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How to hire a CPA


Are you looking to hire a CPA? Do you know what to look for when hiring one? If you only have a vague idea about how to build your CPA hiring process and where to find skilled CPAs, then this article is for you. A CPA, or certified public accountant, is a highly trained accountant who acts as a trusted financial adviser for companies and possesses expertise in areas such as taxation, auditing, financial planning, and business consulting. 

CPAs can specialize in a number of industries and might work for businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals.

During your CPA recruitment process, you should look for professionals that are proficient in advanced accounting, financial accounting, and have thorough knowledge of accounting terminology. TestGorilla has a number of tests that will help you evaluate these skills. In this article, you’ll learn what a CPA is, what skills they should possess, where to find them, and how much you can expect to pay them. We’ll also include a CPA job description template and questions you can use during interviews to help you find the best certified public accountants for your organization.

What is a CPA?

A CPA, or certified public accountant, is a designation granted to accounting professionals in the US who have met state licensing requirements and passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (Uniform CPA Exam). 

By definition, a CPA is not a career path in and of itself but a title that allows public accountants more flexibility in their line of work. Not all accountants are CPAs, but those who have the certification show advanced knowledge, skills, and dedication to their job. 

Once qualified, a CPA can work in a number of industries, including:

  • Public accounting

  • Corporate accounting

  • Non-profit accounting

  • Government accounting

  • Accounting for self-employed professionals

They can also specialize in doing audits, financial forensics, business valuation, taxation, and more. ThisWayToCPA offers detailed information about what a CPA can do once they get their license

What’s the difference between a CPA and an accountant? 

As a rule of thumb, all CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs. There are several distinctions between the two that you should be aware of. 

Here's a breakdown of the differences between a CPA and an accountant:

Education and qualifications

While both CPAs and accountants have in-depth knowledge and expertise in accounting, CPAs must:

  • Have a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field

  • Complete a specific number of accounting and business-related courses

  • Pass the Uniform CPA Examination

Accountants, on the other hand, may have varying levels of education and qualifications. Some accountants may have a degree in accounting, while others may have certifications or experience in the field.

Licensing and regulation

CPAs are regulated by specific state licensing boards, and they must obtain a license to practice as a CPA. These licensing boards ensure that CPAs meet certain standards of education, experience, and ethical conduct. 

In contrast, accountants who are not CPAs may still have relevant qualifications or certifications but are typically not subject to the same licensing requirements.

Scope of services

CPAs often offer a broader scope of services and can provide more specialized financial services compared to non-CPA accountants. 

CPAs are authorized to perform tasks such as auditing financial statements, issuing professional opinions, and representing clients before tax authorities. They may also provide services like tax planning, financial consulting, and forensic accounting. 

Non-CPA accountants, depending on their qualifications and experience, may handle tasks such as bookkeeping, preparing financial statements, managing accounts payable and receivable, and providing basic tax advice.

CPA hard skills

Even though the person you’re hiring will be a CPA and possess the required licensing, you need to make sure they are actually qualified for the tasks at hand. 

cpa hard skills explanation graphic

At TestGorilla, we have several accounting skills tests that will help you test the skills of your future CPA. The most important skills to consider (and tests to use) are: 

1. Advanced accounting

The Advanced accounting test evaluates a candidate’s skills in defining basic terminologies and accounting concepts, calculating accounting figures, and managing financial and accounting records. This test follows the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Candidates that score well here are able to perform all core accounting tasks, perform analysis, and manage records. 

2. Financial accounting

The Financial Accounting test will evaluate someone’s abilities to record documentation, classify and summarize information, interpret financial analyses, and create and present financial reports. Those that perform well on this test demonstrate a strong grasp of the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP) and have all the technical knowledge to handle basic and complex accounting processes. 

3. Accounting terminology

You can never be too sure about the knowledge and skills of someone until you put them to the test. 

The Accounting terminology (US) test will ensure you find CPAs that have proficient knowledge of all terminology related to financial statements and books of accounts. Applicants that score well on this test will show extensive knowledge of all US accounting terms, so you can rest assured they know what they are doing. 

4. Accounts payable and receivable

Every CPA has to know how to track business interactions. We have two tests to evaluate someone’s knowledge here: the Accounts Payable test and the Accounts Receivable test. Both tests will measure someone’s ability to manage accounts, find missing information, and record transactions for accounts payable and receivable. 

Candidates who perform well on these two tests have a strong grasp of accounting and can manage accounts payable and receivable with ease. 

CPA soft skills

Apart from the hard skills you’re going to evaluate, consider testing these soft skills to make sure you hire a reliable and well-rounded CPA.

1. Communication

Great communication is the key to a successful business. Having people who aren’t able to communicate clearly and efficiently, no matter their level of expertise, will have negative consequences for your business. Our Communication test will ensure you find candidates that are able to listen actively, communicate their thoughts clearly, and express their opinion in an effective manner. 

2. Attention to detail

Since CPAs are working with numbers and sensitive business information, you must make sure they can pay attention to the smallest of details to avoid headaches in the future. TestGorilla’s Attention to Detail (Textual) test will measure someone’s ability to match and filter information, compare statements, locate discrepancies, and check for consistency. 

Why test CPA skills

While CPAs have gone through a thorough examination to acquire their license, there can still be gaps in their knowledge. That is why pre-employment skills testing is the best way to find truly qualified professionals in any field.

Pre-employment skills testing is a recruitment method that allows you to sift through applications and filter out unqualified candidates before they reach the final stage of recruitment, which is the interview. 

When you test your candidates beforehand, you will spend less time on unqualified candidates, improve your time to hire, hire better candidates, and save resources along the way.

