Questions to Ask Your Bookkeeper

Businesswoman and Businessman discussing finances in a cafe
Thinking about hiring a virtual bookkeeper? Here are some questions you might want to ask before making this decision.

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Things to Know When Hiring a Bookkeeper

Whether you are looking for an inhouse bookkeeper or a virtual bookkeeper, the questions you will want to ask are going to be similar with some slight differences. Asking a virtual bookkeeper about transportation won’t make sense, nor will talking about paid holidays or insurance. Here are some things you’ll want to understand before hiring a bookkeeper.

Side note: A bookkeeper and an accountant are similar, but not completely the same. An accountant is certified through their professional organizations, which give them the ability to use titles such as CPA, or Certified Public Accountant. This does not mean a bookkeeper can’t do things similar to a CPA – it may mean they haven’t been “certified.” Accounting is done by many bookkeepers, as bookkeeping is really the recording of transactions related to the finances of a company as a part of accounting for the business. A bookkeeper does accounting functions as a part of their job and they certainly may have the skills of a CPA without having the certification to go with it.

A Bookkeeper Comes with Specific Sets of Knowledge and Skill

  • What skills do they possess?
  • What skills have they done in the past?
  • What certifications or credentials do they have?
  • What is their level of expertise?
  • How familiar are they with your industry?

These are very high-level open-ended questions. You will want to ask follow up questions to validate their information based on the answers they provide. For example, on the question about “how familiar are you with my industry” a good follow up on this could be as simple as “tell me more” or “what are the challenges you experienced with this industry?” In addition, do they understand business accounting and different methods of bookkeeping? Do they understand the difference between accrual and cash-based businesses? To what level is their knowledge on tax laws? Are they versed in local and state taxes, and can they handle the processing of this? The answer to these questions will help you understand if you will need to hire someone else to help with your taxes.

In-House or Virtual Questions

If you are hiring in-house then the questions you ask will be similar to what you would ask any other in-house candidate. Previous experiences, ability to work late or on weekends when needed (sometimes if the bookkeeper is doing a lot of daily transactions as well as taxes this could mean some extra time is needed to accomplish the job,) and things of that nature. If you are hiring virtually then you will need to ask questions about availability, the best ways to communicate, how they can access the necessary files, and what they will need to be able to do what is required of them. With most online accounting and payroll software there are settings so they can do what they need to do without seeing things they do not need to see. You will also want to be clear on the level of confidentiality you expect and understand what security practices they follow. In both cases, in-house and virtual, you will want to follow up on references to validate their experiences. In the virtual scenario, you will want to know who you actually work with. Will it be one person, or will it be multiple people? Usually a team is a good scenario, as you may get someone who is more specialized for specific tasks and less specialize (but effective) for the easier tasks.

What About Paying Them?

This will obviously be different depending on their level or expertise and the services they are providing. For in-house hires you can check different resources to see what people are making in your area, though you will need to take into consideration the skills they coming to you with and the skills are you going to have to train. For virtual bookkeeping, learn about the pricing structure, how they charge, and when they charge extra (like if you submit work late to them and they have to ‘catch-up’.) It is good to know this upfront, especially if you plan to add services down the road. This is something All About Businesses is always open to talk about and be upfront when it comes to the different services a business needs. We may also find a way to streamline some of the accounting. In some cases we have found that business owners seem to overcomplicate the way they did their accounting, which may have been fine in the beginning, but as things became busier this method becomes archaic and creates more work. There may be a good balance here to in working together.

A Bookkeeper Should Have a List of Questions Too

Here are some things a bookkeeper should be asking you during the interview process:

  • Tell me about your business
  • How was your business first set up (LLC, C- or S-Corp, Partnership, etc.) and how is it set up today?
  • Tell me about your assets and liabilities, as well as inventory
  • What does the day-to-day or week-to-week look like?
  • What do receivables and payables look like?
  • What does the future hold – growth, steady, or scaling back?

Whether it is someone you are looking to hire or a virtual bookkeeping company, they should be asking you questions to ensure they know what services they will be required to do as a part of their role within the company. They will need to know if they will be handling sales tax reports, payroll, quarterly filings, etc. You need to be clear on what you would want them to do and understand that you will also have to compensate accordingly. The more things they do, the more time they will be spending on your business, and the more you will need to pay them.

A prospective bookkeeper should also inquire about your company. Think about how it has done, the company’s elevator pitch, the problem it solves, and things along those lines. A good prospect will want to know about the company they are looking to work with. You need to find out if they really care, because you will want people who genuinely care. They should also ask about the top things which are important to you, specifically when it comes to bookkeeping, and what success means to you in their role as a part of the team.

There might no right answer to the questions you ask, but you need to know what they can or cannot do. Hiring or subcontracting some of the work to another person or company works many times, with one person/company handling the day-to-day bookkeeping and another handling payroll and another in handling taxes. There are benefits to both ways (someone who can do it all compared to having multiple people/companies,) and you should have clarity for yourself. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for answers.

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