An accountant plays a critical role in the success of any business. As a startup founder, whether you plan on hiring an in-house accountant or working with an outside party, you need to understand what qualities are most important in prospective candidates when reviewing your options.
This is also important to keep in mind if you’re a student or recent graduate. Along with networking, prepping thoroughly for the CPA exam, and striving to perform well academically, you can improve your chances of being hired in the future by cultivating certain traits now.
Consider the following examples. They’re among the most valuable traits a CPA can possess. They’re also traits that can be easy for startup founders and job candidates alike to overlook.
No two businesses are exactly the same. Thus, no two businesses have the exact same needs.
It’s critical that your business’ accountant understands your specific needs and goals instead of taking the “one size fits all” approach to their work. They’ll be more likely to genuinely appreciate your unique situation and demands if they’re not only strong listeners but effective communicators as well. They should pay attention closely when you explain your needs, and they should be able to explain how they plan on serving your business accordingly.
Of course, evaluating the communication skills of a candidate can seem challenging when you may only have limited time to interview them. It doesn’t need to be.
For example, you could ask a candidate to describe their communication style. Perhaps you’ll also ask them to provide an example of how that communication style has helped them navigate a potentially tricky situation in the past.
This serves two purposes. If a candidate is able to provide an answer that sounds authentic, it indicates they have some ability to communicate seemingly abstract ideas in ways that others can understand. Additionally, if they have an answer to this question at all, it likely means they’re the type of candidate who appreciates the importance of effective communication and thus strives to cultivate the relevant skills.
(Remember, thinking about these skills and qualities is also important if you aspire to offer a business your accounting services in the future.)
It’s wise to evaluate a candidate’s listening strengths by paying attention to body language cues as well. If they maintain a reasonable degree of eye contact when you’re speaking to them and are leaning in more often than leaning back, they’re probably an active listener.
If your startup is still relatively new and small, currently, your accounting needs may be fairly limited. That could change as your business grows.
For instance, right now, you may primarily need an account to assist in basic tasks like ensuring your business’ operations don’t in any way violate applicable tax laws. However, in a few years, you may need help from an accountant who can perform an overall financial analysis of your startup to confirm it’s financially healthy (and to develop solutions when weaknesses are identified).
Try to hire an accountant who has a range of skills that may be valuable in the future. Just keep in mind that young candidates may still be developing their professional skills. If a candidate doesn’t currently possess certain skills that you believe may be necessary for them to serve your needs in years to come, but they nevertheless indicate an eagerness to learn by taking such steps as enrolling in additional online courses, they may still be worthy of your consideration.
Appreciation for Company Culture
A strong company culture includes, among other features, a set of values that aligns with the services or products you offer. Researchers consistently find that when a company culture highlights a positive value system, a business is more likely to thrive.
That’s why it’s important that everyone who works for you, even as a contractor or outside consultant, has some appreciation for your business’ values. While you shouldn’t necessarily expect a new candidate to be familiar with your startup’s values if the company isn’t well-known yet, when you explain your values and overall culture, they should express some level of enthusiasm.
Most importantly, remember how significant the impact of hiring the right accountant can be. Again, the role they’ll play in your business’ growth is substantial. These tips will help you find an accountant who fuels growth instead of preventing it.