12 Bookkeeper Interview Questions [+Free Assessment Test]

To help you hire the best candidate for this position, we’ve prepared 12 bookkeeper interview questions that will gauge the candidate’s hard and soft skills, work ethic and behavior, and overall capability in doing the job. We also have a free downloadable bookkeeping assessment test to help you assess the applicant’s technical knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping.

Hiring a bookkeeper is a crucial task because you’re hiring a person who will have a full view of all your business’ financial data. You want someone who is competent, skilled, and honest in accounting. The ideal bookkeeper for your business should have excellent analytical skills, a deep understanding of accounting, and a commendable work ethic.

Free Bookkeeping Assessment Test

Use our free bookkeeping assessment quiz below to assess an applicant’s knowledge in accounting and bookkeeping. It contains a series of objective-type and situational questions that would gauge a candidate’s conceptual and practical knowledge of accounting concepts.

We recommend giving this test before the interview process so that you can filter out the best candidates. Those with a basic understanding of bookkeeping should score very well, such as at least 80%.

Are you unsure how to interview applicants? Read our guide on how to interview someone for a job; it contains all the necessary steps you need to know.

General Questions

When asking these questions, we’re gathering important information about the applicant’s credentials. You can use these types of questions to establish rapport before asking technical questions. To further help you in the overall hiring process, our bookkeeper hiring guide lists down all the things you need to know. Whether it’s hiring a bookkeeper or bookkeeping agency, this article will help you decide which is the best option for your needs.

1. How long have you been a bookkeeper?

Why ask? It’s important to know the applicant’s experience and tenure as a bookkeeper. It’s best if you have a desired range, such as a minimum of two years of work experience as a bookkeeper. This question helps you filter out those who don’t meet this criteria. Moreover, it’s good to have an idea of the job responsibilities for this position.

Read our small business guide to what bookkeeping is to help you understand the job responsibilities of a bookkeeper. It is a good primer if this is your first time hiring a bookkeeper because it contains everything you need to know about the bookkeeping process, the bookkeeper’s scope and responsibilities, and some basic bookkeeping concepts.

2. What are your credentials and educational background?

Why ask? This question helps you gauge the applicant’s capability based on their credentials. Knowing their answer can help you segregate candidates from most to least qualified when you start reviewing all applications. This question can also help you find candidates who may be better suited for a higher position.

Generally, we want a bookkeeper with a degree in accounting. However, we recommend not solely focusing on credentials when hiring a bookkeeper. Some nonaccounting graduates can still perform bookkeeping tasks and have enough knowledge and experience to handle the job. Read our article on skill-based hiring to learn how you can get the best talent.

3. Can you tell me your experience in running payroll and collecting sales tax?

Why ask? Asking this question is necessary if you’re looking for a bookkeeper who also knows how to run payroll and file taxes. It is crucial that the bookkeeper knows the ins and outs of payroll processing and tax processing. Hiring an inexperienced bookkeeper might put your company into trouble with the IRS, especially if returns are filed incorrectly.

4. What is your expected compensation for this position?

Why ask? Compensation is a sensitive interview question, and your goal here—as the interviewer—is to ask about the applicant’s expected compensation. Asking can help you determine whether their expected compensation is within the budget.

We don’t recommend disclosing the actual compensation offer during the early stages of the interview process. Instead, briefly explain the compensation package, working setup, expectations, and other perks of being part of your company. Our guide on freelance bookkeeping rates can help determine the industry range of expected compensation for bookkeepers.

Technical Questions

Asking accounting-related questions can help you segregate the most knowledgeable candidates. By asking these questions, you can gauge technical knowledge, problem-solving skills, and analytical skills.

1. What is the difference between the cash and accrual basis of accounting?

Why ask? Ask this question if your business is using the accrual basis. This question will help you gauge the candidate’s deep understanding of accrual accounting and why it’s a norm in today’s accounting. The candidate should confidently explain accrual accounting and demonstrate their knowledge by citing examples or principles. Aside from that, you can determine their communication skills and their ability to explain technical concepts clearly.

2. Can you walk me through the core financial statements and their main purposes?

Why ask? The goal of accounting is to produce financial statements. The ideal candidate should know the hows and whys of financial reporting. Nowadays, it’s easy to prepare financial statements with accounting software. That’s why the applicant should have an expert-level understanding of the preparation, relationship, and importance of the core financial statements.

3. What is your experience with accounting software?

Why ask? This helps you determine if the applicant can handle your business’ accounting software—and experience in popular accounting or ERP software is an advantage for the applicant. They should also share their daily tasks or routines when using the accounting solution.

In case they have no experience in the platform that your business uses, take this opportunity to explore their depth of knowledge in the one that they know. In this way, you can assess if they can learn yours quickly. More often than not, applicants with experience in most accounting software will not have a hard time learning a new platform.

4. What is the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?

Why ask? This question will demonstrate the applicant’s awareness of the kind of output expected from them as a bookkeeper. Bookkeepers are only expected to perform transaction data entry and other routine accounting tasks, such as reconciling bank accounts.

Tasks that involve official representation, such as signing tax returns or attesting to the financial statements, aren’t a part of a bookkeeper’s job responsibilities. Bookkeepers also aren’t expected to review and audit transactions as these would normally fall into an accountant’s job responsibility. Our accounting vs bookkeeping comparison guide discusses the major differences in terms of scope and objective.

5. What would you do if you spotted discrepancies or errors?

Why ask? This helps you assess the applicant’s ability to handle accounting errors. They must have deep knowledge of account relationships to properly identify how errors affect accounts and financial statements. Moreover, it also helps you gauge their professionalism and ethics in handling discrepancies that might lead to serious financial consequences.

Soft Skills Questions

The ideal candidate should possess the necessary soft skills to handle pressure and daily problems.

1. How well do you work under pressure?

Why ask? Bookkeeping can be a time-consuming job, especially if there are many transactions to record. Asking this question can help you understand the applicant’s thought process in handling multiple competing priorities. You can assess their time and task management skills and determine if they handle work pressure without affecting quality.

2. What is your process in keeping accounting records organized?

Why ask? Good bookkeeping also means proper organization of documents. This question can help you assess if the applicant has an idea of how to handle documents and ensure that all have been recorded before archiving. Hiring an organized bookkeeper can prevent future tax or legal consequences due to poor document organization.

3. How do you handle sensitive or confidential information?

Why ask? Bookkeepers handle sensitive and confidential information daily. Information, such as employee addresses, phone numbers, and salary information, is made available to bookkeepers, and they should exercise caution in keeping these confidential at all times.

This question assesses the applicant’s readiness in handling and identifying security threats that might compromise confidential data. They must be proactive in data protection by advocating data protection best practices.

Read our list of the worst interview questions to filter out questions that aren’t value-adding.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes, because bookkeepers can help you maintain accounting records in a timely manner. While you can also opt for do-it-yourself (DIY) accounting, we highly recommend hiring or outsourcing this task to a bookkeeper so that you can focus on crucial business processes.

An accountant may be more suitable if your business is growing and in need of expert guidance in complex accounting transactions. If your transactions revolve around simple invoices and bills, you’re better off with a bookkeeper. But if you need guidance on recognizing revenue for long-term contracts or complex product lines, hire an accountant instead.

Bottom Line

We hope these bookkeeper interview questions give you an idea of how to find and select the best candidate. Hiring a bookkeeper is crucial because hiring an incompetent bookkeeper could cause more problems and tax consequences. Therefore, you should select a candidate who can perform all bookkeeping tasks accurately. We wish you the best in finding the right bookkeeper for your small business.

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