2014 Hiring Trends in Public Accounting

After a tough period during the most recent recession that entailed significant layoffs, many public accounting firms have recognized the need to add staff to address rising workloads. Some may not have acknowledged the need soon enough, though.

According to Robert Half’s Salary Guide, there is already a shortage of talent at the senior and managerial levels at many public accounting firms, and the market for experienced accounting and finance professionals has tightened dramatically in many areas.

The AICPA’s 2013 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, reports that hiring by public accounting firms is at an all-time high. Eighty-nine percent polled say they plan to hire the same number or more graduates in 2014 than they hired in 2012-2013 — if they can find them.

More interest in public accounting

Clearly, an improved economy is one driver of this trend, but another is that more people starting their careers are attracted to public accounting. Talented financial professionals know that choosing public accounting as a career means they can work with a variety of clients and have a shot at becoming a partner or principal. They also know that job availability is looking better than it has in a long time.

One route firms are taking to find this talent is to again focus heavily on campus recruiting and hiring accounting graduates. Big Four firms are increasingly targeting top students in their sophomore year, having found the most promising candidates commonly have accepted job offers by their junior year.

Demand outpacing supply

Most firms seek candidates with at least three years of experience. The enhanced focus on hiring experienced workers is driven by a general demand for highly skilled workers that is outpacing the current supply. Educated, highly trained professionals with specialized skills are enjoying low unemployment rates, while the nation’s overall unemployment rate remains relatively high. Another driver is a greater emphasis on succession planning as firms realize their most tenured employees are closer to retirement.

In particular, public accounting firms are looking to add professionals in their core audit and tax businesses. Those with expertise in high-demand industries, such as insurance and real estate are sought as well.

Improved compensation

To compete with private industry to recruit and retain accounting talent, many firms are improving compensation. Signing bonuses have become more common, and top performers are seeing meaningful raises from firms trying hard to retain their best people.

Some public accounting firms are putting more emphasis on recruiting overseas candidates and recent immigrants in an effort to tap new talent pools. These professionals can also help firms meet the demands of an increasingly global business environment.

Not all jobs need full-time staff, of course. To help out during peak workload periods and provide specialized expertise not available internally, accounting project professionals are a cost-effective choice.

If you’re in public accounting, let us know solutions you’ve found for finding the talent you need by leaving a comment below.

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