Hiring a staff accountant, finance director, or even a bookkeeper can give the best Executive Director a severe case of hives. Accounting is not a skill set in which most Directors excel. So how do you know if you are hiring the right person? Here are four tips to help avoid costly errors.
1. Financial expertise is not the only talent you need
A good financial person should have keen insight and strong analytical capabilities. You want this person to see liabilities and pitfalls before they occur. But don’t stop there.
Can they communicate financials to non-financial folks? Can you envision them presenting not only to you but to the staff or to your board? Look for leadership and communication skills just like you would with any other candidate.
2. You do need experience with nonprofit financials
There are over 22 leading database/financial software programs serving nonprofits with about 5 industry leaders. The candidate either knows your software or not. If not, lean in on questions about their “learning curve” habits.
It’s not just the software that matters. You already know that nonprofits have unique rules regarding the recording, handling and application of funds. Ask your candidate a lot of questions about past challenges and solutions, and look for strong critical thinking traits. You want a candidate who can analyze options and exercise good judgment.
3. Reference checks; yes, really
This might sound silly, but it is amazing how many hiring managers don’t do reference checks—or do good reference checks. If you use an outside accountant or auditor, have them interview the final candidates. No one will see through a smoke screen faster than one accountant interviewing another.
Professional growth is second nature to the financial industry, so be ready
A good accountant will want to grow their skill sets and certifications. Look for someone who has a thirst to learn. Then, be prepared to help finance their professional development to help them build their career.
Want to learn more? Check out this great blog post 10 Traits Every Great Accountant Has. If your internal accountant has these skill sets, you’ll not only avoid a lot of headaches, but have a valuable asset to help your nonprofit become sustainable and grow.