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How to Hire the Right Accountant for Your Business

A business's bookkeeper or accountant should have the skills and knowledge that he or she needs to perform the required functions. If you're going to hire an accountant, you need to know what qualifications to look for. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right person (or people) to enter and control the flow of your business’s data — and for making sure that those people remain the right people:

  • College degree: Many accountants in business organizations have a college degree in accounting, but some got their bookkeeping methods and skills through on-the-job training.

    Although employees without an accounting degree may have good skills and instincts, they often lack the broader perspective necessary for improvising and being innovative. So, you want to at least look twice at a potential employee who has no college-based accounting background.

  • CPA or CMA: When hiring an accountant in a business organization, determine whether he or she needs to be a certified public accountant (CPA). The other main professional accounting credential is the CMA, or certified management accountant, sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

    Unlike the CPA license, the CMA designation of professional achievement is not regulated by the state. The CMA is evidence that the person has passed tough exams and has a good understanding of business accounting and income tax.

  • Continuing education: Bookkeepers and accountants need continuing education to keep up with changes in the income tax law and financial reporting requirements, as well as changes in how the business operates. Fortunately, many short-term courses, home-study programs, and the like are available at very reasonable costs for keeping up on the latest accounting developments.

    When you hire an accountant, consider working his or her continuing education into your budget. It not only shows that you're committed to that accountant's future with the company, but it also guarantees that your books are kept according to the most recent guidelines and legislation.

  • Integrity: What’s possibly the most important quality to look for is also the hardest to judge. Bookkeepers and accountants need to be honest people because of the control they have over your business’s financial records. Conduct a careful background check when hiring an accountant. As a small business owner, you have close day-in and day-out contact with your accountant, which can be a real advantage — you can get to know him or her on a personal level.

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