Hire an Accounting Wizard Without Trying (Part 2)

Last week when I finally decided to hire an accountant, I was up to my ankles in alligators.  The last thing I wanted was the administrative nightmare of responding to resumes, scheduling interviews and sorting skillful accountants from the merely competent.

If you read last week’s post, then you already know how to attract the best accountants to apply for a job at your company.  Now you need to pick the best one and hire them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Here’s 2 tricks — and 1 fail — I found that made the process smooth, short and amazingly productive:

1. Automate Everything

(Estimated time saved: 3 hours.  Cost: $10.)

Scheduling interviews has the potential to create a back-and-forth email string longer than your arm. Rather than ask candidates to pick from a couple of slots, then wrangle multiple responses onto my ever-changing calendar, I let them do it all themselves.  Using a new app called www.Calendly.com, I sent each qualified applicant a link to schedule their own interview. (Try it! Schedule a phone call with me now by clicking here: www.Calendly.com/worrell).

Instead of 30 or 50 emails back and forth, I sent 1 email to each candidate and they created their own appointment right on my Google calendar. No fuss, no questions.

Calendly (and there are several good alternatives) not only told candidates which times I was available, but also made collected their cell phone numbers, provided directions to our office, and handled any cancellations as they came up.  I never had to touch it.

2. Compare Candidates Objectively

(Estimated time saved: 10 hours.  Cost: $100)

I’m a sucker for a nice smile and a firm handshake. Candidates with well-written resumes and a good interview personality can fool me into believing that they are also skillful, competent and efficient. But a nice smile is not a good indicator of strong accounting skills.  To hire an accountant, you need to know that the person has an excellent grasp of accounting, math, and a variety of business concepts (like inventory, costing, pricing, payroll, taxes … accounting touches everything!).

The only way to know if you are interviewing a pretty face or a pretty amazing accountant is to make them take a test. There are a number of pre-hire assessments… but I like the ones offered by Expert Rating. I asked qualified candidates to spend 40 minutes taking a (timed) accounting test. For $10 each, I learned exactly how much they knew about accounting, how accurate they were with math problems, and how quickly they could complete accounting tasks.

The results were shocking.  Of the 10 people who took the test, the results ranged from 40% to 85%. And remember, these were people who I had already judged as being highly qualified.  Without this test, I may have hired the 40% scorer based on other less-objective criteria.  In fact, most shocking was that the best “paper candidates” (based on resume reviews) turned out to be the worst scorers on the pre-hire test.  Go figure.

Online training is highly automated, provides detailed reports, and gave me an objective (and comparative) look at all 10 candidates.  It was truly eye-opening.

There’s also been a lot of talk recently about using tests that measure cognitive capacity and personal work characteristics more than hard skills. To me, these would be great as a secondary test. One of the best is OptimizeHire.com.

3. Stay Organized

(Estimated time lost: 3 hours.  Cost: $0)

This is where I failed miserably.  I did not find a good “Recruiting Management” or HR tool so I had a terrible time tracking emails and resumes, despite using GMail tags, filters and folders.  I’m pretty sure that I lost track of at least 2 reasonable candidates along the way. In the end, I created one big spreadsheet that tracked all the details, including:

  • Contact info (phone / email)
  • Comments on resume
  • Score from the ExpertHire test
  • Comments from in-person interviews
  • Key strenghs & weaknesses
  • Availability date and desired work hours
  • Likely salary requirements
  • Status of call-back / final notification

I’m embarrassed to say that a spreadsheet is the best solution I could find.  Perhaps there’s a more complete on-boarding system available through your payroll company or PEO.  If so, it would pay to use that.  (Please leave me a comment if you know of one!)

Besides making the hiring process easier, a well-organized system would speed up on-boarding and preserve your work for future job openings.

Still, after running a robust process overall, perhaps next time I can skip all these steps — and just go back to the people that I was not able to hire this time.  Now THAT would be an efficient process for hiring an accounting wizard!

Dedicated to your (people-powered) profits.  David

Originally Published

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