You will also avoid bad hires and limit the effects of biased hiring and discrimination

At TestGorilla, we strongly advise all employers to test their candidates’ skills before making a final hiring decision. 

So when you’re looking to hire a CPA, make sure to test their skills. Here are some of the tests you can use:

With TestGorilla, you can combine up to five skills tests in a single assessment; most tests take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

If you want to test other skills, have a look through our test library or book a discovery call with one of our agents to find out more. 

Where to find CPAs

Before searching for an accountant, you need to determine whether you need to employ a full-time or part-time CPA. 

If you need help filling a return or you have a simple accounting issue, you might want to hire a part-time accountant. It will be cost-effective, and you won’t need to go through all the documentation and related onboarding and training as you will with a full-time employee. On the other hand, if you are working for a large business with lots of transactions, which can pile up significant documentation, you might need to hire a full-time CPA. Once you train and onboard them, the full-time CPA will likely prove to be less costly in the long run than constantly keeping a contractor, and they will be more attuned to your company’s needs and priorities. 

Once you decide what type of accountant you’re going to hire and you’ve done your research, you can begin searching for your new hire. Consider these options when looking for a CPA:

  • Ask for referrals: Referrals are one of the best methods to find qualified talent. Ask friends and colleagues for referrals of CPAs they’ve worked with in the past. You can trust their judgment as they probably won’t recommend someone they were unhappy to work with. Once you get the accountant's details, reach out to them. 

  • Search the CPA directory: The CPA directory is an extensive database of more than 500,000 CPAs and accounting professionals in the United States. You can search for accountants in your area and read customer reviews of practicing CPAs to make up your mind. 

  • Search the AICPA: Naturally, one of the best ways to find a qualified CPA is through AICPA, the American Institute of CPAs. It’s the world’s largest association of accounting professionals, and you’ll be able to find top talent there. 

  • Use job boards: Of course, you can search for CPAs on job boards like LinkedIn. Make sure to use filters to find experts for your industry that have the necessary years of experience and expertise.

CPA job description template

The first step to finding a great CPA for your organization is writing an engaging job description. The main things to include in a job description are the responsibilities, remuneration, skills, and the experience required for the role. You can provide any additional information during the interview process. 

You don’t want to overburden applicants with loads of information, as most candidates spend about 25 seconds reading a job ad before deciding whether they’d like to apply. You want to attract their attention with a well-crafted job description and then close the deal during the hiring process.

Below you’ll find a CPA job description template that you can tailor to your needs. 

Job Title: Certified public accountant 

Job Summary: [Your company name] is looking to hire an experienced CPA to join our accounting department. Your main responsibilities will be to successfully manage our company’s tax and financial processes, as well as perform audits and analyze business transactions. To qualify for this role, you’ll need to be a CPA and have comprehensive accounting knowledge, preferably in [your industry]. 

Main responsibilities: 

  • Efficiently maintain financial records

  • Undertake periodic audits to ensure precision in financial records, expenses, and savings

  • Analyze financial information and reports to provide accurate and timely financial recommendations

  • Devise and implement effective accounting policies 

  • Perform forecasts, financial modeling and accounting reports

  • Address and resolve tax and accounting issues and advise on tax strategy

  • Stay up-to-date with industry changes and regulations

Experience and skills required: 

  • A valid CPA certificate

  • Proficient in accounting software for both general ledger and statutory accounting

  • A minimum of [X] years of accounting experience

  • Outstanding knowledge of accounting terminology and processes

  • Excellent communication and attention to detail

How much does a CPA cost?

According to Glassdoor, you can expect to pay around $153,108 per year for a CPA in the United States. This includes a CPA’s average salary of $95,909, plus an additional pay of $57,199 of cash bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. Bear in mind that these numbers are the average for all industries and years of experience. Depending on your needs, level of expertise, location, and years of experience, CPAs can cost you more or less than that. 

CPA interview questions

Once you’re done with your screening process, it’s time to call your shortlisted applicants for an interview. When hiring an accountant, you need to have specific questions in mind to ascertain the knowledge and skills of your candidate. We’ve compiled several questions that will aid you during your interviews. Feel free to change them based on your industry. 

Can you tell us about your experience as a CPA and the types of clients or industries you have worked with?

  1. How do you stay updated with the latest accounting standards, regulations, and tax laws?

  2. Describe your experience working with accounting software. Which platforms are you familiar with?

  3. Can you tell us about a time when you had to navigate a complex tax situation or assist a client in minimizing their tax liabilities?

  4. How do you ensure compliance with relevant accounting principles and standards in your work?

If you need more ideas for questions you can ask your next CPA, check out our financial accounting interview questions and interview questions for senior accountants. In those articles, you’ll also find sample answers to the most important questions to help you assess applicants’ answers.  

Hire the best certified public accountant with TestGorilla

Hiring a CPA can be an easy task when you know how. A certified public accountant (CPA) is a highly skilled accountant who can help you manage your company’s finances by performing audits and financial forensics, preparing and reviewing tax returns, advising on tax planning and business strategy, and more. This means that hiring the right person for the role is of critical importance for the financial health of your organization. As you’ve learned in this article, not all accountants are CPAs, and you need to make sure the person you’re hiring has the right credentials and necessary skills to perform their duties. 

When it comes to testing skills, TestGorilla is the best pre-employment skills testing platform you can use to evaluate someone’s abilities, sift through applications, and identify the best talent. 

Use it to test for skills like advanced accounting, financial accounting, and accounting terminology when hiring your next CPA. If you’re serious about finding an exceptional professional with the right skill set, head over to TestGorilla and sign up for your free plan today. Or, if you need more information to help you decide, book a live 30-minute demo with one of our specialists who will show you how to use the platform. 

So don't wait to hire a qualified candidate. Find your next CPA with TestGorilla today.


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