How to recruit the best job candidates

By Drew Adamek

The accounting profession is changing, and that means the ways firms recruit and retain top-tier talent need to change, too. Recent graduates have much different expectations of work and career than a generation ago, and technology is changing the way that firms reach and develop relationships with potential new hires.

However, firms aren’t just concerned with filling entry-level positions. There is a continuous need to hire and keep experienced CPAs at all levels. Finding a one-size-fits-all strategy for recruitment when the talent pool has diverse motivations and firms have varied needs is nearly impossible.

But firms can address this steady demand for high-quality, talented CPAs in a tight labor market by being insightful, authentic, and proactive, according to Sarah Dobek. The founder and president of Inovautus Consulting, a marketing firm that helps CPAs grow their business, Dobek discussed staffing strategies at the AICPA ENGAGE 2018 conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Speaking in an interview prior to the conference, Dobek offered tips to firms looking to improve their recruitment and retention efforts.

Attracting the right candidates: The first step is getting the right candidates to apply for the opening, and reaching them requires understanding their job search motivations.

“In order to attract the right candidates, you have to speak to them about what they care about,” said Dobek.

Millennial candidates in line for early career positions are looking for flexibility in work time and location, a personalized career path, efficient use of technology within the firm, immediate learning opportunities, and brand authenticity, according to Dobek.

It is important that candidates see those qualities in a firm’s online presence, in their brand reputation, and in interactions with the firm, she said. That means making an effort to reach candidates as soon as possible in ways different from what firms may have traditionally done.

“Culture is still really important,” said Dobek. “You can’t just give them a marketing message. They want you to be true and honest. They want to hear from their peers as well through testimonials, case studies, and videos.”

However, firms don’t hire just people between the ages of 22 and 30, and candidates of different experience levels have different motivations.

To better understand what drives job seekers, Dobek recommends that firms talk with candidates about their motivations and needs throughout the recruitment process, and hold exit interviews with departing employees to gain insight into their motives.

Craft the right job description: A good job description can persuade the right candidate to apply for the job, and crafting that standout description will be easier once you understand your target audience, according to Dobek.

“When you write in the right context, it can attract the right person,” she said. “When you start focusing on the type of individual that you need, you’re going to start using language that that person would identify with.”

An effective job description also tells the story of your firm along with the features and benefits of the position.

The job description is not just a bullet point list description of your job responsibilities,” she said. “An attractive job description is going to be much more than that; it’s really going to be a sales pitch of why you should come work for us.”

Don’t be afraid to be innovative in how you deliver the job description either, Dobek said. Younger candidates in particular are more open to different media, and you can reach them in new ways. Look to video, audio, and other multimedia opportunities to create and deliver your job description.

Actively recruit: Don’t wait until you need to fill a position to start recruiting and then expect HR to do all of the work, Dobek cautioned. Building an effective network that you can tap before it is hiring time means starting early, taking a proactive approach, and including a wide range of the firm’s stakeholders.

“It is not just the HR department’s job to recruit for your firm,” Dobek said. “Every partner has a role, every higher-level staff person should be involved in recruiting because every person has a network.”

Take advantage of digital platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and firm websites to build a brand network that draws an audience. Firm executives should be using their digital platforms, and their audiences, to promote the firm as an employment destination, according to Dobek.

“You have to be actively posting about your firm and your culture,” she said. “You need to be attracting people to your brand, to your firm, before you need to fill those positions.”

Even if you aren’t immediately hiring, Dobek sees value in using digital tools to expand a firm’s network and sees it as an investment in the firm’s future.

“Recognize good talent not just because you have a position to fill but [because] they could be a good fit for your firm,” she said. “When you find that talent and it is available, you have to jump on it sometimes.”

Drew Adamek is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, a JofA editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.

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