5 Ways to Make CPA Recruitment Easier in a Competitive Market

CPA recruitment

Business is booming for many firms with CPAs. That’s good news, right? Well, it depends on whether you’re the partner or the HR manager. CPA recruitment is a top concern in a competitive market.

With so many organizations in hiring mode, it’s a challenge to find skilled talent to keep up with client demands and help the business continue to grow. An American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) survey shows that finding qualified staff is the most pressing issue for respondents from firms with two to five and six to 10 practitioners. It was the second-most pressing issue for firms with 11 to 20 and 21 or more practitioners.

Is your firm in the same boat? If so, here are five tips that may help make CPA recruitment a little easier in this competitive market.

1. Ask your best employees who they know

If you’ve already got a strong team in place, the task of attracting in-demand candidates can be much easier. Why? Because skilled workers tend to know others with similar qualifications.

So when your firm is hiring, ask your staff for referrals. Employee referrals can be extremely reliable because your employees are likely to recommend only candidates they feel would succeed with the firm; otherwise, they’d risk damaging their reputation. Also, your workers can serve as spokespeople for the firm, explaining to potential hires why it’s a great place to work.

But you’ve got to make it worth their while to provide a referral. Consider offering an incentive, like a cash bonus, to anyone who gives the company a referral to a person who gets hired and then remains with the firm for a certain amount of time.

2. Find promising entry-level talent

When it comes to CPA recruitment, experienced candidates are typically in highest demand, for obvious reasons. They often bring an existing book of business with them and are better able to hit the ground running at a new firm. But good luck finding them!  

So why not incorporate more entry-level professionals into your hiring plan? That may sound counterintuitive, but consider that it can be much easier to recruit recent grads. By providing promising newcomers with professional development opportunities and mentorship relationships, you may be able to build the skills you need rather than try to hire for them.

Yes, it will require some effort and patience on your part. But investing in talented entry-level accountants can help your firm beat the recruitment rush, develop future leaders and encourage intense loyalty among workers who know that you support their career.

3. Make it harder to say no than yes

A competitive hiring market means that the CPA recruitment tactics you used just a year ago may not work today. Simply put, skilled job seekers are in the driver’s seat. So the onus is on you to woo them.

But we all know that it’s not always easy to impress candidates, many of whom are juggling multiple employment offers. The challenge is especially acute for smaller firms, which often lack the budget and pizzazz of larger organizations.

So think of it this way: When you view your organization in its best light, what makes it a great place to work? Whether it’s a relaxed office setting, interesting clients or career advancement potential, make sure your hiring plan focuses on these unique advantages.

During the interview, try to ensure that candidates experience or witness the benefits of working for your organization. Have them meet with others who are as passionate about the organization as you are. Take job seekers on a tour of the office so they can see the team in action. Help potential hires envision themselves as an employee of your firm.

4. Get an expert’s help with your hiring plan

As you execute your hiring plan, keep in mind that you don’t have to go it alone. Working with a staffing agency can help you in your CPA recruitment efforts. These experts can offer additional insight into the current employment market and provide details about competitive compensation rates to help you fine-tune your strategies.

A staffing firm can also arrange for skilled temporary workers to come in and help the core team meet current workloads if they’re feeling overburdened. There’s another benefit to bringing in temporary staff, as well: These professionals often make excellent full-time hires. In many ways, the temporary assignment can function like an extended job interview in which you can evaluate the person’s performance and fit with the corporate culture firsthand. If things are working out, you can then extend a full-time job offer.

Are you actively recruiting and considering working with a staffing agency? Learn more about the process in this Accountemps FAQ for employers.

5. Know what’s going on in the job market

The best tools for getting up to date on employment trends are free.

  • The monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report continues to show robust growth in the economy, with additional jobs and low unemployment.
  • The Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance from Robert Half shows turnover is on the rise, as financial professionals realize they have more job opportunities. Not only that, companies are willing to pay a premium to get the professionals they want. More than half (54 percent) of CFOs in a Robert Half survey said they increased the starting salaries for new hires from what they made in their previous jobs, and the average increase was 10 percent.  
  • Robert Half’s Demand for Skilled Talent report shows it’s not just money that attracts candidates. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of workers said the chance to gain new skills is a critical consideration when making a career move.

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.