How to Interview an Accountant

interview an accountant

If you've been thinking of hiring a professional accountant to handle your company's financials, knowing the right questions to ask can help you determine two things:

  1. Whether hiring a professional accountant might be a smart move for your business
  2. Whether the accountant you are considering is likely to be the right fit for your needs

The Questions

  1. What accounting services do you offer? Not all tax professionals can offer the same services. Some have limited training that simply allows them to work seasonally during tax time to help individuals and small businesses prepare their tax returns. Others are licensed by their state as Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs—a designation that indicates a more in-depth study of tax-related subjects and greater rights of representation for their clients before the IRS when needed. CPAs can help their business clients with all the financial matters that pertain to their companies throughout the year. 
  1. What is the cost of your accounting services? You'll need to know the pricing structure the accountant uses to bill for services. Some accountants bill by the hour and others charge a flat rate. If your tax situation is complex, it will likely be more time-intensive, and a flat rate might be the wiser choice. It's also a good idea—even with hourly pricing—to ask for a quote. An experienced accountant should be able to give you a rough idea of how much his or her services will run, based on the size of your business and its specific tax situation.
  2. Will I be charged when I contact you with questions about my financials? Now is the time to find out how freely you'll be able to communicate with your accountant and whether such contact is included in the basic cost of the accountant's services. This will help ensure that you'll feel completely comfortable calling your tax professional when you have a question—or it will tell you it's time to move on to the next candidate. Some tax professionals may be easy to contact via e-mail. This is the time to find out. 
  1. Are there other services that would incur additional charges? Knowing which services are included in an accountant's basic fee and which cost extra will give you a better idea of how good a fit this accountant is for your business.
  2. What experience do you have working with clients in my industry? An accountant who understands your industry's regulations and tax implications will be better prepared to accurately manage your financials, helping you meet your company's tax obligations while maximizing tax savings.
  1. May I have a list of your business references for clients in my industry? A professional accountant should have a list of references handy that will allow you to contact clients in your industry to ask questions about service, responsiveness, and professionalism. 
  2. Do you handle your services online or in person? There's a big difference between a tax professional who does everything on paper, requiring you to make a trip to the office to drop off tax documents, and one who handles everything online, accessing many reports in the cloud. Cloud-based accounting makes working with your financial and tax data quicker, easier, and more efficient. It can also save you a great deal of stress. 

Finding the right accountant is critical to your business success. As your company grows, your financials become more complex, which can often make placing them into the hands of an experienced professional a smart business move. And once you've made that determination, asking the right questions will make the process of finding the right accountant a much easier one.