How to Find Top Accounting Talent – 6 Experts Share their Tips
Here at Poe Group Advisors, we recently identified several key positions that will likely need to be filled in the next year or so on our own team. Since team building is such a critical success factor, we decided that we would develop a more formal hiring process. This prompted us to reach out to industry leaders who had surrounded themselves with great people, and to find out what worked well for them. With step one (finding the right people) being arguably the most important part of the hiring process, we asked our 6 thought-leaders the following question:
How have you found your best talent?
We got some incredible responses. Here are the proven insights from these remarkable leaders:
At Withum, we spend a ton of time at colleges and Universities. We very actively and aggressively recruit staff into our internship program. On an annual basis we bring in about 50 interns. We target those in their sophomore or Junior year. We’ve found that when we land them early, give them the experience of working in the firm, they generally don’t look elsewhere as they approach their senior year. If we are able to retain them after a few internship stints, we will almost always offer the best and brightest full time positions upon graduation.
In looking at our staff, some of our best have come from our internship pool.
When I think about what I have done to find and retain top team members, I realize that I have relied on just two things:
• A willingness to “share the wealth” and offer uniquely-compelling, above-market pay packages. This includes things like more PTO days than industry standard, ability to leave early on Fridays, etc.
• Referrals. Every top team member that I have ever hired was a result of a referral from a trusted source. Typically it was a result of me initiating a conversation with my Top 20 trusted relationships with the following: “I am looking for someone with _____ skills and experience. Do you know of anyone?”
In terms of finding great people, the best decision we ever took was to make Bizink a virtual company in 2014. Instead of hiring from a limited talent pool from one city, we now have the entire world to hire from. So from having the team based in an office in Christchurch, New Zealand, we how have team members in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and even Estonia!
In the last several years, we have radically changed the way we recruit staff at BGW, both new hires and experienced hires.
At the core of our process, we realize that we need to differentiate ourselves in our work experience if we want to attract prospective employees to our company. This differentiation comes in many forms. First, with campus recruiting, we realize that everyone hates the networking aspect to a group presentation, so we stopped doing it. By the time the fourth group of 20 comes through, they aren’t going to remember us and we aren’t going to remember them, so we have to stand out, and so do they. So instead of the usual networking in small groups, we give a presentation and give the honest answer about what we stand for as a company, then open it up to questions. They remember us because we were honest (and didn’t force them into an awkward networking session!) and we remember them by the quality of the questions they ask. Second, in the on-campus interview process, we let the millennials hire the millennials. Who better to evaluate the new workforce then the new workforce! For the prospective employee, it sends a powerful message that they will in fact have a say. It’s the first reinforcement that we didn’t mislead them in the interview process. Third, at the office visit, our space sells. It is open and feels more like an architecture or design firm, not a classic accounting firm. By the time they see the space we would really need to screw things up. This last recruiting season, we had a 100% offer acceptance rate.
With experienced hires, not much is different in our process. We don’t advertise for experienced hires, rather we go ‘fishing,’ meaning that we are constantly networking and meeting with other professionals in order to get to know them and for them to get to know us. If and when the time is right, we have already established a great relationship. A great example of this is a recent hire we made, Heather. We interviewed her two years ago but didn’t have a position open. One of our teammates kept in touch with her over the year, meeting her for coffee occasionally. When we finally needed the position, Heather had already taken another job! However, after a few months Heather realized she really would like the chance to work with our firm and went through our interview process. She started two weeks ago, all because we maintained a keep in touch strategy with the people that seem like a good fit, just not right now.
Invest in social media, firm-wide. Social media is seeing greater acceptance among firm leaders, but we still encounter hesitation against fully embracing and truly using the technology. There isn’t any doubt, social media is a game-changer in recruiting and firms who are leveraging it are seeing success.
To fully invest in social media, firm wide:
- Get everyone in the firm onto LinkedIn
- All employees should build their profiles and ideally add a picture
- All employees should work to improve their connection count
- Connect to all of those responsible for recruiting in the firm
- Ideally all firm employees will connect to each other
- Connection count matters in both quality and quantity
- Connect to clients
- Connect to people you know in accounting and finance
- Link to contacts in your firm’s industry segments
- Connecting to referral source contacts in banking, legal, and insurance
- Run promotions and contests and acknowledge those making headway
- Create metrics or goals, like connections today vs. connections 90 days from now
- Sell these efforts by communicating “What’s in it for me” – for your employees:
- Hiring higher quality teammates, or teammates at the right level
- Bringing on staff to delegate to
- Having the right resources in place
Your efforts in getting your firm invested in social media will pay off when you are ready to take the next step in your recruiting and start building a network of relationships that you can leverage to find the appropriate talent.
Our talent comes to us. They find that they don’t fit in a traditional firm and want to experience what an innovative CPA firm culture is like. They reach out to us because they are already “Radical”. They approached change in their old-school firms and weren’t given the opportunity to lead change so they leave. They have offers from bigger firms with more money because culture is more important that pay.