I've heard it said many times, 'oh you just can't get the staff these days'... well, actually, yes you can - I don't know where you've been looking, but there are some exceptional people out there!
I've found that people who are looking for someone for their finance department often only ever get round to it, when they are at the end of their tether. They've ignored it, it hasn't gone away, and then in an act of desperation, they finally decide that they NEED someone NOW! Which is never a good start.
You just can't rush this process. And if you have ever tried to hire for a book keeping post, then you'll know as well as I do, that it's not the lack of candidates for the job, but the exact opposite that can be overwhelming. There are plenty of people out there! Loads. But when you want someone to start today - the choice can be tremendous.
A Bad Choice
The problem isn't with the bookkeeping applicants. It is with the people who choose them. The people who hire in small companies - often the business owners themselves, tend to go for people just like them. However, "personality" should not drive your choice. "Ability" should. And why don't people hire on ability? Because they haven't got a bloody clue what to look for, or how to spot talent. Instead, they go for 'cheap' or 'convenient' and end up having to re-hire for the exact same post within months because it just didn't work out. Here is a list of some of the biggest pitfalls people make, when they try and hire for this post themselves.
Common Mistakes
Not asking to see qualifications. Ignoring aptitude. Being put off by people's names. Overlooking motives for applying for the post. Taking the first person they see. Passing the work to a colleague who has no idea about bookkeeping, nor has an inclination towards the subject. Being ageist. And asking for a bookkeeper, but actually needing an accountant.
What is 'Good'
When people are after 'a good book keeper' what they normally mean is, they are after someone 'cheap' who will do what the accountant should do, and won't go 'missing'.
Sadly, many businesses don't check up on the people they get into these posts, and many book keepers and consultants actually work without any formal qualifications or training, and just set themselves up as self-employed, and can be a bit fly-by-night. I know, because I've walked into some absolute nightmare situations, where we've had to literally just wipe the slate and start again. The books were horrendous.
The Answer
Always ask for recent references and follow them up. Test people to see if they can use the packages that they claim they can. And go through your list of applicants and see as many people as possible. Don't be judgmental. Failing all that, if you don't have the time to do this, then go for a tried and tested method, and use a book keeping service.
Service providers have done all the hard work for you, and your ideal bookkeeper is just a phone call away. A good service provider will have checked them out, done all the due diligence and you'll have a capable person on your team within hours. They should be able to guarantee any work done, ensure adequate professional indemnity insurances are in place, and also assume the additional burden of directly employing people - taxes, NI, sick pay, holiday pay etc.,
The Root Cause
The reason people believe it's hard to find a good book keeper is because there are so many bad ones out there. And in this game, a little damage can cause long lasting devastating and expensive effects. If your bookkeeper gets the VAT wrong, and you end up enduring a full-blown VAT inspection, then you won't be championing bookkeepers. Nor will you be an advocate of them if they took your paperwork and disappeared into the night with it. Or if they were difficult to get hold of or kept cancelling their appointments with you. Sadly, all far too common in this industry.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Newton, an award winning entrepreneur formed Boogles Ltd in 2004.
Lisa is an Ambassador for the Girls Make Your Mark Campaign – which encourages more women and young people to be more enterprising, a member of The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). Lisa has a first class honours degree in Accounting with Marketing and a Masters
in Investment Management.

Boogles is primarily a bookkeeping company and is being franchised throughout the UK. It aims to help small businesses, solicitors and grant-funded organisations to keep good records. The company currently looks after a host of small businesses, charities, not for profit bodies and sole traders.