10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing a BookkeeperApr 06, 2023
I’m so excited for today’s post, and to go along with it we are going to give you a free PDF of all of these questions. So when you are going to outsource your books, I want you to look and see what bookkeeper fits you and your needs. If you've been following somebody for a while, you have a relationship with someone who is a bookkeeper, or you get a referral to somebody, that’s great. And you might not have to interview a bunch of bookkeepers. But if you are blindly just trying to figure out, “Do I need to outsource my books, do I not, what do I need to do?” If that’s you and you want or need to interview a few bookkeepers, keep reading.
I have 10 questions I'm gonna give you, and again I’m going to give you a free PDF that you can have sent directly to your inbox. Then you will be able to fill that out as you are interviewing bookkeepers to where you have answers, and you can see 'em side by side by side, so you know exactly who you want to hire and what it's gonna look like for you.
I'm really big on wanting you to be able to find someone that best fits you, your business, your industry, what you're doing, and what your goals and missions are. I hope this resource is helpful for you as you look for a bookkeeper to support your business + goals! Use some (or all) of the questions as needed. They might have already answered some or you might already know some of their answers. If you're following the bookkeeper, you might not really care about some of the answers so use this post and PDF however you need to.
1 | What is your background?
To start things off, you want to know what is the background and the experience they have in accounting and bookkeeping, and where did they come from? You don't want someone who's just picking up books and starting to figure out their way. They're handling your finances, alright? They're literally handling your money and keeping records of your money. You don't want somebody that doesn't have experience and that doesn't have background and education and knowledge handling your money.
You have to have accurate numbers. It needs to be 100% accurate and 100% true and right, and you want to make sure that it’s getting it done properly. So be sure to ask what their background is with bookkeeping and in the finance world!
2 | What bookkeeping software do you use?
The second question I want you to ask and think through, is what software do you use and why? There's a ton of different accounting softwares out there, and different bookkeepers use them for different reasons.
For me, we prefer to use Xero. We do have clients in QuickBooks online, and the only reason we stay in QuickBooks online is if they have been using QuickBooks online previously. If their books are good, they're accurate, and we can salvage them and make that file work, we keep that data in there.
But if you're coming to me and you don't have an accounting software, or it's not been done right, then we will probably switch you over to Xero. The reason why we prefer Xero is because first off, it is cheaper than QuickBooks online. Xero’s customer service is incredible (where QuickBooks is basically nonexistent). The integrations and the bank connections are hands down better than QuickBooks online. And Xero also gives us better reporting. So all of that combined, it helps us get your financials out faster than QuickBooks Online. It gives us cooler reports, analytics and things like that, that QuickBooks doesn't provide. They might provide it, but you have to pay around $120 per month to get those features. On the other hand you can use Xero: it's way better software and you can get the same stuff. So again, we prefer using Xero. We do have clients in QuickBooks online and it works great too if that’s what you prefer. Our team is certified in both of them and we know what we're doing.
3 | How do you work with my tax preparer?
How are you working with my tax preparer? For our team what that looks like is that throughout the year, we initiate conversations with them if there's something that catches our eye or that we want you to bring up to your tax preparer. A common example is S Corps. Let’s say you’re a sole proprietor or LLC, you come to us and we're doing your books, and we see that you are getting close to what we consider our threshold to file. We’ll let you know and want you to talk with your tax preparer about it. The deadline for this year was March 15th for the first filing. There is a late option to try to get if you are wanting to elect as an S Corp, but we keep an eye on that. So we talk to them throughout the year on different things if you want us to. And if we see them, if they have any questions on tax planning and tax strategy and stuff throughout the year, we're able to answer them.
But then the cool thing, and the major benefit of having a bookkeeper, is at the end of the year whenever we take care of pretty much all of the business tax season stuff for you. So we are the person that they ask questions for. We are the person that they get reports from. We are the person that gets the reports and finalized and hands 'em off to your tax preparer.
That's who we are and that's what we do, so you can focus on growing your business in the first couple months of the year without stressing about tax season. So, finding out how they work with the tax preparer and what their interaction is with them is important. I do like to have contact with my client's tax preparer because I do truly believe that we need to be able to be in communication. It is a team effort on the accounting side of things!
4 | How many clients have you worked with in said industry?
You want to get a bookkeeper that is familiar with your industry. I want you to look into them and make sure that they understand what is happening in YOUR industry and what softwares and systems you're using. So that is not to say that you can't hire someone that is not as familiar in your industry. Personally we have a couple construction clients. We're not as familiar with the construction industry as we are with the creative industry. There's a lot of difference there. We are familiar with marketing agencies and other types of agencies, so we know that industry. We know the standards, we know how you need to see your numbers. We are familiar with brand and web design agencies, photographers, things like that.
