The role of technology in recruitment for accounting firms
Recruitment is possibly the most stressful, expensive but rewarding task you will ever do in an accounting firm. From large firms that have HR functions to smaller firms with only a few employees, the process of recruiting a new staff member is key to future success.
I want to focus on the role of key technology across the recruitment process for firms of all sizes that I have been involved in, from how to search for new employees, the skills they now need and the technology you use day to day in a firm.
There is much change in our industry from Making Tax Digital, the rapid development of cloud technology and the growing expectations from new hires wanting to work in a firm which is future looking and can provide a development path beyond just technical qualification and experience.
Finding candidates as a firm
The way we find talent has truly changed in the last 10 years. We rarely place adverts for bookkeepers and accountants in local newspapers and we’re now starting to use recruitment agents less. A big reason for this is the development of pro-active candidate search sites such as LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is very unique in that you can search for keywords such as ‘Practice+manager+xero+acca’ to help you find someone who fits this criteria. Now in a large firm, I have used this method to speak with potential candidates which have converted into hires. I typically tell my HR team of the candidates who have responded to my messages on LinkedIn and shown interest to ensure I follow the hiring protocols that exist in large firms.
For smaller proactive firms, this is also a great way to find talent, especially if you’re looking someone to hit the ground running by creating a search query which includes the skills and location you’re looking for. There is no cost for setting up a LinkedIn profile and you can pay for premium features or take a 30-day trial if you’re looking to hire a few people within a short period of time.
You can continue to list jobs on sites such as Indeed, accounting colleges like BPP and even accounting body sites (I got my first job in practice through the ACCA site) but I recommend that you become proactive and search on sites like LinkedIn, it will speed up your recruitment process and it allows you to speak to a greater number of candidates. As a smaller firm you now just need to find the time to do this.
Find a job as an accountant or bookkeeper
Use LinkedIn but please ensure you take the time and put in the effort of creating a summary which outlines your skills and your current job duties. The larger firms (like the one I work in) proactively look for top talent on LinkedIn and use keywords when searching (pro tip). Show off your qualifications and skills beyond your technical qualification, such as business advisory skills, Xero or QuickBooks qualification (do it if you haven’t already, it’s free!) and strong communication skills.
Using tech for communicating
Not all interviews have to be face to face. Larger firms typically have a couple of rounds with each candidate and can easily use apps like Skype for first stage interviews. This saves time and money for both parties.
For smaller firms, if you’re hiring in the local area then face to face interviews are the norm. I recently was involved in the hiring of a stay at home mum who is a brilliant bookkeeper for a smaller firm who now stays in touch with her colleagues in the firm via WhatsApp, email and Skype.
Software and apps are important
Okay, I’m not going to bore you with the QuickBooks v Excel spiel but I will bore you with why it’s important for the accountants of the future to grasp these type of apps.
A year ago, I carried out some research with candidates who were qualified and had some PQE and the second most important attribute (losing out to ‘salary’ by just 4% and on par with ‘paying for qualification’) they seek in an employer (both smaller and large firms) was the opportunity to develop key technology-based skills.
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In an ever-evolving world, understanding what a freaking browser is and how to use apps and connect to bank accounts is fast becoming the norm when dealing with clients. In smaller firms where time and scalability is a challenge, a few actions can pay off in the long run:
- Set up regular 1:1s with your small team, the same way you take the time to help your clients, help your employees. Understand their goals and what they want to achieve and importantly a plan of action for you both in order to reach these goals.
- Adopt technology, both hardware and software. If you’re still using an old slow machine and Quicken 99, you’re not going to be inspiring your team to do the best work they can do and you’re certainly not helping them develop skills which are going to benefit them in the long run.
- Take advantage of training sessions: Companies like Xero, QuickBooks, Receipt Bank, etc have remote and in person training sessions which you can do at your own pace (say an hour a week) or intensive (a whole day). This helps you as a firm as you’re now able to state you’re X software certified but also your employee who gets a certificate and feels you have invested in their development. Just don’t get carried away because every Tom, App and Harry is doing these certificates, pick a couple you think are key for your firm and employees and stick with them.
So as part of the recruitment process, if you’re not offering a development path beyond technical qualifications, the reasons for younger accountants and bookkeepers who truly value their development to join you may not be there.
Use collaboration tools if you outsource
Outsourcing is popular, there is no doubt about it. Traditionally it was the larger firms who took on outsourcing shops overseas but now I have noticed a trend in smaller firms utilising outsourced bookkeepers and accountants to carry out tasks.
One key challenge with outsourcing is collaboration and communication. Having an employee working in a different time zone can be tricky, this is where instant communication is important.
If you email, you’re going to lose valuable hours going back and forth, tools like Slack or just WhatsApp can help immensely when on-boarding and working with outsourced colleagues. Using tech in this manner can help you hire qualified candidates from across the world to help with key tasks from preparing accounts to bookkeeping.
How have you recruited and what methods have you found success with?