Who Has the Edge in the Job Market — Employers or Job Seekers?

For some time now, demand for professionals with specialized skills has been creating hiring challenges for companies requiring their expertise. And, according to a new study, finding the talent they need may soon get even tougher.

A May 2014 study by The Conference Board, From a Buyer’s Market to a Seller’s Market, predicts growing labor shortages across the United States, starting not in the far-off future but right around the corner. The analysis anticipates that U.S. unemployment — at 6.3 percent as of this writing — will reach its “natural rate” of 5.5 percent by late 2015.

According to the study, the causes of this steadily tightening labor supply range from an increase in baby boomer retirements and workers whose skills are no longer competitive to the unlikelihood that many victims of the Great Recession will ever return to work.

This move toward an increasingly challenging hiring environment is largely consistent with what our Accountemps staffing professionals across the country are encountering today. Skilled accounting and finance candidates are in short supply, and employers need to be savvier in their recruitment and retention efforts to win over the people they need.

But what exactly can you do in a market where job seekers may soon have the upper hand? Here are some tips to help you hire top accounting and finance talent:

Create strong job descriptions

Because the job description drives the job ad, the one you write has to be airtight. Hiring mistakes can result from job descriptions that fail to accurately capture the essence of a job.

If it’s been awhile since you updated an existing job description, it may now be obsolete. Maybe some responsibilities have since been consolidated with other functions. Or perhaps the job is broader in scope than in the past. Take into account the expanded skill set a candidate would need to succeed in your work environment today.

Highlight employee benefits

Top professionals today expect more than a competitive compensation package. Here is a brief sampling of some of the benefits job candidates want most:

  • Work-life balance support. Your company can attract top candidates by helping them manage personal responsibilities while still maintaining productivity on the job. Telecommuting opportunities and flexible schedules can go a long way in this regard. You can also help employees who are caring for children or aging parents by contracting with care providers or helping to pay for outside care. 
  • Seasonal benefits. Three-quarters of HR managers surveyed by Robert Half offer flexible schedules during the summer. What’s more, 41 percent of employees rate this as their top seasonal benefit, while 28 percent value leaving work early on Fridays. Be sure to stagger schedules and cross-train team members so there's always staff coverage.

Move quickly when you find a strong candidate

After you make up your mind about a candidate, make the offer immediately. Otherwise, you risk losing out on top talent to competitors. Even a day or two delay can cost you the employee of choice. If your company has procedures that can slow down the process — for example, no one gets hired unless the department head interviews each candidate personally — look for ways to streamline things.

Work with a specialized staffing firm

You don't need to go it alone when it comes to recruiting specialized talent. A first-rate accounting and finance staffing firm can save you time and money. The best firms combine the latest technology to help locate candidates with personalized, tailored service to develop customized staffing solutions that match your business needs. By handling the most time-consuming aspects of hiring — like skills evaluations, reference checks and all the administrative details — a staffing firm can quickly pay for itself. Also consider engaging temporary professionals who can fill in while you look for a full-time employee. In fact, many employers use project assignments as a way to evaluate potential full-time hires. 

While businesses would be unwise to completely ignore the findings of The Conference Board study, no one knows for sure what the job market will look like in the months ahead. Still, hiring demand is already placing pressure on the supply of skilled workers in many specialties. Now is the time to rethink how to hire the people who can move your business forward. Available accounting and finance candidates with hard-to-find skills won’t remain on the market for long. 

Tags: Hiring