How to streamline the accountant hiring process

Locating and selecting the best accounting professionals is a time-consuming process. Smart tools and technology help streamline it.
By Jim Romeo

For accounting firms, filling vacancies with qualified candidates can be a challenge. Finding individuals with the right skills is a painstaking process, and one that takes time.

However, tools and technology can slash the time between posting the job and hiring the right candidate.

The employment review website conducted research throughout 25 countries on the length of time it takes to find, interview, and hire professionals.

This research revealed that, in early 2017, across all industries, interviewing candidates took an average of 23.7 days; that was slightly longer than the time recorded in the previous two years. Depending on the country, city, and industry, the interview time frame varies. In the U.S., the average length of the interview process for accounting and legal jobs (which were grouped together in the same "industry" in the survey) was 19.7 days.

Accounting jobs require specific skills — specialized education, a CPA credential in some cases, knowledge of certain software, and other requirements. Thus, firms often involve the direct hiring manager, a human resources manager, and one or more principals of the firm in the review and selection process. Who interviews candidates will vary and likely depends on the size of the firm and its hiring policies. The process is complex and spans advertising vacancies, filtering through résumés and qualifications, interviewing candidates, and ultimately selecting the final candidate. It can be exhausting and can consume days for evaluation and discussion.

"Sourcing a candidate alone can take a considerable amount of time as most companies are not primarily posting a requirement and waiting for active candidates to apply online," says Scott Grant, talent acquisition leader with the public accounting and consulting firm Crowe Horwath LLP in Chicago. "In addition to posting opportunities, companies rely heavily on employee referrals, sourcing teams and third-party search firms to saturate the market and uncover qualified passive candidates."

To streamline the hiring process, Grant advises using technology tools to perform much of the prerequisite screening before conducting interviews. He suggests the following considerations when searching for and using technology to expedite the hiring process:

  • Look for software like Textio to create job descriptions that attract larger pools of diverse talent. Additionally, software from a company like Talent Sonar can assist in removing unconscious bias from the résumé-screening process. These types of software are designed to engage larger talent pools more quickly, allowing companies to hire a more diverse and inclusive workforce.  
  • Use video interviewing when possible to have the benefit of face-to-face conversations while bypassing the need for travel. HireVue and Montage are examples of two platforms that allow this. This extends the reach of candidates who may not be able to travel easily, circumvents travel costs, gets the interviews completed promptly, and is much less time-consuming for everyone.
  • Seek artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning solutions that can (in seconds) search your applicant tracking system (ATS) or candidate relationship management system and recommend top candidates to engage, based on a an assessment of a candidate's fit matched to a job description or goal résumé. AI is a form of machine learning that is integrated into the ATS. It extracts data about candidates and uses algorithms to predict outcomes.   
  • Consider using chatbots to converse with candidates via text or online. Chatbots are used in conjunction with platforms such as Facebook or a company's website to answer basic questions and direct candidates how to apply or even schedule an interview. This can move candidates along their application journey much faster. Chatbots work 24/7 and may be better suited for the preliminary screening of candidates.
  • Use texting and text-based communications to keep in touch with candidates in real time regarding the status of their applications and the interview and review processes.

Tools that take advantage of our digital world and the technology now available are a means to a smooth and efficient process that saves everyone time, alleviates some of the hiring team's administrative burden, and provides the candidates with a steady awareness of where they are in the process. 

"In the end, this process must work for both the candidate and the company, and that typically takes some time," Grant says. "Our goal is to connect high-performing talent with challenging opportunities within the firm.

"When a hiring manager fills their open position, they want to know they have vetted all possible candidates and are making an offer to the best-qualified individual," he adds. "Consequently, we want the candidate to have experienced an impressive journey and felt this is the best place for them to achieve their long-term career ambitions."

Jim Romeo is a Virginia-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager for newsletters at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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