Talent is the number one barrier halting the progress and growth of accounting firms everywhere. A team of outstanding staff is essential for your practice to fulfil its potential. Yet, putting this team together is difficult. Finding and attracting the best talent that is a perfect fit for your firm can often seem like an impossible task.
But with the right planning and strategy, putting your ultimate accounting team together is possible. Here are 8 tips to help you make this a reality.
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1. Determine your ideal candidate
When an employee leaves your firm or a new role arises, envision what your ideal candidate looks like. How many years of experience do they have? What is their education background? Describe their attitude, personality and characteristics—everything you can think of that will help to create a persona of who you want.
Remember that there are trade-offs. More experience equals a higher salary. More detail-oriented might mean that they are introverted. Think about what is critical for the role you are trying to hire.
Doing this will paint a clear picture of who you want to attract which will help greatly later on.
2. Identify where you can be flexible
You're not always going to find exactly who you're looking for. You might need to make trade-offs. Selecting the characteristics and skills early on that you are prepared to be flexible with, will pay dividends. Work experience over attitude? Salary over experience? Product experience over working experience? Determine the qualities that are essential and which are adjustable.
3. Write a job description with your ideal candidate in mind
Even if you ultimately source your candidate from referrals, you will still need a job description to send to your candidate. Another way of thinking about a job description is your firm’s “resume” to the candidate. This is a chance to win the very best talent, so communicate what makes your firm unique, exciting, and a great place to work. Write your job description so that it will appeal to the ideal candidate you are looking for.
4. Ask for referrals
A large number of job postings are filled through referrals. This way of sourcing talent can also bring a greater chance of a positive long-term outcome, because there is more information being shared between the employer and future employee.
Your first step in sourcing should be to reach out to your network locally, regionally and virtually, whether this includes peers, colleagues or business associates. You never know where, or through whom, your next star accountant will come from.
5. Utilise LinkedIn
As an extension of seeking referrals, an easy way to spread the word is to post an update on LinkedIn. Encourage your industry connections to share your post so that the reach will expand beyond your first-degree connections.
If you feel like you need a boost, sign-up for LinkedIn's Premium Hiring option. There, you can push your posting to candidates with select titles, locations, companies and more. This should be the first place you go beyond the walls of your internal network.
6. Speak to trusted industry sources
The accounting industry has a wide array of unique places that can help you find and source talent. New services like AccountingFly will help you find recent college graduates. Regional and national societies will have job boards. And if you are really proactive, you can develop a relationship with nearby colleges or universities and ask for their help identifying who they think are the next rising stars of the industry. Think about what's unique about where you live, what you do and where you read, and get your job posting listed in places where like-minded candidates will see it.
7. Search smart
Online job boards and websites will get you lots of responses, but often the vast majority of these will be useless. So when you do advertise broadly, you need to think of strategies to help you filter candidates later on.
One way of doing this is to set some activities as part of the application. For example, you can ask them to provide detail on how they would handle a tricky scenario. Not only will this help you to identify the good from the bad, it will also reduce the number of average candidates you get—preventing anyone who uses the same resume and letter to apply for hundreds of jobs.
Or, you could ask applicants to email a dedicated email address (such as [email protected]) with a specific subject line. Use email automatic filters to put those responses in one place and delete all those that don't match the specific subject line. By adding this simple step, you will filter your candidates to only the most detail-oriented who take the time to read instructions.
8. Consider calling in the professionals
Contract recruiters are expensive so you should use them only if you have to, but they can be the difference between having a recurring success or fail. If you go down this route, you must be crystal clear about who and what you want. While you want the best candidate, recruiters will often settle for a “suitable” candidate who they find in the shortest possible time. For your best chance of success, ask your peers for advice on recruiters they have used, to ensure you engage someone who understands your requirements, needs and the industry.
Finding and attracting the right talent is a challenge for every accounting firm. But the practices that have the best luck take the time to think carefully about who they want and devise a careful strategy to find that person. Often, a couple of simple steps can be the difference between finding your ideal applicant or spending countless hours sorting through average applicants.
Practice Excellence Week is AccountingWEB's landmark festival of excellence, inspiration and celebration for the accounting profession. If you would like to hear more about programme, please visit the Practice Excellence website or email [email protected].