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Hiring During Covid: Why the Top Talent Is Even More Selective


In an age where headlines broadcast layoffs and unemployment, it seems like hiring should be easy. 

It’s not — at least in the finance and accounting markets in the Bay Area. In fact, top talent is growing even tighter. 

How Candidates Control the Market

Candidates are in control of the market. In light of the number of job opportunities, the strong Bay Area market, the prospect of leaving the known for onboarding remotely, and the type of jobs they’re willing to consider, candidates are being even more selective than they used to be.

Jobs Outnumber Candidates

Although there are a number of challenges with the economy as a whole, the San Francisco Bay Area finance and accounting market continues to have more open positions than there are candidates. There hasn’t been a recent influx of top talent, especially for higher-level roles, and eligible candidates are being even more selective in a world of uncertainty.

Many assume the market has shifted — there used to be few candidates and tons of jobs. While there are fewer jobs now, there are still many jobs, and there are also fewer candidates interested in making a move.

Every new job comes with a number of unknowns. But in a climate where so much is uncertain, candidates are hesitant to invite even more change.

Sometimes companies think the unemployment and layoffs they hear about in the news means that candidates are more likely to consider a job change. In reality, there are very few finance and accounting professionals getting laid off. While there are some who have lost work, the number isn’t large enough to significantly impact the market — jobs still outnumber candidates.

The Bay Area Market Remains Strong 

Many companies are still growing and gaining momentum in the Bay Area. Currently, the local dynamic is similar to pre-COVID months when the economy was doing well. Similarly, the candidate pool was tight then, and it still is. 

Candidates Don’t Want More Unknowns

Every new job comes with a number of unknowns. But in a climate where so much is uncertain, candidates are hesitant to invite even more change. 

The candidates hiring managers want to hire are currently employed — working at growing and profitable companies. They’re focused on being successful and continuing to grow their careers. As they consider the prospect of a job change, they’re more hesitant. They’re not meeting anyone in person, haven’t visited the offices, and don’t know what it’s really like to be in the new place — which makes a job change feel riskier. 

After the changes of the past 6+ months, people have finally found their work-from-home rhythm, they know their current expectations, and they’re in a groove. If they change companies, they have to figure it all out again — the hours, the expectations, and how to make it all work. They’ve finally made the unknown known and don’t necessarily want to jump back and have to re-navigate these unknowns again.

Candidates Want to Move Up

Most candidates will only consider changes that allow them to move up the ladder. This can make it difficult for clients looking to fill high-level positions with a candidate who is in their industry and performs the same duties or more than the job description. Controllers and VPs or Directors of Finance have climbed to a point in their career that’s not easy to reach. And since most want to continue to move upward, they’re even more selective about career changes. This equates to a hiring market that’s now even more difficult now than it was pre-COVID for top-level positions. 

The candidate pool is more open for positions such as senior accountant, accounting manager, senior financial analyst, and finance manager. While these candidates are also looking for a step up in their career, making a job change isn’t as risky at this level as it is for people with more experience. Overall, the market for these positions is comparable to the pre-COVID state.

This combination of factors puts hiring managers in a tough place. They expect candidates to be interested in their job opportunity… but they’re not. 

However, hiring isn’t impossible. Finding the right candidate just requires a slightly different approach than it did previously. 

How to Hire the Right Candidate in a Tight Market

Even though candidates are selective, hiring a great candidate is still doable. There are many people with 2-4 years of public accounting experience who are actively looking to make a move to industry. Others in Finance Manager and Accounting Manager roles want a step up, so they’re less concerned with remote onboarding and more willing to take a risk. 

Don’t miss out on candidates who could add value and be a great fit for your company just because their resume doesn’t read exactly like the job description.

The key is for hiring managers to be open on the requirements. While it’s tough to find candidates with 10 of the 10 qualifications, there may be better candidates from a fit and upward mobility perspective out there who don’t have the perfect resume. The biggest mistake we see companies make is refusing to flexible on requirements and therefore missing out on great candidates. 

Without a little flexibility, the hiring process can feel like a standoff. 

The hiring manager has a list of 10 must-haves including: 

  • Same industry
  • Same job
  • 5% pay increase
  • Same job, smaller team

While the candidate is only willing to consider jobs with: 

  • A step up
  • A 15% raise
  • More and/or different responsibilities 

Candidates are selective, hiring managers are selective, and neither side wants to compromise. 

To diffuse the standoff, hiring managers should try to be open regarding qualifications. There may be better candidates who meet fewer requirements but have greater potential. 

Focus less on the perfect resume and more on the best candidate. For example, if you’re trying to hire a controller, consider candidates outside your exact industry. Technical accounting and operational accounting skills are very transferable from industry to industry. Also, recognize that candidates often want increased or broader responsibility than they currently have. 

Don’t miss out on candidates who could add value and be a great fit for your company just because their resume doesn’t read exactly like the job description or they have had a shorter stint here and there that was related to an acquisition or moving to another city or state. We’ve had a number of experiences with clients who went into a senior level search thinking it would be easy. After months of difficulty, they realized, “The candidates we want don’t necessarily want us.” When they slightly adjust their priorities, they end up with a great hire — just not someone they would have pictured at first. If they could have been more open at the beginning of the process, they would have filled the job more quickly with the right person.

Being open-minded about requirements doesn’t mean you won’t fill the position with a 10/10 candidate. It just means you’ll more accurately see what the market has to offer. 

While top talent continues to be selective, hiring is still possible. It doesn’t require lowering standards, it requires opening your mind to the possibility that the best candidate for you may have a different resume than you first imagined. 

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