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Published: Jun 09, 2023 13 min read

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With ever-changing tax laws, the complexity of financial transactions and the need for real-time financial insights, finding the right accountant can help your business save money and continue to grow.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about how to hire an accountant, from writing a good job description to posting on a job search site like ZipRecruiter. We'll also explore the essential qualifications and skills you should look for in a potential hire and share tips to make the hiring process seamless and efficient.

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What is an accountant?

Accountants hold a great deal of responsibility for a business's financial health. They analyze, record and interpret financial data for individuals, businesses and organizations. They also provide tax advice and ensure that financial records are accurate, up-to-date and in compliance with laws and regulations. With their expertise in finance, professional accountants play an indispensable role in helping businesses make informed financial decisions and maximize profits.

The requirements for becoming a licensed accountant vary by state. Generally, accountants must have a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. By obtaining a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, an accountant can demonstrate a higher level of expertise. Many accountants become CPAs by completing a master's degree program and passing the CPA exam for their state.

What do accountants do?

Accountants are best known for preparing tax returns. Because they know the tax laws, they can also assess your tax situation to identify potential tax deductions and ensure you're in compliance with the IRS.

However, accountants aren't just for tax time. In reality, they perform a variety of ongoing tasks. On top of preparing tax returns, accountants provide financial analysis and planning, prepare financial statements, maintain general ledgers and conduct financial audits.

The knowledge that accountants have about a company's financial picture also allows them to identify potential cost savings and revenue growth opportunities. By providing these insights, accountants can help business owners make strategic decisions to drive the company's future success.

How to hire an accountant

Figuring out how to find great candidates involves assessing your business's needs and budget. Once you identify potential candidates, you'll need to check credentials, conduct thorough interviews and provide a smooth onboarding experience.

Determine which type of accountant your business needs

First, you'll need to determine what kind of accountant to hire given your financial needs. Here are some of the most common accounting roles:

  • Staff accountant: A staff accountant is an entry to mid-level professional who performs various accounting bookkeeping duties such as recording financial transactions, reviewing financial statements and preparing bank reconciliations.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): A CPA is a licensed accountant who has met rigorous education and experience requirements. They provide a wide range of services, including tax planning, financial statement audits and consulting.
  • Investment accountant: Investment accountants specialize in managing the financial aspects of investment portfolios, including tracking performance, evaluating risk and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.
  • Chartered accountant: A chartered accountant is a professional designation awarded by accounting bodies in various countries, indicating a high level of expertise in accounting and finance.
  • Auditor: Auditors are responsible for examining financial records for accuracy, evaluating internal controls and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.
  • Forensic accountant: Forensic accountants combine accounting and investigative skills to uncover financial fraud, embezzlement and other financial crimes.
  • Project accountant: Project accountants manage the financial aspects of individual projects, such as budgeting, cost analysis and performance review.

Take the time to assess each type of accountant and their particular skill sets as you consider your accounting needs. You may want to look at full-time jobs and part-time jobs to see what kinds of roles and responsibilities are out there. Your company will be better equipped to make confident, informed decisions if you have the proper specialist on your team.

Choose between a full-time accountant, part-time accountant or freelance accountant

When hiring an accountant, determine the level of commitment you'll require from your new hire. Full-time accountants are typically the best choice for larger organizations with complex financial needs that require in-depth attention. On the other hand, part-time or freelance accountants can be a cost-effective option for small businesses with limited accounting tasks or seasonal financial requirements.

To determine your needs, you should also consider factors such as your company's size, the volume of your financial transactions and your budget constraints. Remember that the right choice will give you the optimal balance of expertise and affordability, ultimately contributing to your business's overall success.

Search for potential candidates

Finding a skilled accountant doesn’t have to be difficult. Consider using a multipronged approach to get as many eyes on your job posting as possible.

Post on job boards

Job boards are an invaluable resource for finding qualified accountants. These platforms allow you to post your job description, reach a wide pool of candidates and streamline the application process. One great resource is ZipRecruiter, a top-rated employment marketplace where you can post jobs and get matched with the right candidates for your organization.

If you're planning to automate your recruiting process, you may want to consider using an applicant tracking system, which automatically collects, organizes and monitors applicant information. If you decide to use this tool, be sure to explore the best practices for using an ATS.

In addition, check out the best recruiting software to help you create the perfect job posting and improve its visibility on job boards.

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Outsource services from an accounting firm

Another option is to hand off your accounting needs to a reputable accounting firm. These firms typically have a team of experienced accountants who can take on a variety of responsibilities such as bookkeeping and tax planning. This can be a great option for businesses that need more than one type of accountant or specialized expertise but don't want to hire for each individual role.

Create a career page on your company's website

Showcase your company's culture, values and job opportunities on a career page so you can attract potential applicants who are aligned with your mission and want to work for you. If you feel that your company may be lacking in this area, learn how to create a better career page to attract top talent.

Perfect your accountant job description

Make sure your job description has all the key information for attracting the right candidate. If this is your first time hiring an accountant, ZipRecruiter's accountant job description template might be a good place to start.

