Forget the clichés about people who work in accounting departments. The individuals who manage your finances need to know about more than numbers. They need to understand technology. They need people skills. And they need to be able to function effectively as a part of a team.
How do you find employees who can fill these shoes? Much like you’d look for any well-rounded, mature, competent person — who also happens to have an affinity for numbers and a good set of skills in accounting. The latter is a given. But if you want to build a world-class accounting department, you need to hire people who don’t just know numbers and procedures.
First impressions definitely matter when you’re meeting with prospective employees. You want them to arrive on time, be dressed appropriately, and greet you with a smile and a handshake. If a candidate fails this first test, it’s likely to color the rest of the interview.
It is possible for interviewees to stumble here and still get offered a job. But a weak introduction makes it more likely that you’ll be looking for other red flags as the process continues. Here are five more that you may encounter.
The candidate obviously knows little about your company. It was harder 30 years ago to research a business prior to an interview. But there’s no excuse these days, thanks to the internet. Prospective employees may volunteer their knowledge as part of an answer to a question. If they don’t, introduce the concept. A simple, “What do you know about our operation?,” will do.
The candidate can’t provide any evidence of work done in previous jobs. If you were hiring a graphic artist or an architect, this would be easy. But what if you’re hiring someone for a management position in your accounting department? You could, for example, ask about how he or she handled specific problem situations. When you request references, you could ask for a former underling’s contact information. And certainly, you want to understand the depth of their bookkeeping knowledge.
- Has gaps in his or her resume
- Has changed jobs frequently
- Blames job departures on others.
None of these is necessarily a deal-breaker. People take time off from working for many reasons. Some professions, like sales, lend themselves to more frequent moves than others. And maybe the candidate did have a string of bad luck with co-workers and bosses. But any of these situations in an interviewee’s past should make you lean in and pay close attention, requesting that your interviewee explain.
The candidate appears to be high-maintenance. Does he or she come in with a list of unrealistic expectations? These could relate to issues like time off, quick advancement, salary requirements, workday flexibility, etc. To give the interviewee the benefit of the doubt, maybe he or she is just being especially thorough and getting the lay of the land before considering any position that’s offered. But perhaps this behavior will follow the candidate into the job, creating what could be a serious personnel issue.
Pay attention to the individual’s listening skills here, too. A good employee does not need questions repeated, asks for clarification, answers the questions that were asked, and seems genuinely interested in what you have to say.
The candidate doesn’t follow up on the interview. You shouldn’t have to guess whether the interviewee wants the job or what he or she thinks about your company’s products and services or corporate culture or achievements, etc. The best employees understand the importance of being gracious, of thanking people who have done something that they appreciate. If time is of the essence, a well-written email is sufficient. Bonus points for getting a follow-up letter or note delivered quickly.
A Holistic Approach
Your accounting department will probably interact with your customers and vendors, as well as other employees. So, consider the whole person when you’re interviewing – not just how much the individual knows about QuickBooks or whether he or she can understand a balance sheet. Certainly, their technical skills are critical, but to build an exceptional accounting department, you need exceptional people.
Need help training new staff, or do you need any other kind of accounting assistance? Contact us at 816-743-7700.