A qualified Bookkeeper is an essential role for every company. Failing to properly maintain books, record transactions, and complete tax returns can have serious consequences for a company’s financial health and legal compliance. Look for a Bookkeeper who brings the right professional background and experience, and who understands your industry, business, and financial goals.
In addition to technical accounting skills, a strong candidate will have excellent critical thinking skills and a keen attention to detail. They should have the interpersonal skills needed to work closely with accounting and business team members. Highly valued is the ability to communicate directly with clients and vendors to field inquiries, negotiate payment-related transactions, and resolve disputes.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Bookkeeper interview questions to help you get started:
What have you done in the past two years to become a better Bookkeeper?
What you want to hear: A candidate who mentions certification from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, or another high-quality professional bookkeeping association means that they have taken extra steps to go above the general qualifications and are motivated to keep their skills current. Listen as well for candidates who regularly attend continuing education courses, participate in online industry chat rooms, read professional publications, and update their booking software systems.
Red flag: A candidate who can’t think of anything new they have done in the past two years to stay current with industry best practices is a risk for failing to bring the latest bookkeeping methodologies to your business and potentially causing non-compliance with current laws or regulations.
Which bookkeeping software systems do you use, and what tasks do you perform on them?
What you want to hear: Qualified Bookkeeper candidates will readily discuss the merits or pitfalls of standard accounting software systems like QuickBooks, KashFlow, or Xero. Listen for what they choose to work with and why. Delve further to understand what particular bookkeeping functions they perform utilizing those systems, such as accounts payable and receivable, reconciling bank statements, creating financial records, error checking, and any financial processes specific to your business niche. The more detailed and thoughtful their answers, the more value their insights will provide for your company’s financial and business concerns.
Red flag: A candidate who is not well-versed in bookkeeping software systems is likely missing out on efficiency, accuracy, and strategic analysis capabilities that would be a huge benefit for your company.
Tell me about the accomplishment that most impacted your career.
What you want to hear: This question opens the door to a creative answer, giving the candidate a chance to offer greater insight into their values, work habits, and career goals. Listen for the type of accomplishment they describe, for example was it an individual or team effort? A work-related activity or something in their personal life? Or a financial achievement versus an emotional satisfaction?
Describe a work problem that you solved to save money, improve systems, or ensure compliance.
What you want to hear: A strong Bookkeeper does not rely on the status quo when it comes to managing a company’s books. They will take the initiative to challenge all current bookkeeping procedures and make recommendations for change or improvement. Listen for a candidate who will describe the nature of the work problem, what they saw as requiring improvement, the steps they took to present their findings and obtain approval for implementation, and how they measured the outcome.
There is a subsidiary entry error. How do you find it?
What you want to hear: An experienced Bookkeeper will immediately recognize that subsidiary entries are transactions that aren’t recorded accurately, such as an invoice entered in accounts receivable as $5,000 instead of $500. They should go on to explain that the trial balance won’t show this error and a bank reconciliation will be required to check the numbers in your books against the numbers on the bank statement.
Red flag: A candidate unable to explain a subsidiary entry is unqualified to manage your books effectively. Continue to challenge their basic accounting skills by probing further into other types of accounting errors like errors of omission, transposition errors, and rounding errors.
Did you interact with vendors and clients in your last Bookkeeping position?
What you want to hear: The ideal Bookkeeper will have experience working directly with vendors and clients beyond just sending or receiving payment notices. For example, they may have fielded payment-related inquiries from clients, worked with banks to resolve account issues, or negotiated terms to settle disputed financial matters.
What is the first thing you would do on your first day on this job?
What you want to hear: An experienced Bookkeeper may offer a range of possible activities. However, listen primarily for how the candidate will undertake to first learn about your company and how it operates, then focus on current accounting methodologies used to support that operation. From there, they should dive into reviewing the financial particulars such as bank accounts, balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statement, and the like.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Bookkeeping position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Understand proper accounting procedures
- Have the ability to evaluate and improve systems
- Are current with all applicable laws and regulations