2023 Accounting Hiring Market continued: How to Play the Game (for Employers)
A few months ago, we described the current public accounting hiring market as “a choppy market with mismatched expectations.”
Whether you’re an employer planning to hire accountants or a job-seeker looking for a new public accounting opportunity, you will not succeed in the 2023 hiring market without a strategy tailored to current market conditions.
Here are our recommendations for employers in the 2023 hiring market:
What is balanced hiring? It’s doing two seemingly incompatible things at the same time: (a) competing aggressively for talent in a candidate-friendly market and (b) being prudent to ensure that you make a good hiring decision.
1. Be fast with the things that can be rushed.
- Start early. Don’t start looking for tax talent in October (or later). That might have worked 10 years ago, but it won’t work in this market.
For tax, peak hiring season runs from May-August. Delaying until fall = a smaller talent pool and fewer top-end candidates.
The same advice applies to accounting, audit, etc. Given current market conditions, we recommend starting the hiring process six months before your anticipated need. This allows time to recruit, onboard, train and get to know the team member BEFORE you need them to hit the ground running.
- Move quickly. Once you identify a viable candidate, express interest and arrange interviews immediately.
Adjust your schedule if needed because if you wait days or longer, top candidates may already be off the market.
Worse yet, delay might allow another employer to get ahead of you in the interview process. You could spend hours interviewing and vetting the candidate, but the other employer, further along in the process, will make an offer before you’re ready to pull the trigger. Result: lost candidate AND wasted time and energy.
Continue to move with urgency throughout your hiring process. This does NOT mean skipping key steps (background checks, assessments, etc.); it DOES mean minimizing dead time between the important steps.
- Communicate often, precisely, and openly. During the initial interview and at every step after that, the top priority is to establish effective communication with the candidate.
Often. Communicate clearly at every single stage of the process. What comes next in the process? How long will it take? Don’t leave a candidate hanging/wondering.
Openly. Establish a two-way line of communication with the candidate. Give them room to ask you anything at any time, and explicitly ask them to let you know if they receive other offers (so that you can potentially match/beat that offer).
Precisely. Establish specific timelines, and be sure to keep them. If you tell a candidate you’ll be in touch by Tuesday, don’t wait until Thursday to reach out.
2. But don’t skip any important steps!
We often get asked: “I really like this candidate! Should I skip background checks/reference checks/assessments?” Hiring the wrong candidate costs time and money, plus it’s professionally and personally taxing, so we don’t recommend any shortcuts.
Buying a new house in today’s market? Make a quick decision, but don’t skip the inspection contingency. Hiring an accountant? Act fast with candidates, but don’t skip your due diligence.
However, if you use assessments (we recommend Accountests to our clients), have extensive rounds of interviews, or any other gates that take extra time/effort from a candidate, we highly recommend acknowledging/rewarding the candidate.
Back in the good old days, firms used to take candidates out to a nice lunch to acknowledge the candidate’s interest/effort. These days, perks like that have disappeared.
To make your firm stand out, we recommend bringing old school courtesy to today’s market: if you ask a candidate to complete an assessment or multiple rounds of interviews, we suggest sending a $25-$50 e-gift card (Starbucks or a national restaurant chain) after the candidate completes the process.
Why? First off, it’s just a nice thing to do. Second, it encourages candidates to complete your process–always remember that they may have other options with fewer hoops to jump through.
Lastly, it shows that you care about your employees. This could give you a competitive advantage if the candidate receives multiple offers.
After all, who do you want to work for: someone who appreciates/rewards your efforts, or someone who takes your time and energy for granted?
3. Sell your opportunity.
The single biggest mistake that we see employers make? Too often, they make no effort whatsoever to sell their opportunity to candidates.
At every candidate-facing stage of the hiring process (job description, interview, offer), you have two jobs: one is to find the right candidate, but the other is to ATTRACT the right candidate.
Hiring is sales, period. Ask yourself: what’s the value proposition for this job? Great pay?
A gentle busy season? Flexibility? Fully remote? Advancement opportunity? 4 day summer work weeks? Client interaction?
Whatever IT is (and hopefully it’s more than one of the above), sell it every time you can.
Candidates today have choices–it’s your goal to inform them about what makes your firm great so that they choose your opportunity.
4. Don’t nickel and dime; be creative on compensation.
Sticker shock is one of the biggest challenges that employers face. Salary expectations have gone up significantly in the last few years.
We’ve seen quite a few hires fall apart over relatively small amounts of money ($2K – $10K in salary). Rather than lose a good candidate, we suggest being creative to close the gap.
If you can’t meet the salary expectation, consider using one-off incentives (signing bonuses, year-end bonuses) or non-monetary perks (extra vacation, capped hours) to close the gap. Find out what’s most important to the candidate.
The Bottom Line: You CAN make a great hire in the current 2023 hiring market. Here at Accountingfly, we receive an average of ~1,000 applications every week, so the talent is out there.
By being fast, communicating, selling your opportunity, and offering creative compensation, you can make a successful hire without compromising any of your due diligence or taking any extraordinary risks.