When it comes to staffing your accounting firm, you likely use one of three criteria for posting an open position:
Timing:Seasonal hiring is prevalent in the accounting industry, usually ramping up in Q4.
Attrition: An accountant leaves, or retires, prompting the need to hire someone to take their place.
Growth: Things are going well! But now it’s necessary to find additional staff to take the workload.
There’s one problem. Each of these three hiring triggers requires a reactive approach to team building. And as any firm owner knows (or business owner for that matter), finding quality talent is a struggle. If the problem (accountant shortage) is a profession-wide constant, but you only react when it affects you, you could be in for a rude awakening.
Unless you develop a recruitment network.
Networking isn’t only for lead generation. Developing consistent connections is also a proactive staffing strategy.
Your firm is only as good as your team network
Comradery, culture, connection. The stronger the team, the better a firm performs, right? Of course, it only works when you have adequate staff. So, how do you build a network of people who don’t currently need a job (but kind of do)? Or a network of accountants who may need a job sometime in the future?
In the broad sense, it’s about a mindset shift from hiring “when you need someone” to one that’s in constant recruitment mode. Developing an ongoing strategy to locate candidates, generate interest, and begin conversations.
Sound like your sales process? Good, because there are many similarities between sales and recruiting. Just like sales, you need ideal recruits (instead of ideal buyers) and a pipeline.
There are three typical personas firms target:
Graduates:Fresh accounting grads make up nearly half of firm hires. Smaller firms sometimes overlook graduates, possibly due to a fear of the needed time/training investment.
Career changers: These individuals come from just about any field and want to work with numbers. Maybe they went to night school or took online courses to become accountants. These recruits are often humble, ambitious, and driven.
Current accountants: No, you don’t want to steal staff, and we’re not encouraging this. That said, we can’t avoid the fact several accountants don’t feel fulfilled in their current roles and want to find another firm.
Develop a recruiting pipeline
Accounting services are a relatively large expense, often costing businesses thousands each year. Higher fees mean a longer buying cycle. Potential clients have to hear about you, learn about your firm, and spend some time making their decision (not to mention contracts, engagement letters, and so on).
So, what are the stages in a recruitment pipeline?
Develop content for accountants
Content is pivotal in both sales and recruiting. All of those accountants and CPAs have to find out about you somehow. But how?
If your firm is active on social media, likely, you don’t speak much about your craft. But you should. There are a couple of ways to go about it—your firm’s social media account(s) and your personal account(s).
Your firm’s social media account(s)
The firm’s social pages are the perfect place to post things like:
“Welcome to the team” posts where you introduce the newest people at the firm. These messages show potential recruits you’re actively hiring and are proud of those you bring into the fold.
“Team outing” posts highlighting company events, nights out, or big meetings in a coffee shop. These events build team dynamics while also attracting those on the outside, looking into your firm.
“Day in the life” posts show the meaningful work your accountants perform. At 10 am, they meet with a client for a strategy session. Then, it’s off to pick up some snacks at the office before working on a forecast due by the end of the week.
Important note: Being genuine is important. Make sure you’re projecting highlights of your firm’s reality. You’re setting expectations in these social posts, so it’s important to be proud of new hires, keep the team active, and help them perform meaningful work (as opposed to redundant tasks). These posts showcase how your firm is different from that of your competitors.
Your personal social media account(s)
You should also consider posting on your personal social media accounts.
Dream of becoming an influencer in your field of expertise? If you answered “yes” or “no,” it’s still important to project yourself as a leader to those who do what you do—if you want a solid bench.
Here are some potential ideas for social content:
Continuing education ideas: All accounting professionals want to know the best ways to continue their education (not to mention earn CPE credits). Post these opportunities, or better yet, see if you can contribute to webinars or events that give these credits. (Great way to meet potential candidates.)
Finding fulfillment posts: Connect accounting to business success. Tell them what they do makes a difference and show them how. Accountants who see your content (and truly care) will connect these things with you.
Basic craft improvement: New grads and career changers know the basics but don’t know things like Excel hacks that shave hours off their time or tips for getting faster client responses. Show them how to improve their craft and Boom!, you’re an influencer.
Move ideal recruits down the funnel
You post and post on social media, but how is your audience of potential hires supposed to make a move? Sure, posting regular “we’re hiring” messages with a link to your application system is an option. But that’s not ideal.
As in networking for sales, you want to get to know these people. You need a chance to listen to them and determine if they’re a fit for your firm. Preferably, you accomplish this before a Zoom or in-person interview.
In sales, it’s called qualifying the lead. Here are three ways to get closer to your prospect hires:
Events and speaking engagements: Remember getting involved in educating accountants? It’s a great way to find those who are both interested and committed. Post the events you’ll be attending to your network and see who shows. (If it’s online, post a follow-up conversation on social, asking those who attended to tell you what they thought).
More content: Crucial parts of constant recruiting include a fantastic careers page and great descriptions of your team members (on your “meet the team” or “about” page). If you do well enough at describing your firm’s culture, the right people will check these resources out.
Internship programs: Finding interns takes a lot of work, but developing a solid program benefits your firm and those who intern for you. Plus, there is the undeniable benefit of seeing how a candidate works and knowing if they’re a fit with the team. If the intern is a fit, it’s easier to ask if they’d be interested in full-time. And if they don’t work—it’s a guilt-free “enjoy the rest of your semester” without having to fire anyone.
Fight the accountant shortage with networking
If you consider the implications of what we covered, it’s a big shift. There's a lot to do, from creating a culture that makes people want to join to developing an active pipeline of candidates to build your team.
But while you’re building your ideal recruitment pipeline, it can begin with a single post. So get on Twitter or LinkedIn and begin speaking to your future team.