As we shared last week, BVOH Finance & Accounting Search recently received the Inavero Best of Staffing Client and Talent Awards for 2017. While we are pleased to be recognized for our hard work, we are more interested in the feedback and recommendations for improvement that we receive.
This year, you told us our quality of service, understanding of your cultures and needs, professionalism, and caliber of candidates are all spot on.
You’d just like more candidates to choose from.
We hear you, and we’d like to have more to offer. But the Bay Area is suffering from a shortage of accounting talent due to an imbalance in the supply and demand for these individuals.
The demand for qualified accountants largely stems from the booming tech industry. Many start-ups are under-resourced and need accountants to keep up with their rapid growth. That need creates opportunities within mid-cap and large tech companies as well because candidates from those organizations often leave for start-ups.
The issue is exacerbated by a pattern that we’ve seen many times in the accounting industry. Every 10-15 years, new guidelines come out that create more work, particularly for public companies. There’s a new one on the horizon around revenue recognition standards, and it’s increasing accounting needs across the board. There are also more people retiring from the work force than joining, which is additionally creating a talent gap.
Accountants are desirable commodities in San Francisco, specifically, due to the number of start-ups located here, but the available talent is a problem throughout the Bay Area. We work with companies from Marin to San Jose, and it’s a concern everywhere. Companies in the peninsula and the South Bay often have a particularly hard time filling positions because these highly sought after young professionals typically live in the city.
It’s also a tough time of year for hiring because public accountants are in the middle of their busy seasons, and most won’t have the bandwidth to consider new opportunities until later this spring.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Although we may offer fewer candidates than you’d hope to see, there are strategies you can use to attract high-quality professionals. Here’s how to make the most of your opportunities in a tight hiring market:
1. Keep an open mind.
When hiring managers sit down with recruiters, they immediately jump to their Holy Grail candidates. It’s fine to define your ideal employee, but a person might not need every one of your dream qualities to be a great hire. By sticking to your dream list, you limit your options and may lose out on someone who could be quite successful in your organization.
After you draft a job description, revisit each requirement and ask, “Do I absolutely need to see this in a candidate?” There’s often room for negotiation on professional designations and technical skill sets that would be nice to have but aren’t essential to the job. For instance, maybe you don’t actually need someone with a CPA certification, although it would be nice. Or perhaps you could train a top-rated auditor for a role you thought required industry experience. Look beyond your wish list to see who might thrive in your company’s environment even without your ideal attributes.
2. Be willing to train great candidates.
We constantly hear from clients who tell us, “I don’t have time to train people, I need someone to hit the ground running.” But adhering to rigid requirements could add an extra three months to the search. You could easily train someone in that time while also benefitting from the value they add in other ways as they ramp up.
In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 55% of surveyed employers plan to hire individuals without requisite experience and train them in 2017.
When companies become desperate, they might be tempted to sacrifice quality and cultural fit to get someone in the seat. We can help you avoid that by recommending coachable, high potential candidates who are likely to be assets to your organization.
If we push back when you say you don’t have time to train people, it’s because we know what you’re looking for isn’t readily available. But we’ll send you someone who has complementary skills that will help them overcome their lack of experience. We only recommend carefully vetted candidates, so you can trust that if we present someone, we’re confident they can succeed in the role.
3. Hire for culture.
Most job descriptions center around three key areas: skill set and experience, professional designations, and cultural fit. We believe cultural fit far outweighs the first two in importance.
Candidates must be capable of doing the job for which you’re hiring — that’s a given. But as we said above, people can be trained as long as they are smart, coachable and have a reasonable amount of relevant prior experience. Besides, you want people to grow into their roles so they feel challenged and stimulated. The best candidates don’t typically seek jobs doing exactly the same things they were doing before.
Some companies emphasize designations such as a degree from an elite school or a pedigree working for a Big 4 firm. How will other employees respect the new hire if they don’t have a similar background to most others on the team? We understand this concern, but it is a limiting belief. Maybe someone has far more impressive experience than their industry peers, but they lack the high-profile degree. The work experience should weigh heavier on your decision, especially when you’re looking at people who have been in the field for 8 years or more.
Cultural fit, however, should be non-negotiable. A person can have exceptional educational and work backgrounds, but they will fail at your organization if they don’t have the right personality.
As the saying goes, hire for attitude, train for skills. You want a mix of diverse ideas and characteristics, but everyone should share their core values. Think about the type of person who will fit in among your employees — the mentality they’d need to thrive and the interpersonal skills that will help them click with the team.
4. Be transparent with your recruiter.
We appreciate when clients are open-minded about candidate requirements. But make sure you tell us if your mindset shifts so we can help you find great people. On countless occasions, clients have given us explicit lists of must-haves, only to hire someone later who falls outside those requirements. We could have shown them similar candidates if we knew they were open to a different profile. This could have opened up the candidate pool so you had more choices. Always let your recruiter know what you want, because we can provide better service when we’re operating on the same level.
Keep us in the loop as the details of the job change as well. When we initiate a search, we have in-depth discussions about the criteria, compensation, benefits package, and other pertinent details. Then we take that to market. Along the way, those details can change. The company may decide to promote internally instead of hiring someone new, or the team they had designated to report to this individual might be transferred to another person.
That’s OK — we completely understand when that happens. But it’s critical that you communicate those changes so we can find you the hire you want. If we’re not on the same page, then your expectations and the candidate’s are misaligned, and no one gets their desired results.
In a down market, candidates will be flexible with employers because they’re desperate. But in this market, you don’t want to give them any reason not to want you. They have numerous options, so make sure your recruiter has all the current and accurate information to keep them engaged.
Our Promise to You
Now that we’ve told you how you can help us in the recruiting process, let us tell you what we are doing for you. Our permanent search team spends almost 100 percent of our time sourcing, recruiting, and building our candidate network. We advertise our services outside the Bay Area to entice candidates to move here, and we educate our clients on how to succeed even in tight hiring spells.
What we’re not doing is a lot of outside business development. Our number one goal is to delight you, our legacy clients. We know that the low number of candidates is a major problem, and trust us, it keeps us up at night. That’s why we are constantly seeking new and creative ways to create more options for you.
Your success is our success, and we won’t let you down.