When crafting the perfect job description, clearly outline the job responsibilities, qualifications and skills required, as well as any specific certifications or licenses needed. In addition, be sure to include information about your company's culture and values as well as any perks that set your organization apart from competitors. Finally, you may want to include information about benefits and compensation for the job.

If your job description is unclear or incomplete, you could get responses from unqualified candidates or fail to attract the best-fit applicants for your company. For example, if you fail to include compensation information, many qualified applicants may not apply because they don't know if the job will meet their financial needs.

Review applicants' credentials, experience and skills

When reviewing applications, pay close attention to candidates' educational backgrounds, certifications and relevant work experience. Additionally, look for things such as attention to detail, analytical thinking and strong communication skills. Finally, consider whether the applicant has experience in your specific industry or with similar accounting tasks.

Decide which questions you'll ask during the interview process

Crafting the right competency and behavioral interview questions can help you assess if a candidate is the right fit for your organization. Here are some sample questions and what they can help you evaluate:

  1. Can you describe your experience with financial reporting and analysis? This is a competency interview question that will help you gauge the candidate's ability to analyze and interpret financial data.
  2. How have you handled a challenging or complex accounting situation in the past? This is a behavioral interview question that can provide insight into the applicant's problem-solving skills and ability to adapt under pressure.
  3. How do you stay current with changes in accounting standards and regulations? A detailed response to this question will reveal the candidate's commitment to ongoing professional development and staying up-to-date with important industry changes.

Select your new hire and begin onboarding

Once you've identified your top candidate, extend an offer and begin the onboarding process. A well-planned onboarding experience that includes clear, well-explained job responsibilities and expectations can help your new accountant feel welcomed, engaged and prepared for their role.

With each new hire, you should also be focused on how to retain employees. Ongoing support, professional development and recognition will ensure long-term job satisfaction and commitment to your organization.

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When to hire an accountant

Knowing when to hire an accountant is just as important as knowing how to find the right one. As a small business grows, hiring an accountant becomes necessary when its financial responsibilities become more complex. Signs that it's time to hire an accountant include increasing revenue, expanding operations, dealing with complicated tax issues or simply feeling overwhelmed by financial tasks.

Additionally, consider hiring an accountant if your business is going through a significant change, such as a merger or acquisition, launching a new product or service or restructuring. Bringing in a professional accountant during these critical moments can ensure that your financial data is accurate, your records are up-to-date and your business is well-positioned for success.

Where to hire an accountant

There are several avenues to explore when searching for an accountant. Consider asking for recommendations or referrals from your professional network, attending industry events and utilizing social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with potential candidates. You should also check out the best job posting sites for employers, including ZipRecruiter. Keep in mind that different sources may yield different types of candidates, so be strategic in your search and use multiple channels to find the best accountant for your business.

Accountant FAQ

Why hire an accountant?

Hiring an accountant can provide numerous benefits for your business, including accurate financial record-keeping, timely tax filing, financial analysis and strategic advice. Accountants can also assist companies in identifying cost-cutting and revenue-growth opportunities, which are critical to long-term business success.

How much does an accountant cost to hire?

The cost of hiring an accountant varies and depends on factors such as experience, location and the specific services required. Freelance or part-time accountants may charge an hourly rate, while full-time accountants typically receive a salary. An accounting firm's outsourcing services frequently come with a monthly or yearly cost that will depend on the scope of services you require.

How much do accountants make?

The annual or hourly salary for accountants will vary depending on an individual's experience, education, certifications and location. As of May 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the typical annual median salary for accountants and auditors in the US was $86,740, while the median hourly salary was approximately $42 per hour. Keep in mind that average accountant salaries may fluctuate and will vary by location. Therefore, it's important to look up current accountant salary trends in your area.

Where do accountants work?

Accountants can work in a variety of places, such as private businesses, governmental institutions, charitable institutions and public accounting firms. Additionally, some accountants own their own companies or act as independent consultants.

Accountant vs CPA: What's the difference?

An accountant is a person with financial records management experience who typically holds a four-year degree. A CPA, on the other hand, is an accountant who has met specific education and experience requirements and passed the Uniform CPA Examination. CPAs are licensed by their state's Board of Accountancy and must adhere to a strict code of ethics. In general, CPAs are considered to have a higher level of expertise and can provide a broader range of services than non-CPA accountants.

Summary: How to hire accountants

Hiring the right accountant can be a game-changer for your business, and knowing how to hire an accountant is a critical first step. First, determine the specific accounting needs of your business and consider the different types of accountants. Once you understand your needs, you can craft the perfect job description and explore various channels for finding candidates. As you identify potential hires, remember to carefully review applicants' credentials, experience and skills. Next, prepare thoughtful interview questions to assess their fit for your organization.

Whoever you hire as your accountant will significantly influence your company's financial health, so you must hire someone you can trust. With the right accountant on your team, you can make better financial decisions and focus on what you do best: growing your company and achieving your goals.