This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
When hiring a bookkeeper for your small business, you need to find someone who is trustworthy and able to keep your company’s financial details confidential. A worker in this role must have extreme attention to detail, otherwise, your company’s financial picture may be skewed. You can opt to hire a full-time bookkeeper, but many small businesses start by using a contractor until they grow into needing an employee on staff.
You’ll need to put together an appealing job description to attract quality applicants. To save time, you can use our free bookkeeper job description template, which you can tweak according to your business needs.
If you’re interested in hiring a contract bookkeeper, consider Upwork. It has both hourly and fixed-rate options, skill-testing features, and protection if you need to file a dispute or initiate remediation. Once you submit the job you want performed, you’ll receive proposals back from freelancers, a price quote, and a turnaround time. Sign up to try it today.
Things to Consider When Hiring a Bookkeeper
Finding a bookkeeper you trust with sensitive company data is challenging. In fact, hiring for any accounting and finance position is difficult and will require time and effort. Don’t rush this process. You’ll need to be reasonable when setting required qualifications and strategic in where you search for candidates, depending on whether you’re hiring an employee or contractor. Also, know what questions to ask and ensure the candidates are trustworthy.
While bookkeepers have no licensing requirements like a CPA, voluntary organizations can certify applicants. You want a bookkeeper who is up-to-date on relevant laws and maintains a certain skill level. If an applicant has been certified by a bookkeeping organization like the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB), that should give you confidence that the applicant has the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.
Your specific job qualifications may vary, but—at a minimum—you need a bookkeeper proficient in:
- Bookkeeping software
- Debits and credits
- Balance sheets
- Deferral transactions
- Journal entries
- Benefits calculations
- Customer relations
Where to Find Candidates
To find a bookkeeper, you need to go where candidates are—job boards. I recommend posting to at least three different job boards so you get a good mix of applicants. To specifically seek freelance bookkeepers, you should use a website that’s specifically for hiring freelancers. You can expand your search to additional job board sites if you want to hire an employee for the role. While many applicants use more than one job board, some only use one, and you want to make sure you get your job posting in front of as many qualified applicants as possible.
You can also actively search for candidates. Using your job board of choice, you can scan for bookkeepers in your area with the experience you seek.
Just make sure the experience is related to your business. For example, if you operate in the construction industry, a bookkeeper coming from a restaurant may not be the best choice. This means you need to keep in mind those must-have qualifications for the bookkeeping position.
Questions to Ask
When interviewing applicants, you need to know that candidates have the right skills for the job. Open-ended questions and ice breakers are great ways to start a conversation with an applicant. But you have to determine the applicant’s skill level and proficiency with bookkeeping tasks.
Once you get a better sense of the applicant, move to more specific and detailed questions. Below are some questions I like to ask when interviewing for financial positions:
- What types of financial reports have you regularly created, and how was the data used?
- What’s the biggest financial blunder you’ve experienced? This might be something you discovered and had to bring to your manager’s attention.
- How do you handle customers who are angry about an invoice or bill?
- Under what circumstances would you post an adjusting entry?
- How would you know if someone posted an adjusting journal entry to accounts receivable and how would you correct it?
- What do you do if a bank reconciliation is off by a small amount?
- Colleagues may ask you questions about the company’s finances. How do you handle those discussions while keeping company information confidential?
Most bookkeepers should have at least some experience with Microsoft Excel. Use our free Excel test to assess your candidates before hiring.
Running a Background Check
Many companies have a background check policy to run a criminal background check on all new hires. While some states prohibit you from asking about prior criminal convictions during the interview process, you can still run a background screen on employees once you give them a formal job offer.
But a bookkeeper isn’t just an ordinary employee. They have access to your company financials, credit cards, and bank accounts. Performing a background check on a bookkeeper you wish to hire can provide you with helpful information about their past, including issues with two of the most important traits of a competent bookkeeper: trustworthiness and financial security.
The background check performed on an employee must be related to the duties of the job. For a receptionist, you could run a simple seven-year criminal background check. For a truck driver, you could include a driver’s license check. However, for a bookkeeper, I recommend you include a financial background check.
Checking a bookkeeper’s background more extensively will show you if they have financial issues such as massive credit card debt, tax liens, or judgments against them. This is vital information that directly relates to the core duties of the role. Ask the candidate to explain anything you are concerned about in the background report. Your bookkeeper will have access to highly sensitive information about both your company and employees. You have a duty to protect your existing employees’ confidential data by ensuring you hire a trustworthy employee.
If you find the person’s background screen results to disqualify them from employment, consider the legal implications. When you make a hiring decision based on the background check results, it’s considered an adverse employment decision subject to anti-discrimination employment laws. To be lawful, you must base your decision on a non-discriminatory reason. Failing to disclose substantial liens or personal bankruptcies could be a lawful and non-discriminatory reason when directly related to the job description.
Use one of our recommended background check companies to make the process easier.
How Much to Pay a Bookkeeper
You’ll need to decide ahead of time how much you want to pay your bookkeeper; including this information in your job ad can help you attract more quality applicants. The amount you choose will vary based on your company’s location, the experience you’re requiring, whether they’re contractors or employees, etc.
The annual salary of a full-time bookkeeper ranges from $30,000 to $60,000, and for freelancers, it ranges from $16/hour to $21/hour. Although these are fairly wide ranges, they can be narrowed down based on your industry, the experience of the bookkeeper, the nuances of your business, and your company location.
What a Bookkeeper Does
Companies often throw around titles without thinking about how the job title describes the duties for that role. A bookkeeper is different from an accountant, a comptroller, a financial analyst, and other finance-related positions. While bookkeeping is more than just copying numbers into a spreadsheet, it is a basic finance position, so you don’t need to look for someone with decades of experience.
Bookkeepers are typically involved in the following tasks:
- Accounts receivable
- Accounts payable
- Monitoring debt levels
- Making all business payments (rent, loan, vendor)
- Reconciling bank accounts monthly
- Maintaining a budget
- Recording incoming and outgoing expenses (including making physical bank deposits)
- Recording payroll and taxes
- Partnering with your CPA to provide accurate financial statements for corporate taxes
With a reliable bookkeeper, you can focus on your business instead of constantly worrying about cash flow and expenses. Ultimately, a proficient bookkeeper gives you invaluable insight into your company’s finances, allowing you to make better decisions.
If you opt to hire a bookkeeping employee and want more in-depth tips, check out our guide to hiring employees.
Above all, you must trust your bookkeeper. So whatever you do, don’t rush the recruiting and hiring process. Having a bookkeeper that matches your needs will eliminate the stress and anxiety of doing this work yourself or having someone else do it who may not have the skills necessary. By providing accurate and up-to-date financial information to help steer your business, a dependable bookkeeper should make your life easier and less stressful.