Recruiting new staff is one of the most common pain points for accounting firm partners and managers. Karbon’s 2017 talent survey identified that finding and acquiring great talent is presenting more of a struggle for accounting firms than any other aspect of managing talent.
95% of respondents said they experience challenges related to recruiting. And perhaps even more concerning, just 22% said they are confident that their current recurring strategy is reaching and attracting the very best applicants.
The best way to improve your recruiting process is to look at what the best in the field are implementing in this area. Here are some examples of strategies some progressive accounting firms are using to attract staff, write and communicate job ads, accept applications and interview candidates.
UK accounting firm My Accountancy Place recently announced they are recruiting a new Financial Controller. Rather than stick with a standard job posting, they shared a video on social media featuring two of their current Financial Controllers chatting. Going against the standard, they discuss what it is like working at My Accountancy Place instead of focussing on what they need in a potential recruit.
The video catches the attention of potential candidates, makes My Accountancy Place look like a great place to work, and emphasizes the benefits of the role. How many job postings finish off with a call to action to “discover what our firm can do for you”?
“We used to recruit through an agency, which cost us £5,000 for each new member of staff. We realized that accounting firms have two main problems that are both centered around people—getting more dream clients and getting more dream staff. Both are an issue of marketing, so we concluded—why can't we attract staff in the same way we attract clients? Our next member of staff cost us £113. We recruit around core values, so it's what we focus on first. Skills can be taught. Values are innate.”
Australian accounting practice, Illumin8 describe themselves as “different, a little quirky, with a whole lot of personality.” They understand the importance of attracting candidates who will be a good fit their culture, so when they recently recruited for a new Administrator, they posted this innovative job ad.
With a clear idea of who would be a good fit for their team, the job ad was written in a specific tone and with unique language, to demonstrate the culture of Illumin8 and to appeal to the right candidates.
“Our business has a strong brand and culture and it's super-important for us to make sure we find the right people to take us onwards and upwards. Whilst skills are important, cultural-fit is paramount. Putting a job ad like this together actually means we get fewer applicants (as people who don't fit are scared off), but those who do are generally great quality. The way we speak to each other, to clients and to prospective employees is the same across the board—no point in creating unrealistic expectations before they even start the job!”
Every 12-18 months Adrians Chartered Accountants undergo a recruiting process for cadets or graduates. Rather than ask for people to apply with a standard resume and letter, they ask for applications via video.
A video makes the application a bit harder, requiring applicants to prove that they really want the position, show that they are willing to research their firm, and demonstrate what they can bring. While this has reduced the number of applicants, the quality has increased dramatically.
“They have to prove that they’re comfortable talking on a video which is a process in itself. It’s an exercise in showing us that you’re willing to do new things, go above and beyond your normal capabilities. Now it’s only go-getters who apply, who want the job badly. We’ve gone from getting 300, mostly ordinary applications, to less than 10 high-quality candidates.”
Growthwise always interview shortlisted candidates twice. The second interview is conducted with the entire team and is described as more of a relaxed chat than an interview. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions of the candidate, which are often very different to what would be asked in a standard interview.
This gives the practice a great gauge on whether that person will be a suitable fit for the team. Even for remote workforces, any new addition to staff will still be a part of the team, so an exercise like this is just as important.
The questions the team ask are usually used to assess how well a candidate will fit in. Examples include, “what does a week in your life tend to look like?”, “where have you traveled and what did you learn?”, and “what technology do you love?”
Often, the Growthwise team also ask a candidate to perform seemingly random exercises to see how they react and handle pressure, such as building a paper airplane or draw a penny farthing bicycle.
“We are more like a family than an actual team, so that means everyone needs to ensure a new addition will fit in. We find that having a relaxed and informal chat with everyone gives us a much better understanding of the person we are potentially hiring.”
Canadian practice, LiveCA believe the best way to assess a candidate is to put them through an objective testing situation. As the final stage of their recruiting and selection process, they have developed a two-day course to test all aspects of a candidate's skill-set—professional judgment, technical skills communication style and cultural fit. Doing this gives them confidence in their final selection.
“We've learned there's no substitute for testing people using objective trial work days. Working together gives us both an opportunity to feel stronger about the upcoming hiring decision.”
An increase in competition for the best accounting talent and diversifying needs for different practices means that many other accounting firms are thinking outside the box when they search, attract and select their next team member. Next time you are looking for a new member of staff for your firm, think about what you can do differently that wlll help you acquire the ideal person who will suit the role and your existing team.