How to Think About Hiring Public Accountants During Busy Season

If you’ve ever tried to hire a public accountant between December and April, you know that it’s a nearly impossible feat. From late December through mid-April, public accountants are swamped with busy season duties. They barely have time to go home and sleep, let alone transfer to a new job.

While you may not want to hear it, the truth is this: the only foolproof approach to having a public accountant during this time is to get ahead of the game. However, if you still happen to find yourself in a bind, not all hope is lost. Considering the big picture and staying flexible can help you find the right candidate. Here are a few tips for securing Big 4 talent you need during busy season.

Get Ahead of Your Timeline

The easiest way to guarantee you have the talent you need is to plan ahead. Most public accounting auditors are committed to their busy season clients by the end of November or early December, so if you haven’t identified your candidate and made them an offer before then, it’s going to be tough to hire someone during Q1. If possible, identify the skill sets you’re seeking during the late summer and plan to conduct the interview process in the fall.

Be prepared to make your offers before the middle of November, which leaves new hires plenty of time to give their employers notice. Missing this window often results in candidates staying with their public accounting firm through busy season.

Consider incentives

Keep in mind the benefits of building your strategy during the bonus season in late summer and early fall. Public accountants will often stick around for the summer to receive their raise and bonus. These are typically not huge amounts, so by making a highly competitive offer, you may be able to “buy” a candidate by offering a sign-on bonus. If you’re seeking specific expertise or are serious about getting ahead of the game, this strategy could pay off in the long run. In the end, it’s just another way of being proactive.

Flexibility wins the day

While staying ahead of your timeline is key in securing public accounting talent, being flexible in the interview and onboarding processes is equally as important.

While the best candidates are typically committed to their firms until early April, they might still be interested in making a move as soon as busy season is over. Our team has found that candidates are far more receptive to considering new opportunities during busy season if there is a possibility of a delayed start date.

While there are logistical reasons to offer a later start date, doing so also makes you attractive as an employer. First, it shows that you’re truly interested in them and are willing to put in the time and effort it costs to get them in the door. Second, it shows that you’re willing to work with them. Additionally, working with an experienced recruiting team can help you facilitate the offer process. 

If you’re recruiting in mid-December, extending the start date to early April or May might feel like a huge gap. However, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by only agreeing to interview people who are available to start right away, or with a typical two-week notice. Again, the best public accountants are loyal to their firms and clients, and they’re not going to jump ship when they’re most needed.

Consider the big picture

There will be times where you aren’t able to hire a public accounting candidate early or unexpected circumstances force you to enter the search during this inopportune time. While the gig economy has opened up the pool of flexible candidates, finding high quality talent can still be a challenge. However, even as clients stress the dire need to find a candidate, it’s important for hiring managers to remember that most public accounting candidates are working 80-hour weeks and putting their lives on hold to deliver for their clients. Most can’t (or won’t) even take calls from recruiters.

When you do connect with a candidate, be aware that they’re operating on a tight schedule and limited resources. A multi-hour interview is an easy way to scare off potential candidates. Keep your interviews short and find ways in which you can be considerate of their time. While it may be inconvenient for you to consider meeting outside of normal business hours, it can make the difference between a candidate accepting an interview or walking away.

At the end of the day, securing the best accounting talent for your company during their busy season comes down to thinking down the line and positioning yourself for success. Being proactive can help you prevent this time crunch in the first place. However, if you end up having to recruit during this time, being flexible and considerate can greatly improve your chances.

Hire Top Tier Accounting Talent

At BVOH, preemptively building relationships with the best public accounting candidates to guide strategic career moves is our bread and butter. We use our deep expertise in the accounting industry to identify when candidates are ready to make a move and then quickly connect them with hiring opportunities that match their profile and goals. If you need to discuss strategies for hiring and attracting public accountants, reach out to us to get started! We’re ready to help.

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