I love this article by Stacy Luft:
When you are hiring a bookkeeper – what is the skill you are really looking for? So many times I see small businesses looking to hire office staff or a part time bookkeeper and the major qualification they highlight is “must know QuickBooks”.
This reminds me of an issue I faced 15 years ago when I was looking to change jobs. I had an accounting degree, 5 years of accounting experience with processing in-house payroll and was overlooked because I didn’t have ADP experience. While it was frustrating for me, I always found this amusing. At that time I was routinely on the phone with the software programmer explaining the payroll was wrong and what the correct answer should be. I didn’t know the payroll wasn’t calculated properly because I had ADP experience. I knew it was wrong because I had accounting experience. I have found in many small businesses, it is easy to confuse software training with accounting or bookkeeping training.
What should you look for when you are hiring a bookkeeper? You should look for a background in bookkeeping or accounting not whether or not they had software training. It shouldn’t matter if the person knows QuickBooks or Xero or any other accounting software package. To someone that has experience and training in bookkeeping or accounting, the software is irrelevant. I can give a great example where software training wasn’t enough. I once was working with a bookkeeper who knew the software but didn’t understand basic accounting principles. She incorrectly booked a transaction and overstated the bank balance by $1,000,000. Can you imagine thinking you had $1,000,000 more in your bank account than you really did? What made this issue so horrible, besides the million dollar overstatement? While the bookkeeper knew the software, she had no judgment or training to recognize something didn’t smell right. This is what the software told her was the book balance and she knew how to use the system. She even defended her total to the President of the company. What do you think could have happened if the President believed her? (Yep… pretty scary I know!)
So, in short, while it’s great to know software, it’s more important to recognize it’s only a tool to be used. The training and the experience should be in the skill of bookkeeping or accounting, not in software. A trained professional can work on any accounting system. I have worked on at least 8 different accounting software programs over the last 20 years. Anyone can purchase accounting software in the local office supply store and start processing transactions. However, improperly recording transactions can cause you problems in your business or worse at tax time. Remember, not paying enough taxes is far worse than overpaying taxes. It takes training and real experience to help you know that your business is profitable or not, and that you are accurately reporting your income and paying the proper amount of taxes.