How to choose a good bookkeeper

Luca Pacioli - Inventor of double entry bookkeeping. by vintagedept
Luca Pacioli – Inventor of double entry bookkeeping. by vintagedept

Running small businesses for so many years, I have had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing many bookkeeping personnel. Yes I made some bad hires in the early days. And yes I learnt many good lessons.

This led me to develop simple tests for all potential hires based on their résumé and supposed skills. Would you believe it… most failed my simple test.

And this was just to get past stage one and get an interview.

Lets face it, when you hire a bookkeeper, you expect them to start with the knowledge and skills for the software package you utilise. The last thing you want to be doing is teaching someone how to use a software package to do your books whilst paying them the bookkeeper rates. I certainly wasn’t expecting rocket science, but I was expecting knowledge of a package… especially when the advert said “experience essential”. If I had stated software training would be provided, that is fine but I would still test for basic computer skills. Many would fail that also.

In the end I managed to reduce my costs of wrong hire, rehire, rework and training using this simple test to get an understanding of the level of skills the potential employee brings with them.

If you’d like more information or a copy of the bookkeeping skill test that can be easily adjusted for different applications, send me a mail to with a request and we can arrange  a copy for you.

Your comments are welcome.


12 thoughts on “How to choose a good bookkeeper

  1. Yikes! Seems that book keepers are hard to find. Not for me, my new partner is an exceptional one, and I really wonder what it is like for many other businesses? Do they try and poach a book keeper when one is found that is far and above wasted by their current employer?

    1. Peter it’s not that they are hard to find.. its good ones that are rare. The question is shouldn’t your partner be working on generating revenue like you and the admin stuff outsourced to a third party?

  2. I am a bookkeeper myself and running a bookkeeping business for 4 years. I agree that out of 10 bookkeepers we have hired…we are only happy with 2.

    Nothing is easy, just need to be patient & the more you try the more you learn. And in the end, you develop a good procedure to find a good bookkeeper like Dongrgic’s test.

    Good tips are:

    – Never look for average bookkeeper…always look for the top in the market. Some people think bookkeeper is just an admin/account clerk…it is wrong! Good bookkeeper need to have good accounting knowledge and good software skill.
    – Build a draft financial system procedure before you engage: How to handle sales, how to handle payable, payroll, reports…then work with your bookkeeper to build a proper procedure system to keep in the office. One bookkeeper goes…the other can replace and they will be working in the same way that you expect.
    – Meeting with your bookkeeper each month to ask him questions about your financial performance. A bookkeeper should be able to do financial analysis…not your accountant who you only see once/twice a year.
    – Turn him into a busy man…don’t let him do the same thing every month! Lot of thing bookkeeper can do to help your business: Budget, Cash Flow, Project Management, Debt collection…
    – If you start up, don’t ask your accountant which software to use for your business…most accountants don’t do much with accounting software. Some only know how to extract 2 reports out of the system once a year…Talk to your bookkeeper and other business owners to see which software will fit your business. Don’t be scared of new product…some of them are very good. MYOB is not the only choice.
    – Looking for improvement all the time. Ask him whether there is anyway to be more efficient. If you run a business with lot of paperwork like restaurant or grocery…you should use third part to help with data entries…don’t pay bookkeeper @ premier rate for just data entries. product like or are good for that perpose.
    – It cost you lot more to hire an average bookkeeper. Just one transaction with wrong GST code might cost you $1000 or even more.

  3. That’s a great way to make sure you’re hiring someone who knows what they’re doing. I have to say that there a lot of bookkeepers/accountants out there that don’t know what they’re doing. Being in the industry my self had given me a unique perspective on this. Definitely look at their experience. Even if you outsource to a company like mine, ask about their experience and clients they serve. Maybe even a reference or two.

    1. Thank you Stephan. I agree that there are many in the industry because for a long time “anyone” could do the books. I think the introduction of registration of BAS agents is a start in the right direction.

  4. I like your point about hiring a bookkeeper that is already familiar with the company’s software. I can see why taking the time to train someone on the software might not be ideal. Having someone with previous experience would speed things up.

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