How to Hire a Senior Accountant

By Robert Half on January 8, 2021 at 2:15pm

You need to hire a senior accountant — fast. Without someone to supervise accounting staff and bookkeeping efforts, prepare financial statements, and analyze balance sheets and income statements, your business is not operating optimally. But do you know how to hire a senior accountant? That is, do you know what strategies to use to identify and secure a top candidate for your firm quickly?

It’s essential to have a well-thought-out strategy for hiring a senior accountant, as you’re likely to face competition for these professionals. According to Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide for the accounting and finance profession, senior accountants are among the most in-demand for 2021. Here are some tips to streamline your search for a standout senior accountant:

1. Write a job description that’s on point

Job descriptions are tricky. You want to be as specific as possible, so you can attract professionals with the right set of skills and experience for the role you need to staff. But you don’t want to be so exacting that you alienate promising candidates who, with some training and development, could master the position’s core responsibilities in relatively short order.

So, aim for balance in the information you present in the job description. For example, you’ll likely want to note that you’re searching for a professional who has three years of general accounting experience and at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, business administration or a related field. That’s typical experience for a senior accountant job. You might also note whether you prefer candidates who have earned accreditations such as a CPA or a certified management accountant (CMA) designation.

Beyond that baseline criteria, outline the job responsibilities and required qualifications. Do you need an accounting professional with in-depth knowledge of accounting principles and technology, financial statements, risk assessments and budgets? Make that clear. Taking the extra step to be more specific about the skills and knowledge a candidate needs to succeed in the role will help attract professionals well-suited to the job.

But again, be careful with how much detail you include in the job description. Think hard about which qualifications are must-haves or nice-to-haves for the senior accountant role you need to staff. Be realistic — but also try to be flexible.

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2. Consider the nature of your work environment

The senior accountant job description should also provide insight into your organizational culture and what it’s like to work for your company, generally. For example, does the company encourage work-life balance? What kind of training and opportunities for career advancement does the company offer? What are the company’s core values? And if your team is all or partially remote, what does the business do to help support its remote employees and keep everyone connected?

You don’t have to go overboard with detail, but at least provide an idea of what your company is all about. This type of information could help you stand out as an employer of choice.

3. Cover more ground by working with a recruiter

A specialized staffing agency can help you craft an effective job description — and assist with so much more in your search for a senior accountant. Well-connected recruiters know the candidate marketplace in your industry and geographic area. They can also effectively evaluate a job candidate’s skills and experience.

Plus, recruiters can tap their extensive networks and draw on talented professionals who aren’t aware of your open position and may not even be looking for a new job. Many senior accountants are content in their current roles but would potentially be willing to move for the right opportunity. These are the passive job seekers a staffing specialist can help you to find — and target.

Need to hire a senior accountant who can work remotely? Learn more about our remote staffing solutions.

4. Offer a competitive salary and benefits package

If you want to hire (or retain) a highly skilled senior accountant, you need to be prepared to offer competitive compensation.

To stay current on salary and hiring trends, review leading industry resources like Robert Half’s Salary Guide. According to the guide, the midpoint (or median national salary) for a senior general accountant is $81,000. You can use the guide to localize national salary figures for your local market with our online Salary Calculator.

Also, be sure to outline to potential hires the bonuses, perks and other incentives your firm offers. The Salary Guide notes that health insurance and paid time off top many workers’ benefits wish list. And flexible work schedules and remote work options are among the most valued perks.

5. Interview for hard and soft skills

Today’s dynamic and technology-driven work environment requires professionals to have a strong balance of technical and interpersonal skills. So, you’ll want to ask interview questions that can help you get a good sense of a candidate’s abilities on both fronts.

You can use accounting interview questions like, “What accounting software are you most familiar with?” to assess a potential hire’s technical knowledge. You may want to use the interview process to determine whether a candidate is up to date with tax code changes, what their experience is in completing complex financial projects with tight deadlines, or how they go about preparing budgets.

The interview is also your opportunity to assess confidence, work ethic, the ability to work well with or manage others, and more. Behavioral questions such as, “Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something complex to a client, customer or coworker,” or “How would you respond to a client who insisted you made an error?” are useful for evaluating communication skills, problem-solving abilities, customer service, adaptability and other soft skills.

6. Follow up with professional references

Don’t dismiss this part of the hiring process as a mere formality — it’s an essential step toward hiring with confidence. Checking professional references can help you expand your understanding of a candidate’s professional qualifications and attributes. You can also get more insight into your potential hire’s contributions to previous employers.

Perhaps you want to learn more about a technical skill or strength the candidate possesses. So, during a reference check, you might ask a former manager: “I understand Kim took care of budget preparation and analysis for your company. Can you tell me more about her duties as a staff accountant?”

Then, you could take it a step further by asking about a potential limitation, such as how the candidate might perform in a more senior role: “Kim hasn’t had any experience managing accounting staff, which is part of the senior accountant’s job at our firm. How do you think she’ll perform as a manager?”

The strategies outlined above can help you to be both swift and thorough in your search for a senior accountant. They can also help prevent you from overlooking a diamond in the rough who, with a little polishing, could prove to be your firm’s best senior accountant hire yet.

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