The latest quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) with unemployment rates by occupation shows why, in part, the hiring process has been difficult for today’s employers.
With the high number of job openings — 6.1 million in August, the last reporting period — and low unemployment rates for accounting and financial professionals — 2.2 percent for accountants and auditors, compared with the national rate of 4.2 percent — skilled talent remains in demand.
See the infographic, below, for more unemployment rates for accounting and finance jobs.
What this means is that competition in the hiring process is fierce at a time when job seekers have more and more leverage over employers. Robert Half’s latest research reveals candidates’ top five factors for evaluating job offers: Compensation, Cost of living, Career path, Commute and Corporate culture.
Knowing that, hiring managers might wonder which of the “5 Cs” they can influence to guide to decision-making. The answer? All of them, to some extent, according to George Atiee II, vice president of Robert Half Finance & Accounting.
A key to attracting the best people, of course, is paying them well, and Atiee says companies across all industries are frequently offering salaries above market rates.
That’s not all. They’re also taking a closer look at their company compensation packages, because benefits such as healthcare, signing bonuses, 401K plans, and even paid time off could be a deciding factor for candidates.
“Benefits are a huge part of the discussion, especially for the financial and accounting industry, because candidates will weigh all their options and review how much it’s going to cost them, down to the penny, to make a move to a new company,” he says.
What can you do? Make sure you’re up to date on the latest salary trends with the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance, and aim to pay competitive wages and offer benefits meaningful to potential employees.
2. Cost of living
Finance and accounting salaries vary dramatically across the United States. A financial analyst with one to three years’ experience, for instance, can expect to make $91,000 in San Francisco, while the midpoint salary for that same financial analyst in St. Louis is $64,675. The cost-of-living disparity, particularly in housing prices, is the primary reason for the regional differences in pay.
“This is a big discussion, but only if a potential employee is considering moving to a new location,” Atiee says. “That’s when cost of living figures into the compensation, because it affects housing, food, taxes, healthcare and prices of everyday items, all things that affect an accountant’s decision.”
What can you do? Know how your salary offers are affected by cost of living when you’re recruiting someone from out of town. Our Salary Center has customized wage ranges for more than 135 U.S. cities, including a map that shows comparisons by region.
3. Career path
You might hear questions like these from potential hires: “What kind of advancement can I make at your firm after a year or two in this position? Is ‘promote from within’ the exception or the rule?” A definite driver for decision-making among finance and accounting professionals is whether a company is willing to invest in their career path.
“Some companies and industries do this better than others in the accounting world,” says Atiee. “Banking does this well, with well-defined career paths, where someone can start as a teller and work up to bank manager, for instance. The public accounting sector also has defined ladders, beginning with interns and progressing all the way to the top.”
What can you do? Try to offer a defined career path, even in corporate accounting, and show employees how they can succeed. Help them meet their goals by offering professional training, such as workshops, continuing education and mentoring; enabling skill building; helping to cover the cost of obtaining certifications; and encouraging industry memberships, networking and conference attendance.
Imagine making the choice between two jobs. One is a 15-minute bike ride from home. The other would take an hour and a half using public transportation. Think of quality of life, traffic stress and extra costs, family obligations, wasted time and work-life balance.
“Commutes are important, especially in certain parts of the country, but that can be out of an employer’s control,” Atiee says. “I’ve seen companies, though, let employees work from home a couple days a week or give them flexible schedules to avoid traffic. It doesn’t cut down the distance of the commute but it does cut down the time in they’re in the car.”
What can you do? This is where flexibility and perks come in handy. If you’re offering a job that requires the candidate to commute, think of offering variable work schedules, van pools, parking discounts, bus passes and telecommuting options, such as a day a week to work from home. It could set you apart from other employers in the process.
5. Corporate culture
Corporate culture should be at the heart of your company’s values and mission, and job seekers will want to know what it’s like to work for you and what the staff is like. They might ask, “Is your culture collaborative or independent? What defines success, and how is it rewarded? How long do people stay?”
“Of all the five Cs, this is one of the harder ones to show potential employees — and outsiders — as a tangible asset,” Atiee says. “Our company, as an example, will take the time out of a work day to allow employees to participate in a day of community service, and we’ll get the word out by posting photos on social media. That’s one way to create an awareness of our corporate culture.”
What can you do? Fifty-one percent of the CFOs in a recent Robert Half survey said they’re involved in shaping their company’s corporate culture. One way they do it is to collaborate with other executives to define the desired culture. You can also let candidates meet the colleagues they’d work with, and show them around the workplace. Try to understand your company culture from their perspective and communicate it effectively.
Remember that in today’s job market, you’re evaluating the best and brightest as much as they’re evaluating you. Ascertain their compatibility by being strategic with your questions and learning about their work styles, strengths and work ethic, so you can hire a perfect fit.
And remember: If you’re going to hire someone who will succeed and thrive at your company, you need to consider all the Cs. Whether it’s compensation, cost of living, career path, commute or corporate culture, the factors leading to the acceptance of an offer are complex. But knowing what’s important to job seekers and what you can do in response can help you succeed in the hiring process.
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George Atiee II is a vice president for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, North America. He joined the company in 2014 as a recruiting manager in the Raleigh, N.C., office, and previously was a staff accountant. He is based in San Antonio and continues to serve as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, overseeing health service administration, including its finances and logistics, for an aeromedical evacuation squadron. He has his masters of science in accounting.