How to hire an accountant: The ultimate guide


Hiring a good accountant who can keep tabs on your bills and give you financial advice is crucial for your business and your finances.  

Think about it for a second – you don’t usually make big purchases without first calculating whether or not you’ll make ends meet this month.

Neither would you want to splash out one evening just to realize the next morning that you spent too much money on drinks and food (albeit most of us are probably guilty of this). 

Similarly, when it comes to your business, you won’t be spending money on just about anything without first considering how it will affect your end-of-month and end-of-year financial statements.

However, as a business owner, you may not be an expert in accounting and you won’t necessarily know by heart all the transactions that come in and out of your bank account. 

That is why hiring a stellar accountant is a must for every successful business in the long run, especially as fierce competition lurks around every corner. 

Having a good accountant has immense benefits. They will keep track of all your business’s financial transactions and try to keep you in the green as much as possible.

They will provide you with financial advice on all matters, especially when it comes to striking new deals or considering whether a new deal will be beneficial to you. 

So it is as important as ever to have an accountant who knows the ins and outs of your business and helps you minimize expenses while maximizing profits. 

But the question then stands – how do you hire a good accountant?

This guide will give you all the answers.

We’ll go through all the intricate details of hiring an accountant, what they do and what skills they should possess, what to look for when hiring an accountant, and how to evaluate their skills them using TestGorilla’s unique test library.

Table of contents

What is an accountant and what is their role?

An accountant is someone who records, files, and analyzes financial transactions on behalf of a business or organization.

Using the information at their disposal, accountants issue financial statements, ensure taxes are paid on time, and prepare financial reports. 

What does an accountant do

Every good accountant will provide you with advisory services, bookkeeping, and auditing services. 

1. Advisory services

Hiring an accountant will provide you with someone who can offer sound advice on all your business’s finances.

The accountant will be well acquainted with your financial statements and tax returns. They will help you make informed decisions when striking new deals, expanding, and increasing or cutting down on expenses.

In essence, having an accountant will enhance your business by guiding your financial decisions. 

2. Bookkeeping

Hiring an accountant will also provide you with the service of tracking and keeping a record of all your business’s transactions.

This way, your accountant can write reports based on the information they have and give you insights into financial forecasts, setting up new prices, and how you’re doing in terms of budgeting. 

3. Auditing services

Hiring an accountant will aid your business’s audit. This is the process of examining the accounts of your business and checking them against your inventory and seeing whether or not all departments are following protocol.

This is important not only for tax purposes, but also to ensure your company is financially healthy and no one is “cooking the books.” 

Since we mentioned bookkeeping, it is important to say that an accountant and a bookkeeper are not the same person, even if their roles overlap. 

An accountant takes on the role of bookkeeper, while doing their own job of maintaining a company’s healthy finances, performing audits, analyzing numbers, and writing reports. They will usually have a certified public accountant (CPA) license.

A bookkeeper on the other hand is someone who records and stores all the financial transactions of a company. They don’t usually need to be certified and will be cheaper to hire than an accountant. Nevertheless, hiring a bookkeeper can be as tricky as hiring an accountant, so you want to make sure you do it the right way.

Overall, the main difference is that the accountant builds upon the information gathered by the bookkeeper and provides extra insights based on the data. Bigger companies will have different employees for the roles of accountants and bookkeepers, but smaller firms can get away with one or the other. 

However, accountants remain the better choice since they provide extra services. With that in mind, you need to know when the right time is to hire an accountant. 

When should you hire an accountant?

During the early stages of starting your own business, you won’t need an accountant, especially if your business is still small. Most business owners can get away with paying bills and salaries and keeping everything afloat at the start.

However, when your business begins to grow, you will need to hire an accountant.

There are several signs you can keep an eye on that will tell you at what point you should hire an accountant. 

when should you hire an accountant

1. Keeping tabs on bills distracts you from the bigger picture

You will know that it is the right time to hire an accountant when going over financial statements takes up too much of your daily time.

As a business owner you need to focus on the business as a whole – managing it, trying to expand it, finding new customers, etc. If you don’t have time for that because you’re in a quagmire of numbers, now is the moment to hire an accountant. 

2. You’re experiencing rapid growth or are about to make a large investment

When you start expanding your business, you will most likely need to hire extra staff, buy more equipment, and invest in new office space. At this moment, most business owners will need to hire an accountant to ensure everything is meticulously planned and paid for.

