State of the Bay Area Finance & Accounting Job Market Update: September 2020

Yes, it’s still 2020. 

But fall of 2020 is looking much better than spring. Since our last update, we’re seeing six major trends in the finance and accounting job market… and most of them are positive. Here’s what’s happening in the Bay Area: 

1. Growth hiring is on the rise. 

Fear of the future has been replaced by a growth mindset for many of our clients. As companies start to look at the future with optimism again, they’re actually hiring. 

In March, we were overwhelmed by so many unknowns. Everything went into lockdown — personally and professionally. Companies operated out of fear of the unknown. Venture capital firms stopped spending money. Overnight, we saw a 60% decrease in the number of jobs. 

Now, months later, we’re understanding how to do business in a pandemic. Companies have a better grasp of what the future of the economy may hold and many are saying, “We are still going to be frugal and smart, but we need to hire key positions in finance and accounting… NOW!” 

Over the last six months, there’s been a backlog of activity. Now, it’s time to catch up. Over the past two months, we launched five head of finance searches at venture-backed companies. These companies that are experiencing significant growth need high-level strategic finance experts to help them move forward. While they may still be spending conservatively, finance and accounting hires are necessary to take them to the next level of growth. 

There’s also an increase in the number of our clients who are preparing to go public. They’re getting ready for an IPO in the next year and need to fill their technical accounting positions ASAP. 

To be even more specific, right now we have double the amount of searches at the Director level compared to March 2020. Overall, we have only 25% less volume currently than we had in September 2019.

Bottom line: In both small and large companies, hiring for finance and accounting is trending upwards.

2. It’s more challenging to find the right candidate. 

Because of this rapid increase in opportunities at the highest levels, many of our candidates aren’t just considering one opportunity — they’re considering multiple offers at the same time. 

“Fear of the future has been replaced by a growth mindset for many of our clients. As companies start to look at the future with optimism again, they’re actually hiring.”

Even so, candidates are more risk averse now than they were this time last year. From a candidate perspective, there’s less optimism. We’re only seeing candidates consider opportunities with a significant increase in:

  • Level of responsibility
  • Salary

If there’s not a considerable payoff, most candidates want to stay put for the next year. 

Because of this, companies are taking a creative perspective on the types of people they hire. Many are open to unique hires in ways they weren’t before. 

Companies that aren’t willing to be flexible with job requirements find it much more difficult to fill their positions. Sure, the economy may indicate that hiring should be easy — but that’s not the reality of what’s happening in finance and accounting. 

3. There’s an increase in demand for consultants. 

Large companies that are still in hiring freezes are trending toward hiring consultants to meet their immediate needs. They’ve overloaded their finance teams and need to increase their resources. However, since they’re not in a financial position to make permanent hires, many of these positions are turning to consultants who could eventually become permanent employees when the head count is open again. 

There’s also an overall increase in demand for consultants in compliance areas such as tax, SEC reporting, and payroll. No matter the condition of the company or economy, these are must-haves. Again, if they’re not ready for a permanent hire, they turn to consultants to fill these roles. 

4. Remote onboarding is (mostly) working. The success of long-term remote work is TBD.

Remote work has mixed reviews. Many large companies have given employees the option to work remotely indefinitely, but small companies are more hesitant to move 100% remote

While we have a few startup clients open to hiring remote workers, smaller organizations tend to hire their accounting and finance functions within their corporate office based in the Bay Area. They are willing to give candidates more flexibility once doors open again, but in most cases, they’re not comfortable having their head of finance sitting in a different location than the CEO. 

“We hear very few complaints about employers. People may feel tired, distracted, and like they’re making more mistakes… but they have an ‘amazing employer’ who’s very supportive.”

Is remote onboarding working? Yes, based on data from the last few months, companies can hire and retain people through remote onboarding. In most cases, clients are doing a fantastic job at hiring and onboarding effectively through increased communication and regular check-ins. Sure, it’s not perfect and they’re still working out kinks, but it’s mostly effective.

However, there’s no hiding the fact that working from home and social distancing often leads to feelings of disconnect, isolation, and anxiety. Zoom can never replace the connectivity we have when we look at people face-to-face and shake their hand, and we’re starting to see the consequences of our isolation in mental health issues. This is uncharted territory that’s hard to navigate for everyone.

Remote onboarding has been most difficult for younger workers used to finding community within their workplace. They’re missing out on the social aspect of work-life, prompting many smaller companies to think creatively. To better meet these social needs, some companies are holding parking-lot meetings, organizing small outdoor dinner parties, and trying to create ways for people to gather safely and strengthen connections.  

5. Homeschool is still impacting work.

People with younger, school-aged children continue to find the balance of working and schooling from home extremely challenging. However, companies are working hard to support parents within their organizations. 

We hear very few complaints about employers. People may feel tired, distracted, and like they’re making more mistakes… but they have an “amazing employer” who’s very supportive. 

Most of their stress comes from the reality of the situation and trying to balance it all. 

6. Companies want diversity in hiring.

Companies are beginning to realize there’s still much progress to be made in the area of racial diversity in the workplace, and this affects how people think about hiring. Many of our clients specify their desire to hire from an underrepresented group, particularly for senior-level positions. 

At BVOH, we’re working to understand issues around unconscious bias and what needs to change in order to place people from underrepresented groups in leadership positions. It starts with companies being more flexible regarding job requirements. If companies want to increase their chance of finding a candidate from an underrepresented group in this competitive market, they may need to change or reduce the list of requirements. Job descriptions that previously had 10 requirements now need five. 

As several of our clients such as SurveyMonkey, Zendesk, and Okta lead the way in diversity hiring, they inspire us to better serve all our clients by intentionally prioritizing diversity in the workplace — one of the positive changes we hope 2020 will bring.

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