Steve Saah has helped companies find top talent over his last 20 years with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, beginning as a recruiting manager and working his way up to executive director.
Today’s competitive hiring environment is more challenging than he’s seen, but he’s confident that employers and managers can find professionals who will fit their staffing needs — and stay awhile — with the right approach.
“When it comes to attracting talent, organizations have to use every resource available to them, from their own recruiting efforts and social media to partnering with a staffing firm,” Saah says.
Robert Half’s specialized recruiters, for instance, have access to passive job seekers. Those are people who aren’t sending out resumes but have their eyes open for enticing opportunities and, thus, represent some of the most promising candidates.
Read Steve Saah's advice to job seekers on how to hire top talent in today's competitive environment.
Hiring requires you to be proactive, and so does finding out what people want in the workplace.
“Companies need to spend adequate time listening to their employees,” Saah says. “What's important to them? Is the organization meeting and exceeding those expectations with regard to compensation levels, company culture and benefits? Ultimately, people have very different individual requirements, but the firms that listen and respond to their teams do the best at retention.”
Improve your job interviews
While Saah has his cache of skills-based interview questions for finance and accounting roles, he strongly suggests managers think of a job interview as a conversation. If you help interviewees open up about themselves, you can see beyond their skills and work history to their work ethic and personality.
If he had to choose a candidate based on just one answer, what would he choose as the best interview question to ask?
“Tell me a little about your life outside of work and how it’s helped to get you to where you are today.”
The response to such a big-picture question, he says, can tell a lot about a person. It can provide insights beyond the typical “tell me about yourself” opener, such as how well someone thinks on his feet, what her priorities are, whether he’d be a good fit for the company culture.
And if Steve were to be asked that interview question? He’d recount how he studied finance and accounting at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, and how he worked as an assistant controller and internal auditor until, in his words, he had the good fortune of stumbling into an office that offered specialized staffing solutions, and then taking a job as a recruiter.
“I started out with Robert Half Finance & Accounting and enjoyed engaging with people,” he says. “Thirty days into the recruiting job, I saw this as something I could do for the long run.”
Today he’s responsible for leading global operations, building strategy and expanding the firm’s leadership position in finance and accounting recruitment, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
We sat down with Steve recently to get to know him better and find out what other advice he has on how to hire. Here’s part of our conversation.
Evaluate your salaries
Can employers expect to offer higher salaries to attract finance and accounting professionals this year?
Steve: The overall national unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent, the lowest level since 2000, and it’s hovering even lower, around 2 to 3 percent or less for more specialized roles, such as accountants, auditors and financial analysts.
It’s a matter of supply versus demand. Wages are going to have to trend upward. Our Salary Guide provides up-to-date information and helps employers and job seekers make well-informed decisions about salary levels and hiring trends in the marketplace. It’s based on actual placements that we make.
Download your free copy of the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide for compensation data on more than 190 accounting and financial positions.
Consider nonmonetary options
Is there anything other than a compensation package that can elevate a company’s recruitment and retention efforts?
Steve: If you can’t pay top dollar or match the competition with regard to salary, nonmonetary offerings such as flexible schedules, remote work options, professional development, additional vacation days and other employee perks can go a long way to attract someone new or improve employee satisfaction.
What are your thoughts on building corporate culture in the workplace?
Steve: In many cases, corporate culture is probably just as important, if not more so, than skills to the employer and the employee. Often the environment the candidate experiences during the job interview is what attracts them to the company and ultimately leads to their retention. I’d recommend companies put processes in place to pay attention to that, if they haven’t already.
Write spot-on job descriptions
What’s the best way to attract applicants to a job opening?
Steve: Don’t just post a job opening and assume you’ll get matching resumes in response. Take one step back and create a clear and accurate accounting job description, listing important skills, experience and certifications, and soft skills necessary for the position. Capture the essence of your position and make it clear just what you’re looking for in a candidate. The more you can discourage unsuitable applicants from applying, the smaller but stronger your applicant pool will be.
Let us help you hire
Why is Robert Half Finance & Accounting an important resource for companies?
Steve: We’re the best! Joking aside, I do think it’s about the specialization we bring. We are experts in the market when it comes to helping our clients and placing candidates in the right roles, and we have 70 years of perspective and institutional tenure that is hard to find elsewhere. That expertise helps our clients and candidates make well-informed decisions.
Ready to fill your open role? Use Robert Half’s candidate finder.
Steve Saah is the executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading worldwide operations, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.