It is easy to forget important details as a business owner when you have to think about 1000 different things. In a period such as this, hiring an accountant will save you time and plenty of headaches.

3. You need professional help to run your finances

As the business grows, so will your profits and expenses. You will need financial reports and will most likely be audited by the government at some point.

In these circumstances, the amount of highly specialized financial documentation requires an accountant’s hand to complete, otherwise you run the risk of missing something or failing to submit important documents on time, which can get you into trouble with the authorities. 

If you notice any or all of these signs in your business, it is time to hire an accountant. 

In-house accountants vs. outsourced accounting

You need to decide whether you want an in-house accountant or to outsource the services to an external accounting firm. There are two main factors to consider here.

If your business is small, outsourcing your accounting will generally be optimal. You don’t have too many financial transactions and outsourcing will be cheaper since the outside firm usually gets paid hourly. If you don’t have much paperwork, it will be cheaper to outsource than to hire an in-house accountant. 

Conversely, if your business is growing or has expanded so much that you have a constant flow of revenue and transactions become too complicated, you’ll want to opt for an in-house accountant. You will be paying higher fees to an outside accountant as your company grows so it will be smarter to hire someone permanently on a fixed rate. 

Hiring an in-house accountant will also produce the added benefit of knowing the ins and outs of your business, so you will want to opt for them in the long run.

Accountants’ job responsibilities

As mentioned earlier, an accountant has many responsibilities, even though they may vary slightly from industry to industry or based on the accountant’s role and position. 

Some of their most common responsibilities include: 

  • Overseeing financial transactions 
  • Ensuring your books are accurate and up to date
  • Paying taxes and issuing refunds
  • Compiling financial reports
  • Offering guidance on all financial matters 
  • Conducting quarter and annual forecasting and assessing financial risk factors 

Accountants’ job requirements and skills

Every good accountant will need to possess a myriad of soft and technical skills to perform their tasks well.

When hiring an accountant, you’ll want them to have these necessary skills:

accountants’ job requirements and skills

1. Attention to detail

Every accountant should pay close attention to detail. They are, after all, working with numbers and one small mistake can lead to problems in the long run. 

2. Communication

Good communication skills are essential for every job, but accountants need to be able to summarize and explain hundreds of sheets of paper and documentation in easy-to-understand language.

Otherwise, they run the risk of just producing graphs and tables with numbers that no one understands. You need to hire an accountant who can explain to you opportunities and pitfalls based on the numbers they possess. 

3. Computer literacy

The accountant you hire must be computer literate when it comes to the latest software for accounting. If they’re working on an outdated system that wastes time and resources because the accountant isn’t up to date with the latest tech, that could cause serious problems. 

4. Data analysis

Hiring an accountant with strong data-analysis skills is a must since accountants are constantly working with numbers. To benefit your business, they need to be able to analyze data and spot trends and issues.

5. Good with numbers

It goes without saying, but an accountant needs to be good with numbers, otherwise their role becomes redundant. However, an accountant doesn’t need to be savvy in highly complex mathematical problems in order to do their job satisfactorily. 

6. Industry expertise

Depending on your business you need to choose the right accountant for your niche.

Accountants will often specialize in certain industries: Even if their performance looks great in one industry, that does not necessarily mean they will do well in another. So when hiring an accountant, look for someone in the same industry as your business.

How to write a great accountant job description 

Just as recruiting managers tend to skim CVs when trying to find the perfect match, so do candidates when reading a job description. Therefore, it is essential you write a compelling job description for your open accounting position to get the best candidates to apply. 

how to write a great accountant job description 

1. Define the responsibilities and requirements of the role

You need a clear idea of what needs to be done in your business and how much work you’re willing to hand over to your accountant.

If you plan to continue doing some of the bookkeeping yourself, or there are things like paying salaries that you are adamant you want to do yourself, then it is wise to write that in the job description.

Use the information above to define exactly what you need – soft skills, hard skills, communication, honesty. Anything you feel is important for your business should be written in the job description. 

You’ll want to check similar job advertisements so you don’t write something that is completely unaligned with what you have to offer. 

2. Define the benefits and compensation

In the U.S. in 2020, the average accountant salary was around $53,000, with the best paid going up to $72,000.

These numbers will vary on several factors, including:

  • Experience
  • Technical abilities
  • Location – in some cities and states the pay will vary more or less

Here you need to define your company goals and objectives, check your numbers (yes, before you hire an accountant), and decide what you can offer your potential employees. 

You wouldn’t want to go overboard or be too stingy. Stick with the average and leave some space for negotiations.

