essential to the day-to-day operations of a business as well as its long-term success. They’re responsible for maintaining accurate, consistent, and up-to-date financial information.
Depending on your needs, you may choose to hire a bookkeeper as a full-time or part-time employee, or it may be more cost-effective to hire a freelancer or contract bookkeeper. The scope of their role can depend on your business’s size and structure, but a bookkeeper’s tasks and responsibilities generally include a combination of the following:
- Entering financial data
- Balancing the books
- Reconciling the books against bank and credit card statements
- Preparing monthly reports
Great bookkeepers are detail-oriented, honest, and thorough. When you’re looking for a bookkeeper to hire, you’ll want to ask about their relevant qualifications and experience as well as additional questions about their values and approach to their work.
How Does a Bookkeeper Differ From a Tax Preparer or Accountant?
Although accountants and bookkeepers share some tasks and responsibilities and often work side by side, there are some distinct differences between the two.
While the primary duty of a bookkeeper is to record day-to-day financial transactions and maintain financial records, business accountants also provide additional, more big-picture services. At Chatterton & Associates, our business accounting services include business and financial consulting, asset management and reconciliation, fluctuation and financial statement analysis, and budgeting as well as
tax planning, succession planning, and legal planning.
1. “What experience and certifications do you have?”
Unlike accountants and many other financial professionals, bookkeepers aren’t legally required to be certified. However, inquiring about an applicant's certifications and experience is one of the best ways to ensure they’re knowledgeable enough to handle more complex financial management. There are currently two organizations that offer nationally recognized bookkeeping certification: the NACPB and the AIPB.
2. “What are the benefits of outsourcing a bookkeeper?”
Bookkeepers offering their services should be able to explain the value they provide. This gives your potential hire the chance to summarize what they bring to the table and how their services will help you reach your goals.
3. “What is the scope of the bookkeeping work you provide?”
Some bookkeepers limit their services to data entry and record keeping, while others provide a wider range of financial services. Before you hire a bookkeeper, it’s vital to ensure that they offer all the services you need. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective and advantageous to hire a business accountant. This is especially true if your business involves complex tax or legal issues.
4. “How familiar are you with different industries?”
While a bookkeeper may be qualified to offer financial services to a business in one sector of the economy, that doesn’t mean they have experience in your specific industry. Depending on your particular business and trade, your financial needs may look very different and require specialized knowledge on the part of your bookkeeper.
5. “What is your communication style?”
Maintaining an open line of communication with your bookkeeper is essential, and it’s important to make sure whomever you hire shares your communication style or communicates in a way that is convenient for you and suits your needs. Casual, personality-based questions such as these give you a chance to get to know the person before you hire them.
6. “What internal review processes are in place?”
Bookkeepers have different approaches and strategies for avoiding errors in their work and correcting occasional mistakes and inconsistencies when they do arise. A good bookkeeper will
have a thoughtful answer to this question, which should give you a sense of their commitment to accuracy and integrity in their work.
7. “What software or tools do you use?”
Professional bookkeepers use a variety of software to complete their work. It’s important to make sure your potential hire is familiar with at least some of the tools and systems on the market. The most common and popular bookkeeping tools include QuickBooks, Quicken, and FreshBooks.
8. “How is confidential data protected?”
Protecting sensitive financial data is a top priority for any business. When interviewing a potential bookkeeper, be sure to inquire about the security procedures and internal controls they utilize to protect private information. It’s also a good idea to discuss their management process should a security breach occur unexpectedly.
9. “Are any other services offered?”
Bookkeepers and business accountants sometimes offer additional services or are associated with firms that can provide further value. In addition to our business accounting services, Chatterton & Associates also offers comprehensive tax planning, estate planning, and financial planning services to meet your needs.
10. “What is pricing like?”
As with any ongoing service, pricing is an important factor to consider when hiring a bookkeeper. Ask them about their standard rates, pricing structure, and potential hidden costs. Keep in mind that while you don’t want to be overcharged, good bookkeeping is essential to financial success and you want to make sure you hire the best person for the job.
How Bookkeepers Can Also Help With Tax Preparation
Sloppy or inconsistent bookkeeping can result in inaccurate tax returns, causing you to miss valuable deductions and potentially leading to hefty fines. On the other hand, well-organized bookkeeping can help to ensure you don’t overpay.
While your bookkeeper can’t file your taxes for you unless they hold the proper certifications, they can work with your accountant or tax preparer to assemble and analyze relevant financial data.
Grow Your Business with Reliable Bookkeeping, Tax Planning, and Financial Services
At Chatterton & Associates, we’re honored to work with businesses and provide the comprehensive financial services they need to meet their short-term goals and achieve long-term success.
Keeping accurate financial records and taking a strategic approach to your business finances can have a significant impact on your ability to expand your business and reach your objectives. We’re invested in your success. Your mission is our mission. Our financial and tax professionals are detail-oriented, thorough, and committed to understanding your goals so we can help you achieve them. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have and to learn more about our services.