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Today’s Hiring Scene in Accounting and Finance: Here’s What You Can Count On

Posted on: July 28, 2017

Categories: Accounting & Finance | Featured

By Melissa McGuire, Managing Director

The recently published results of the AICPA’s 2017 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey declared finding qualified staff the biggest issue facing accounting firms.  Since business has picked up steam, so has competition for talented professionals.  In fact, finding qualified staff has been the leading issue for accounting firms with 2-10 professionals and retaining qualified staff at the top of the list for firms with 11 or more on their payroll since 2015.  Although this biennial survey is geared to accounting firms, the talent shortage for accounting and finance talent is true throughout the industry. 

Consider this:  in the Charlotte MSA from June 2015 to July 2017, there were 25,883 accounting jobs posted on CareerBuilder (according to data from their Supply and Demand Portal) with the top requisitions covering Staff Accountants, Senior Accountants and Accounts Payable.  In that time frame, the active candidate pool has hovered around 6,500, but has been steadily decreasing.  Looking further into the active talent pool, only 469 candidates fell in the 3-5 years of experience category, often considered the “sweet spot” for accounting hiring.  In a nutshell, hiring for accounting and finance professionals isn’t just challenging, in some cases it’s like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.  Indeed, we have top tier clients who’ve shared with us that they used to receive thousands of resumes for a posted position but are now seeing significantly fewer – sometimes only one or two!

It’s clear that the game has changed.  With that said, what can you count on when you’re endeavoring to hire accounting and finance talent in today’s market? 

Competition

First, expect a crowded playing field when it comes to hiring.  With business booming, there is an increased demand for talent.  With increased demand comes increased competition.  If you need to add to your team, you can be sure that active candidates are talking to other companies, including their current employer, which we’ll revisit in the next section.  For talent with leadership level experience, the competition is even fiercer, as many employers are finding themselves in a position where they have a leadership shortage, with retiring managers and an insufficient supply of qualified candidates with enough experience to take their place (a by-product of the recession and population demographics).

Counteroffers

Run a quick Google search on counteroffers and you’ll quickly find a smorgasbord of articles warning candidates against accepting a counteroffer (for a good synopsis of the reasons check out our blog post on the subject at: http://www.sherpallc.com/job-search/counteroffers-accept-not-acceptthat-question/ ) Despite the warnings, in this employment market, you can almost guarantee that a good candidate’s current employer is going to counteroffer – and there’s a good chance the candidate will take it.  With resignations, employers face time and frustrations finding suitable replacements, as well as time and money spent onboarding and training, which can be very costly, so they often consider making counteroffers.  Employees with job offers have probably heard the counteroffer warnings loud and clear, but could accept an attractive one from their employer because they’re confident that if it doesn’t work out, they can find something else.  

Being an Employer of Choice Matters

The AICPA survey suggests that retention is a big issue for companies who employ accounting and finance professionals, not just accounting firms.  In today’s market, candidates are increasingly willing to leave for greener pastures.  Candidates can find not just a job and company they are happy with, but can find the opportunity that offers them the salary, benefits, culture and work/life balance they crave.  Becoming an employer of choice has never been more valuable, and employers who are viewed this way, win. 

Speed is of the Essence

When a staffing need arises, you must be nimble.  Once you have the role defined, make sure your hiring process is fast and effective.  If you need time to reassess the responsibilities and requirements of the role, do that before you start your search.  You can always talk with a staffing partner to find a talented contract resource to keep up with the work and prevent staff burn out.  Once you meet a candidate who fits your requirements, don’t wait to make an offer!  While it is nice to compare candidates, in today’s market, good candidates won’t be on the market long – move fast or you’ll miss your chance.

Being Flexible Helps

Be flexible and realistic.  During the Great Recession, employers were spoiled by having so many great candidates to choose from and they found people with nearly everything on their wish list.  Now, it’s great that the unemployment rate is low and candidates have more opportunities, but employers are not in the driver’s seat.  If you wait for a “perfect” candidate, you could wait a very long time and still have your candidate snatched up by a competing offer.  Challenge your “must have” job specifications and hire smart, driven candidates you can train in areas they haven’t yet had experience. 

Knowledge is Power – Stay Informed in this Fast-Paced Market

If you have a trusted staffing partner, leverage their market knowledge to keep you abreast of supply and demand, including what candidates are looking for and what other employers are doing to stay a step ahead.


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