Bear in mind that the people you’re interviewing are good with numbers, so don’t get too many smart ideas when making your offer. 

3. Make sure to get your stakeholders’ input

Before going on the hunt for an accountant you’ll want to check what your stakeholders think the business needs right now. Their input can give you valuable insights into what and who you should be looking for, and what qualifications or specific skill sets they should possess. 

Talking to your stakeholders will make the process of hiring an accountant less laborious and might prove useful for the business as a whole. 

4. Write the job description

Once you define your needs, decide on remuneration, and take your stakeholders input into account, you can write the job description that will land you the ideal accountant. 

Here you’ll want to summarize all the information you have gathered succinctly to ensure you capture the attention of potential candidates. 

Use keywords, define duties, and outline skills. Say what your ideal candidate will be without sounding like you’re trying to find a unicorn (even if you are). 

Overall, make it neat and tidy, clear, and well written. After that, wait for the phone calls. 

Accountant job description 

Although there are thousands of templates out there, you can create your own using the following guidelines. 

It doesn’t need to be fancy – in fact, you wouldn’t want to make it too complicated so it becomes hard to understand. You’ll want to include:

  • Job title
  • Who they will be reporting to
  • Job overview – briefly stating what the position is about
  • Responsibilities and duties – use the above information to complete this section 
  • Qualifications

For more details on how to write a good job description you can check out TestGorilla’s guide on How to write great job descriptions.

How do you find accountants for hire?

Once you have established what skills, level of expertise, and certifications you’re looking for from an accountant, you can move to the process of searching for the right candidate. 

You can use any and all of the following methods to search and find top quality talent. 

how do you find accountants for hire

1. Ask for referrals

The number one way you can find quality candidates when you want to hire an accountant, or new employees in general,  is to ask for referrals.  

It often happens that top quality talent surround themselves with other top tier professionals. Asking your employees or people you know to recommend candidates is a sure way to find excellent talent when hiring an accountant.

You will want to set up an employee referral program with incentives to make the whole process even more competitive and encourage people to refer the very best. A bonus or some other perk may be a suitable reward.  

The referral program should have a clear outline of expectations – define the perfect candidate so people refer only the ones who match that description and you don’t waste time and resources interviewing unsuitable applicants. 

Once people start referring, offer them feedback on how the process is going to encourage them to refer again in the future even if their candidate was unsuccessful. 

2. Post your job online

Your next step will be to post online to advertise the fact that you’re looking for an accountant. Here, you can use the plethora of social media channels your business should have at its disposal. 

Write posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, since they are the three most common channels for sourcing candidates. Posting on these websites is free, so it is the cheapest way to find people. But you can also generate paid advertisements to target specific audiences and make the process even more effective. 

Of course, after social media, you can use job boards to find an accountant for hire. If you have a niche job description posted on job boards, you can match your criteria with candidates looking specifically for what you have on offer. 

This way, you can match your job posting with candidates who already possess the right skills and technical expertise.

The quality of hire will improve since candidates are usually experts in their field when applying on job boards and your odds of finding a good applicant when hiring an accountant will increase. 

3. Promote your company to attract applicants

To find the right accountant candidate, you will also want to promote your company as much as possible.

You want to nurture a sense that your organization is “the place to be”  so that people flock to the opportunity to work with you. This is why setting up a system of external brand ambassadors is a good way to promote your company. 

These people will use their professional networks to advocate your business and attract potential candidates with insights they most probably will not receive during the interviewing process. 

This way, candidates will better understand what your business is about. And if your branding has been done well, more people will want to join your organization. 

You can also start a company blog, create regular content, and have employee and client testimonials on your website. All these steps will boost your popularity and brand positioning. 

By promoting your company in such a way, you may also find accountants for hire who are passive candidates. In other words, they are already working somewhere else, but  they are the perfect match for your organization. 

If you can offer them better conditions than your competitor, they might consider switching sides and come to work for you instead. It is not the most ethical approach, but surviving as a business means you sometimes need to make hard decisions or you’ll let your competitors make those decisions for you. 

4. Check national organizations

One final way to find accountants for hire is to check national organizations. These organizations gather together experts in the field of accounting. They are the best talent pool for hiring an accountant you can find. 

Obviously, you need to be mindful here since candidates in such organizations have a higher degree of labor organization. They will potentially want more from you in terms of remuneration and perks. 

But if you can afford it, finding an accountant for hire through such organizations is a great opportunity.

