Shortcuts for evaluating a QuickBooks candidate

BY J. CARLTON COLLINS, CPA

Q: When hiring a new QuickBooks bookkeeper, what’s a good way to evaluate a candidate’s proficiency with QuickBooks?

A: It is easy to evaluate the knowledge of a QuickBooks consultant, because Intuit makes his or her history of certifications public. You can access this information from the QuickBooks Help menu by selecting Find a Local QuickBooks Expert, the results of which are pictured below.

 

However, when it comes to evaluating the skills of a QuickBooks bookkeeper, there are typically no such credentials, because nonconsultants rarely invest the time or money to earn these certifications. But in my opinion, there is an easy test you can use. To evaluate a candidate’s knowledge of QuickBooks, I simply ask him or her to launch the check-writing, invoice, and checkbook register screens, and then watch to see how fast he or she navigates QuickBooks. If a candidate uses the graphical or dropdown menus, he or she is most likely a novice user. However, if he or she uses the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+W, Ctrl+I, or Ctrl+R to access these screens, then in all likelihood, he or she has driven QuickBooks around the block a few times. This is because seasoned QuickBooks bookkeepers know that the quickest way to navigate the product is by using shortcuts. (A list of 73 QuickBooks shortcuts, some of which are shown below, is available at carltoncollins.com/qbshortcuts.html.)

 

 

Of course, you should also ask the candidate to complete a few common QuickBooks tasks, such as editing a template, filtering a report, memorizing a transaction, adding an account, finding a check written to a specific vendor, and assessing a finance charge. But don’t stop there. In addition to ascertaining the candidate’s QuickBooks knowledge, you should also determine his or her knowledge of accounting. I frequently do this by asking a few basic accounting questions, such as the following:

1. Insurance payments.What would be the proper transaction entry to record the prepayment of six months’ worth of insurance?” If the candidate knows to set up the prepayment as an asset and then expense one-sixth of that amount each month, that’s a good sign. However, if the candidate thinks the entire amount should be expensed in a single month, then perhaps he or she does not fully understand accrual-based accounting.

2. Bank reconciliations. “If you are reconciling the bank statement and the statement does not balance, what measures might you take to locate those reconciling differences?” Bank reconciliations seldom balance on the first try; there are almost always reconciling differences. If your candidate stammers and offers no logical thinking process for locating discrepancies, he or she probably has limited accounting or bookkeeping experience. However, if he or she cites bank charges, interest earnings, returned checks, or checks written by the boss but not turned in to the bookkeeper as common sources of discrepancies, then kudos are appropriate.

3. Loan payments. “What is the correct transaction entry for recording a $100 loan payment?” If the candidate fails to request an amortization schedule so he or she may break out the proper interest and principal portions to debit both the interest expense and loan payable accounts, then his or her accounting expertise may be lacking.

If the candidate navigates QuickBooks effortlessly; responds to your accounting questions adequately; comes across as professional, trustworthy, and capable; and his or her background checks out positive, then I’d say he or she is probably well worth hiring.

J. Carlton Collins ( carlton@asaresearch.com ) is a technology consultant, CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2013, 2010, and 2007 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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