If someone comes to us and is in a different industry and they ask if we’ve worked with clients in their industry, I’ll be honest and tell them they would be my first client in that industry. If I feel confident that I can understand it, then I'll be like, “Yeah, we can figure this out. It's not that much different from our current clients”. We recently started getting into the interior design industry, and that's been a really fun industry to be part of. Again, it's still in the creative world and the creative space. It’s something that we know and we understand. But if someone would come to me and they're like, we have an e-commerce store, or we have a restaurant, those are ones that are hard no’s for me. I do not know enough about those industries, and I don't take on those clients. So just make sure that whoever you're hiring understands your industry.
5 | What info do you need from me?
This would be you as the client asking what they need from you. You want to see what all the bookkeeper is going to require from you. Using our team as an example, at the end of the month, we go through all of your transactions. The ones that we do not know what they're for, we send you an email with those questions. If it's just a few, we'll just put 'em in the email. If it's a lot, we'll throw them into a Google sheet and you can answer there. We like to keep things very simple and make it streamlined for you. You answer those questions like, “Hey, this is for a mastermind, this was for a course, or this is a new team member.” Whatever it might be. You give us those answers and we code the corresponding transactions. And then from there we send you the reports and that's it. That's all that we need from you.
However, if your bank accounts are not connected correctly, we don't have read-only access, we can't get statements, things like that… if we're not able to pull those, then we would need the statements from you. Before working with a bookkeeper, it’s nice to know what their process is and what they need from you each month.
6 | What are your response times?
You need a bookkeeper that is very responsive to you. Obviously, me and my team do not live by our phones all day long. We do not live by our emails all day long, and I don't want us to. So we're not promising you an instant response, but we really try to get back within 24 hours, at max 48 hours. There will be somebody on the team available to answer your questions, and I want you to know that you are getting taken care of. Your questions are going to be answered. A lot of client questions get answered within three hours, but again, we're not always on our phone. Sometimes we're out doing stuff with our family. We can't promise an immediate response, but we do shoot between 24 to 48 hours. If a bookkeeper is taking weeks to get back with you, and maybe they're not even giving you your reports, that is a red flag that you need to be looking into someone else.
7 | Who will I be working with?
This question may not apply to all bookkeepers, but “Who will I be working with? Is it going to be you? Is it going to be your team?” Whatever it is. If we were on a call and you asked me this question, my answer to that would be, “You will be working with me AND your assigned bookkeeper.” You might know that I have a team that supports me and I've gone into that and how our team runs before. But basically what happens is I assign one of my bookkeepers to work with you, and you work directly with them as well as working directly with me. So it's kind of like a tag team thing. They're gonna be the one that you communicate the most via email, maybe Voxer or Slack, things like that. If you need to book a call with me, I'm open to booking calls with you and I talk to my clients all the time in Voxer and on Zoom calls and everything. But via email and the questions getting asked and the reports getting sent out, that will be from my team members.
8 | When will reports be delivered?
You want to know when your reports will be delivered. We guarantee that they're going to be out by the 15th of the following month. That is very, very, very standard for bookkeepers, especially in this online space. So they will be finalized and in your inbox by the 15th of the following month, if not before.
9 | What other services do you provide?
So this is a really good one. At the moment, you might not be ready for an upper level, very hands-on approach to consulting and CFO work and stuff like that. But if you are looking to that, you're wanting to grow your business, and you know you're going to need that support in the future, you might want to invest in a bookkeeper that offers that type of service. That type of strategy and that type of upper level stuff instead of like accounting and financial stuff. Otherwise, if you get to the point where the bookkeeper that you're working with doesn't offer that, then you're either gonna have to bring in a fractional CFO to help you on that or find a new bookkeeper.
Sometimes I will go in and be a fractional CFO. Someone may come to me and have their own bookkeeper or a different bookkeeper and that works. But we prefer to have the bookkeeping in-house because we know that the books are accurate. We can control how the books are done, how the reports are done, and all of the nitty gritty details. And then I can come in as the CFO and know exactly what's going on and help give you a better strategy and things like that. So that's kind of my answer to that question. But I want you to think about, and ask not only for now, but for the future when you are ready for that next level service, if they provide it.
10| What’s the cost?
Obviously you wanna know the cost, you wanna know if there are any extra fees added on, anything like that. I talk more about what goes into the cost of bookkeeping in Part 3 of this series on working with a bookkeeper.
There you have it! Ten questions to ask whenever you're interviewing a bookkeeper. If you’re interested in working with me and my team and you read this whole post, then you know all of my answers to these questions. But if you want to ask them straight to my face on Zoom, or if you are in Dayton, Ohio and you want to actually meet for coffee, that would be amazing. Go ahead and fill out an inquiry form and we can get back with you and I can answer all of these questions for you, specifically for your business. I would love that. I hope you enjoyed this mini series. In case you missed it, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.