Here you can find a list of  5 great professional organizations for accountants in the U.S. 

How to evaluate candidates: Pre-employment tests to hire an accountant

Evaluating candidates doesn’t need to be a laborious task. Gone are the days when you manually sifted through hundreds of resumes in the hope of finding that perfect individual who will be ideal for your business.

Now you can use pre-employment tests to hire an accountant on a skills-testing platform like TestGorilla. This makes the whole process more convenient and bias-free, and once candidates meet your criteria it will be so much easier to make the right decision.  

Differentiate between exceptional candidates

Using pre-employment tests during your hiring process will give you the advantage of finding truly exceptional accountant candidates. These tests measure applicants’ skills against a series of problems crafted by experts in the field.

Once candidates complete the process and you see the results, you will better understand who are the best applicants for the role. 

Reduce your accountant recruitment costs

Further benefits of using pre-employment skills testing for hiring an accountant is that it saves you time, increases the quality of hire, and enables you to more accurately predict employee performance once they get the role. 

This will help with profitability in the long run since candidates who perform well on the tests will probably be more successful in the job than candidates who perform poorly. And if you know how a candidate will perform on the job based on their test results, you can offer them even better working conditions, increasing retainability. 

After all, if you hire an exceptional accountant who is happy with their remuneration and benefits, they will most likely stay longer on the job, further reducing your cost of hire since you won’t need to search for someone new again after a few months. 

Hire the best talent without bias

As mentioned, pre-employment tests help you to hire candidates without bias. 

No matter who the candidate is, if they perform well on the tests they can move to the interviewing process. And if they don’t perform well, then you wouldn’t be wasting time with them, even if they are a great charmer. 

What skills to test for when hiring an accountant

TestGorilla offers a variety of tests that can help you find the perfect candidate when hiring an accountant. 

what skills to test for when hiring an accountant - part 1

1. Accounting 

Starting with the basics, the Accounting test will help you identify candidates with strong accounting and bookkeeping abilities.

The test assesses applicants’ skills in defining basic terminologies and accounting concepts, calculating figures, and managing financial records.  

2. Accounts payable and accounts receivable 

Purchases and sales made by a company are often done on credit. A good accountant needs the skills to track and deal with matters of accounts payable and accounts receivable.

You can check candidates’ proficiency in both the Accounts Payable and the Accounts Receivable tests. These two tests will assess applicants’ skills in managing, tracking, and recording accounts payable and receivable, as well reconciling missing information and transactions. 

3. Business ethics and compliance 

Every company should adhere to good business ethics and comply with rules. If the choices made by employees are seen as unethical, there could be dire ramifications for the business and the person at hand.

TestGorilla offers a Business Ethics and Compliance test to help you assess candidates’ abilities to recognize and avoid potential conflicts of interests, the impact made by their decisions, and how well they understand and are able to observe anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.  

4. QuickBooks Online 

QuickBooks Online is an accounting software that processes accounting information and helps with paying bills, generating invoices, and running reports. 

You can evaluate candidates’ knowledge of this software with our QuickBooks Online test. This test will help you assess if the accountant applicant is proficient enough to use the software by navigating the system and using it to process key accounting information. 

Even if your company is not using the same accounting software, the test will determine whether a candidate is technically savvy enough to manage accounting software that is essential for any business’ daily transactions. 

5. Accounting terminology

Every good accountant should have the necessary knowledge to understand specific industry-related jargon that is used every day. The accounting profession has a wide range of terminology.

The Accounting Terminology test will measure the general knowledge of accounting candidates for financial information and related processes, covering U.S. terminology. 

what skills to test for when hiring an accountant - part 2

6. Microsoft Excel

A mastery of Microsoft Excel is something every good accountant should possess, since most of their job has to do with compiling tables and crunching numbers.

The Microsoft Excel test will show whether candidates have sufficient knowledge of a wide range of Microsoft Excel functions and formulas. 

7. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is a must-have skill for every employee. But accountants are particularly dependent on this skill, since they need to have solid judgment and make sound decisions when it comes to the financial matters of your company. 

TestGorilla’s Critical Thinking test will evaluate candidates’ abilities to solve complicated problems through deductive reasoning, analyze cause-and-effect sequences, and make sound decisions based on the information in front of them. 

8. Numerical reasoning

It is a given, but a good accountant needs strong numerical abilities, since they are constantly working with numbers.

