How To Choose a Bookkeeper?

The real question here is how to properly choose a skilled, qualified and experienced bookkeeper. Clearly you have your own specific reasons for searching for a bookkeeper – you may want to replace an existing employee; you might be looking for someone for a new role; or you might be expanding a department and looking for additional talent. Whatever the scenario, the fundamentals are the same, and they depend on your personal experience with the role, an understanding of your needs, and a clear sense of your objectives.

As a businessperson, you’re probably familiar with many of the aspects of bookkeeping and simple accounting. You may have been doing your own bookkeeping over the years, but as the business has grown, it’s become time-consuming, even to the point where important priorities are being compromised. At some point, most growing businesses require a professional bookkeeper – bottom line, it’s smarter to pay someone to do the paperwork, while you, the business owner, can focus on building the business.

Once again, the reasons for hiring a bookkeeper are varied, but it’s a great opportunity to review and reflect – to have a closer look at your financial position; to make improvements on your bottom-line; even to get a fresh and objective perspective from a new member of the team. And choosing does not have to be a pain. You know your business well enough to know exactly what you need in a bookkeeper: you may want someone to do data entry alone; you may require someone to handle all bookkeeping, including quarterly reporting and remittances; or, you may decide on someone with more experience, who can advise on operational improvements and enhancements. In each case, you must evaluate candidate credentials, qualifications and skills, and establish an optimal match based on your needs.

Putting the time and effort into a thorough search will pay off, and knowing precisely what you need will give you the best match. Your accountant can be instrumental in the search, by providing additional criteria that you may have overlooked, and by explaining what they need when receiving bookkeeping paperwork from you. Naturally, this will apply when hiring a full time employee or someone on a contract basis. Needless to say, you’re looking for the best value in a prospective employee, but the basics should be obvious: knowledge and skill using the specific computer software that YOU are using; previous experience and/or exposure to YOUR business sector; ability to manage and expedite bill paying, payroll and tax filings; and an impressive set of communication skills.

There are a number of other search requisites that should be added to your list. Ask for references, and make certain to follow up with a phone call; enquire about availability, and get the specifics on an arrangement that might be part-time or contract; determine if your prospective employee is deadline-sensitive enough for your needs; and finally, discuss confidentiality issues, data security and the critical sensitivity of both. Last but not least, pay close attention to personal characteristics during an interview – you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to notice traits that impress you, or not. And don’t forget to make use of your gut instinct – it’s always a good tool.

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Robert Pellegrino, CPA, CGA

905-761-8080 ext. 224

Philip Bright, CPA, CGA


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