If you want to add an accountant to your staff who truly creates value for your company, you must hire an accountant who knows more than the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) backwards and forwards. Of course, having a GAAP whiz on staff does have its advantages, but the fact is that your new hire won't just be working with numbers; it's inevitable that he or she will need to work with others outside of the accounting department too. Therefore, in addition to being a highly capable number-cruncher, any accountant you hire should have a knack for building relationships. That's to say, he or she should be a "people person."
An accountant who is a true "people person" will possess all of the following characteristics:
Like it or not, an accountant must realize that the service he or she provides is about others; it's never about them. Therefore, he or she must always be willing to work in the best interest of his / her employer. As the employer, that means finding an accountant who is willing to "delve deeper" if asked to do so to help managers make smarter decisions.
For accountants, the financial information produced through regular accounting tasks is simple to decipher. Accountants also understand the ramifications of the data. However, that's not always the case for managers who need the accounting information. While some manager may love to see every accounting calculation and spreadsheet available, others may prefer a figure-free explanation of the company's financial situation first and a summary of financial data second. This is precisely why making sure an accountant can explain financial reports in real-world, laymen's terms is an essential characteristic for a star hire.
The rules provided by GAAP may be specific but, as with many things in this world, GAAP does leave room for interpretation. Therefore, an accountant who is creative with his or her use of GAAP but who is conservative as he / she works within the tax law is a true asset. This type of accountant, without a doubt, has the greatest ability to work in the best interest of the company / client.
Confidence is critical! An accountant must be unwavering in the reasons and methods he or she chooses to use to calculate figures the way they do. It's a sign that the accountant knows what they are doing and why they are doing it; an accountant without confidence could be a potential liability. Meanwhile, a confident accountant is also a great asset for any company because they're often able to make educated suggestions based on the financial data for the betterment of the company!
How do you make sure that a candidate has all of these characteristics? Simple. You ask questions...but not just any questions; ask questions based on real scenarios that have occurred at your company or that would be plausible occurrences. This will allow you to learn how the interviewee responds under pressure, explore their knowledge base beyond their resume, and see if the candidate has the "people person" characteristics that will make them a valuable asset to your company. Do that and you're sure to snag a star accountant!