The Numerical Reasoning test will assess applicants’ abilities to interpret numbers, fractions, and formulas, and evaluate how well they can read and create charts, tables, and diagrams.  

9. Intermediate math

If you’re looking for someone with more advanced numerical skills, the Intermediate Math test evaluates candidates at a slightly higher level. 

This test evaluates a candidate’s ability to solve math equations, calculate rate and percentages, and estimate ratios. This skill is especially important for accountants since they need to calculate salaries and evaluate return on investments (ROIs), amongst many other math problems they will come across.  

10. Attention to detail

As mentioned before, good attention to detail is essential for every accountant. They must be able to notice small details to avoid making mistakes in small and big projects alike.

TestGorilla’s Attention to Detail test asks candidates to consider textual details by filtering out information, comparing statements, and tracking the consistency of information. 

11. Communication

Finally, the Communication test will evaluate a person’s ability to convey information clearly and efficiently, using professional decorum. 

Every accountant needs to be able to disseminate technical data in layman’s terms, so this test will assess how a candidate understands and conveys information both in written and verbal forms. 

How to use a skills assessment for accountant candidates

Now that you have an overview of some of the pre-employment skills tests TestGorilla provides, you can determine how to use them when hiring an accountant. 

how to use a skills assessment for accountant candidates

1. Define the five most important skills

You’ll have noticed by now that there is a lot to consider when opting to hire an accountant.

Indeed, if you try to include all the information in your job description and ask candidates to go through every test listed, most will probably drop out – the job will seem impossible to get. 

Therefore, you need to identify the skills that will best serve your organization. You should consider the size of your company, how much work the accountant will have, and what you need as a business owner to make everything work together. 

We suggest that you define the five most important skills you think your accountant should have and use those to create a skills assessment for your candidates. 

2. Select the relevant tests

Once you define the top five skills, you can then select the relevant tests to assess those skills. 

Let’s say you want your candidate to be good with numbers, tech and accountant savvy, able to follow procedures, and able to communicate clearly. 

For your skills testing you will want to choose the following tests:

  • Numerical Reasoning
  • Accountant 
  • QuickBooks Online
  • Business Ethics and Compliance
  • Communication

Of course, you can mix and match and see which tests work best for you. 

You should choose five tests and use them to assess all candidates to get unbiased results. Otherwise, if you choose five tests for several candidates and then change some of the tests for other candidates, you won’t get comparable results and the whole endeavor will be flawed. 

3. Send a skills assessment to all candidates

When you’re ready with your list of tests, you can distribute it to all your applicants. 

You want to do this in a short period of time – let’s say a week – to speed up the process and use your time efficiently, as well as to save resources. 

You can always get in touch with TestGorilla if you have doubts about any of the tests. Our support specialists will aid you with all your queries. 

4. Evaluate and compare results

Once all your candidates have gone through the testing process, you are ready to evaluate and compare the results. 

Here, you want to see who did best on each test. By comparing the results you can easily spot the candidates who stand out from the crowd with proficient skills in the areas you were testing. 

5. Invite your best applicants to an interview

Finally, when you have your results and you have selected the strongest applicants, you can invite them for an interview. 

Even if a candidate did exceptionally well on the pre-employment tests, you still need to scrutinize them during the interview. You should check their experience, whether they know their stuff in terms of accounting terminology, and their personality traits. And you also just want to get to know them better. 

Once you complete the interviews, double-check their references to ensure that the candidate’s profile is genuine. The extra scrutiny will help ensure you get a professional accountant and a great fit for the company. 

If you are happy with your choice you are ready to make them an offer. Again, make sure the offer corresponds to the job difficulty, the size of the organization, and the location of your business. 

Use skills assessments to hire the best applicant

As we have seen, accountants play an enormous role in any organization. They are the ones who manage a company’s financials so selecting the best accountant when hiring needs to be a meticulous process. 

Once you define the job profile and the required skills and qualifications, you can write your job description, select a remuneration and benefits package, and use pre-employment skills assessments provided by TestGorilla to ensure you hire the most suitable accountant.

These tests will not only help you sift through the ineligible candidates, but will also assess the skills and traits you want from your ideal candidate. 

After you go through this process and you find the right person for the job, you are ready to invite them for an interview and hopefully extend them an offer. 

Finding the perfect candidate can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a business that is just starting out. Fortunately, you can overcome most of these hurdles by working with a professional candidates assessment tool like TestGorilla. 

Why start from scratch when we offer tried and tested tools for your hiring process? Sign up for TestGorilla today.

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