How To Hire A Certified Public Accountant

May 04, 2022

how to hire a certified public accountant

A certified public accountant (CPA) is an individual licensed to provide accounting services such as auditing, the provision of tax consultation, and financial advice to companies, businesses, or the public.

To become a CPA, individuals must have completed and passed the relevant accounting licensing requirements set out by their State; these include passing the CPA exam and completing the necessary work experience.

CPAs are required by businesses due to their experience and knowledge of all areas of accounting. Given the strict financial laws and regulations, the work of a CPA enables the companies they work with to meet the necessary standards and regulations when it comes to their business's accounts.

Those recruiting for CPAs need to ensure that individuals they hire possess the necessary attributes, knowledge, and abilities to successfully practice within their field.

This article reviews the skills a successful CPA should demonstrate and how you can best assess these to ensure you hire the right person for the vacancy you have to fill.

What should a certified public accountant be able to do?

certified public accountant

The role of a CPA is a highly specialised one, requiring a vast amount of knowledge, skill, and expertise. As CPAs work across many different sectors such as government, public accounting, non-profit, and various business sectors, they need to be able to demonstrate a wide range of skills and abilities.

A successful CPA should be able to provide advice to their clients as relevant to their industry or sector, drawing on their knowledge of accounting practices and relevant industry knowledge to support this.

Typically due to their training and experience, CPAs are qualified to conduct and deliver audits on behalf of their clients. In this case, CPAs will be involved in examining the financial records and statements of the company, preparing detailed reports on their findings, drafting financial documents, and speaking to representatives of the company about financial and regulatory issues.

CPAs may also be called on to provide other accounting services such as providing tax advice and support to clients, advising clients on the most relevant tax approach, calculating the amount of tax owed, or helping their clients prepare their annual tax returns.

CPAs may also get involved in the provision of financial planning to individuals, for example, around how to best plan the financial aspects of their estate.

Other CPAs may provide litigation support or consulting services to larger clients.

Skills to look for in a certified public accountant

Given the wide range of work that CPAs carry out, there are specific skills and abilities that all successful CPAs demonstrate. As a recruiter, these are the skills that you need to look out for when assessing those that have applied for a CPA vacancy.

  • Communication skills: all CPAs need to be able to demonstrate strong communication skills, especially active listening. The ability to focus entirely on what their client is telling them, ask follow-up questions to elicit more information, and understand the information that their client is sharing is an essential skill required of all CPAs.

  • Critical thinking: the ability to review and analyse information and then use logical reasoning and analytical thinking to determine the best course of action is required when reviewing financial information and approaches to selecting the most appropriate strategy for their client.

  • Reading comprehension: all CPAs need to demonstrate a level of verbal reasoning in their ability to read passages of information and understand and interpret the key messages.

  • Time management: being able to manage their time effectively to meet their client's deadlines is an important skill required of all CPAs.

  • Negotiation skills: being able to speak to others and negotiate with them in challenging situations relating to an individual's financial position or discrepancies in information is necessary for CPAs. This helps a CPA to effectively carry out their role and meet the relevant financial laws and regulations.

Useful abilities for a certified public accountant

The abilities shown by a successful certified account are varied. It is important to remember that these are not learned but are an individual's natural abilities.

These abilities include:

  • Deductive reasoning: the ability to review and analyse information identifying a specific pattern, relationship, or rule, then using this to apply to other information. This is a crucial ability required of a CPA and used in many of the accounting services that a CPA provides.

  • Inductive reasoning: the ability to review different types of information to make broad but logical inferences to identify patterns or relationships between the data.

  • Numerical reasoning: working with and understanding numerical information presented in different formats and using the correct mathematical principles to solve a problem is fundamental to the work of a CPA. As such, having a high level of numerical reasoning ability is essential as CPAs use their numerical reasoning ability when reviewing and analysing financial statements and reports.

  • Written comprehension: CPAs work with information presented in report format. Reading, reviewing, analysing, and understanding this information is critical to successfully carrying out their roles.

  • Oral comprehension: as CPAs work with clients, the ability to listen and understand spoken information, ask relevant questions and gain the necessary information they need is a key ability required.

Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a certified public accountant?

Several soft skills tests would be appropriate to use in the recruitment process for a certified public accountant. These tests would enable you to shortlist candidates based on the essential abilities required of a successful CPA.

These include:

  • Accountability test: this test determines a candidate's integrity and ownership of their decisions. Given integrity and the type of work CPAs carry out, including an accountability test in your recruitment process gives an indication of an individual's character in the role.

  • Time management test: designed to determine how well individuals can deal with time pressures, the test involves scenario-related questions enabling you to understand better how a candidate prioritises their tasks within a given time frame.

  • Interpersonal skills test: this test assesses whether candidates can work with others, communicate with empathy and deal with conflict situations effectively. The test takes the form of scenario-based questions that enable individuals to highlight their abilities to collaborate with others to contribute to a productive working environment.

Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a certified public accountant?

how to hire a certified public accountant

The technical and aptitude tests that can be included in the recruitment for CPAs include:

  • Numerical reasoning test: this test focuses on assessing how well an individual can work with numerical data. Candidates need to apply their mathematical knowledge to determine the solution to problems.

  • Verbal reasoning test: This test assesses whether candidates can read and understand passages of text, then use what they have learned from the information to answer multiple-choice questions.

  • Logical reasoning test: in this test, candidates' ability to apply logical thinking when solving problems. Logical reasoning tests can assess both deductive and inductive reasoning abilities in solving abstract and complex problems and requires candidates to use critical thinking to reach the best solution.

  • Microsoft Excel test: candidates' proficiency in using Microsoft Excel is evaluated in this test through a series of multiple-choice questions. This test enables you to understand better how well individuals can use the different functions of excel in manipulating and analysing data.

When recruiting CPAs would recommend including the following tests in your recruitment process:

Numerical reasoning test: enabling you to determine and shortlist only those candidates that demonstrate the required level of numerical ability.

Interpersonal skills test: enables you to determine whether individuals can communicate with people at all levels and deal with challenging situations with empathy.

Accountability test: this test provides you with the means to determine a candidate's integrity and suitability for the role and values of the organisation.

Microsoft Excel skills test: allows determining an individual's proficiency in using excel, a commonly used tool in all accounting professions. The test determines whether candidates can use the various functions of excel, enabling them to be more efficient and productive in their role.

For more information on hiring a certified public accountant, check out Neuroworx's guide on certified public accountant tests.