What to Look for When Hiring a Staff Accountant

Hiring a Staff Accountant

What to look for when hiring a Staff Accountant

Hiring a staff accountant is a big deal. As the person primarily responsible for your finances, finding a qualified candidate can mean the difference between success and failure for your company (no pressure). While accuracy is a no brainer, there are other things to look for when hiring an accountant that can have a huge impact on how your business is run.

Organization – A staff accountant deals with multiple departments and reports.  In addition, a lot of these reports are coming from managers and directors who are also juggling a multitude of tasks.  Without an accountant that has a strong sense of organization and the ability to implement systems for reporting, there is a strong likelihood that mistakes will get made, deadlines will be missed, and paperwork will be lost.  Be sure to ask about a candidate’s organizational style when interviewing.

Discretion – A staff accountant is much like an HR department, when it comes to the type of information they have access to.  A breach of confidentiality can wreak havoc on an company’s internal culture and work environment.  Imagine if co-workers knew each other’s salary, or word leaked that there were to be layoffs or no bonuses, before an official announcement could be made.

Subject Matter Expert – Accounting is a field in which constant self-study is a necessity. Not only does an accountant need to stay abreast of GAAP policies, but they should continuously educate themselves on the latest theories and advancements in the field.

Cross Functional Experience – A staff accountant often finds themselves in a unique position.  From a hierarchical standpoint they are often on equal footing with the heads of department from which they receive reporting.  It can be a tricky business for a colleague, rather than a supervisor, to address any quality or timeliness issues.  It definitely helps to have someone with diplomacy and cross functional experience in such a role.

Thoroughness – Thoroughness is a priceless asset for an accountant, as you may already have experienced.  With standards, practices, and software constantly evolving in business finances, it can be tempting to pre-emptively integrate a new process before thoroughly vetting it.  Something that may be great in theory, could be completely ineffective in the wrong application.  Thoroughness is even more critical in cross functional roles, such as an accountant, because any new systems that affect multiple departments, exponentially increase chaos and dissatisfaction, if they fail.

Teacher – Speaking of rolling out new systems and processes, a great characteristic for a staff accountant to possess is an ability to teach. When the accounting department finds it necessary to change processes, software, or systems within the organization, it is often left to the staff accountants to train affected departments on new protocol.  Most of the people who they will instruct may not be accountants,  so the ability to translate the information into something digestible will make future roll outs significantly less painful and reduce “down time”. Or maybe it is your Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable team that needs a bit of training. What to look for when hiring a Staff Accountant can be setting the tone for all your hiring needs as well.

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