The accounting sector is expected to grow 7% from 2020 to 2030 meaning there will be approximately 135,000 new openings each year on average. With growth like this, you can’t be dependent on hiring only pre-existing talent.
Enter recent graduates. They’re young and motivated if a little green around the gills. It can feel like a risk to hire someone with no previous experience, but that hesitancy is outweighed by the possible benefits—if you do it right.
To start tapping into this source of new talent, we’ve compiled our top 5 mistakes to avoid and tips on how to avoid them.
5 Graduate-hiring mistakes to avoid
As you might expect, some recent grads' expectations are not aligned to reality. And while failing to keep your salaries at least on par with your regional competitors is a mistake you should avoid, doubling them is probably a mistake, too. Still, the value of recent grads' talent shouldn't be undervalued, and undervaluing them is about more than money.
1. Not considering them in the first place
There’s a predominant logic that hiring a recent graduate will mean some growing pains or a slower transition than someone with more experience. Perhaps this is why only 58% of entry-level jobs are filled by recent graduates according to a LinkedIn report.
The problem with this logic is two-fold. The first problem is it ignores the potential benefits of recent graduates. These are people who are looking to prove themselves, are open to new experiences, and have been raised in the computer age with high technological competency. Not to mention, they’ll be learning your processes from a fresh slate.
The second problem is that it creates a stagnant workforce. Without hiring recent graduates, talent pools will dwindle into puddles and you can find yourself understaffed without suitable replacements. Investing in recent graduates ensures you have long-term assets for your firm with a high lifetime value.
If you’re concerned about hiring and training someone only to see them walk out the door for another firm, don’t be. There are things you can do to maximize retention, but even if they don’t end up working, remember others are ALSO out there training new graduates. And your firm will look as attractive to them as someone else’s did to your new hire.
By overcoming any fears or predispositions, you’re opening yourself up to hires with longer term benefits for your firm.
2. Not onboarding them properly
A recent graduate is a blank slate that you can train up to operate the exact way your firm requires. However, if your onboarding process isn’t properly built out, you can leave too much room for error. (Not to mention if your grads don’t feel comfortable, they’ll be quick to resign.)
One thing to keep in mind is that recent graduates will come with a solid understanding of accounting principles. They’ll know their debits and credits, they can balance books, but they won’t know the set process for your accounting services.
A good onboarding process should have a very clear timeline on tasks and expectations. You know their starting point is the fundamentals, so choose checkpoints that make logical sense. For example, you should always introduce a new hire to your accounting software first. This way, you can teach the processes and tasks as they work in practice using the specific tool.
While it’s important to reflect on your experience and how you grew within the industry, understand that times change. Maybe what you learned won’t necessarily be the best. If you’re unsure in your onboarding process, talk to your most recent hires about their experience. Also, tap into your network of fellow accountants and ask about their onboarding process. These are valuable resources to understand where your onboarding process could be lacking.
3. Not using their strengths (namely, tech)
College graduates come out of the experience with a unique set of skills. To maximize the return of hiring one, you need to know how to lean into these skills.
The obvious skill is their ability to adapt to technology. From ages 2 to 7, children are more adaptive to learning languages, skills, and behaviors. We aren’t saying you should start them that young. But what we are saying is that there’s a reason why recent graduates—typically 21 or younger—are so proficient with technology. They were exposed to computers and tech at this fundamental learning stage and as a result, are both better skilled and more adaptive.
Beyond that, they typically have strong time management skills and the ability to learn independently . For recent graduates, using online resources to find the answers they need is an invaluable skill that translates to the workplace.
4. Not nurturing their career
Once a new hire is in the swing of things, it’s easy to get complacent and let them do their own thing. But with recent graduates, their needs are a little bit different. They’ll be looking to learn new skills and progress their careers, so if you don’t offer them that opportunity, they could start looking elsewhere.
With recent graduates, you have to understand that each individual will have a different career path planned out. Or they might not even have a specific career plan. Because of this, it’s important to talk to each one about their specific wants and needs.
On one of the first days with a new hire, talk about their aspirations, skills they want to learn, and how you can work together to make that progression happen. This is a great way to show your investment in their development and a set timeline will guarantee they’ll stick around to see things through.
5. Giving them redundant tasks
One of the quickest ways you can turn away talent is by giving them the menial, redundant tasks no one else wants. Maybe it’s because they’re new or you think it’s part of the growth process, but this motivation is misguided.
Recent graduates care about proving themselves and making a place in the accounting profession. Putting them on these menial tasks like bank reconciliations or basic bookkeeping is only going to make them feel like they’re in the wrong place to progress their career.
If you are looking to offload redundant tasks, there are better, cheaper ways to get it done. With developments in AI and machine learning, you can have these tasks completely automated with a tool like Botkeeper. By taking this work off of your hands, you have more capacity to focus on developing your recent graduate hires and they’ll have more time to do the work that really matters to them.
Graduates are a (potential) gift to your firm
Hiring recent graduates requires some small shifts in thinking. You have to look at them more as a long-term investment and embrace the things they’ll do better than their more tenured counterparts.
If you can successfully change your thinking, re-evaluate your onboarding process, and commit to nurturing their career choices, you’re opening yourself up to talent who will stick around and bring unique skillsets that bolster your firm.
But if you’re concerned about the time commitment, look for new efficiencies to open up your capacity. Or even better yet, completely automate the menial tasks that eat up staff time. With Botkeeper, you can make manual bank reconciliations, report generation, and more a thing of the past. This means more time to build a firm that develops and retains high-level talent no matter their background.
Want to learn more about using the incredible artificial intelligence and machine learning built in to Botkeeper to make your firm more efficient and profitable?