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3 Things Small Businesses Do Wrong When Hiring Accountants


Minyang Jiang

Hiring accountants with the right background and skills can make your accounting team razor-sharp in terms of effectiveness, but it’s easy to make mistakes and hire the wrong personnel. Some of the biggest mistakes made during the hiring process include hiring acquaintances over the most qualified candidates, selecting reputation over practical experience, and overlooking candidates with diverse skill-sets. All of these mistakes can lead to performance issues over the long run.

Choosing Friendships Instead of Competence

It’s nice to work with people who you like on a personal level, because you spend the vast majority of your work-week with co-workers. That’s why it may be tempting to hire friends or acquaintances over more qualified candidates. Unfortunately, it’s a decision that can lead to all sorts of problems beyond basic inefficiencies, including material accounting errors, missed opportunities, and even co-worker complaints. Hiring someone with solid competencies is preferable, even if they’re new to the organization you work for.

Selecting Reputation Over Practical Experience

When you’re reviewing resumes, lofty degrees and time spent at top accounting firms can seem quite impressive. It can be hard to turn down a CPA with that sort of pedigree, but it may be advantageous to do so depending on the position you’re hiring for. If you’re looking for an accountant to fit into an operational accounting department, a former auditor or assurance associate from a national accounting firm may not have the skills needed to do complex account reconciliations or accounting balancing.

The inverse is true if you’re hiring someone for a technical accounting position. Writing memos, interpreting accounting standards, and coming up with accounting treatments takes very specific competencies that candidates with operational accounting experience may not have. Given the diverse nature of finance and accounting skills, it’s important to look past impressive resume bullet points to identify the candidate with the right practical skills. Otherwise, you’re setting your team up for everything from rework to interpersonal strife.

Ignoring Non-Accounting Experience

Hiring managers in accounting and finance departments tend to marginalize or even disregard work experience that doesn’t fall into their specific job requirements. Often, they skip over job titles and other resume bullets points they don’t think are directly relevant to the position they’re hiring for. While there are practical reasons for this behavior, it can be detrimental and lead to poor hiring decisions. For example, accountants with process excellence or operational quality experience can be more valuable than you might initially think.

Quality assurance professionals have diverse, highly practical skill-sets that include flowcharting, process mapping, and procedure writing, just to name a few. These particular skills can be applied in accounting departments to support or even drive process improvement initiatives. Whether it’s having a background in sales and marketing, operations, or even customer service, diverse backgrounds can help make your accounting team more efficient and effective over the long run. However, it’s important that candidates meet the basic accounting requirements in your job description. Otherwise, you will probably spend inordinate amounts of time training new employees.

Hiring accountants is a process that requires a disciplined approach incorporating ethics, open-mindedness, and diligence, in order to hire the right personnel. If you hire the right accountants, your accounting team will outclass other groups in your organization. Avoid the aforementioned mistakes to make that a reality.