A Look at Accounting Hiring Trends in the Coming Year

Understanding the forces behind current hiring trends is vital for accounting and finance professionals and for the employers who want to hire them. Robert Half's Salary Guide for Accounting and Financewhich is updated every year, offers a comprehensive look at what you can expect in the coming year.

Read all the latest posts on Hiring Trends and follow the Robert Half Finance & Accounting blog.

Here are some of the 2015 hiring trends in our industry:

The myth of easy hiring shattered

A recovering employment market translates to easy hiring with minimum salary increases, right? Wrong. Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) of surveyed CFOs said it’s challenging to find skilled candidates for accounting jobs and other professional-level positions, according to research published in the 2015 Salary Guide. Unemployment rates among finance workers are significantly lower than the overall U.S. jobless rate, and wages are rising in response — at an industry average of 3.5 percent.

The challenge employers are facing in filling accounting jobs is threefold: First, businesses are having to offer competitive salaries, signing bonuses and other perks to attract the best. Second, they must have a fast and efficient hiring process, since companies that take their time may lose top candidates to the competition. Third, they have to pay attention to their current staff and make sure star employees with in-demand skills don’t jump ship; to keep them happy, employers may have to offer raises and retention bonuses.

Because top candidates are getting harder to come by, a growing number of companies are reaching out to staffing agencies to help them recruit and vet applicants.

Two key forces driving accounting hiring trends

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has created a growing set of compliance mandates. This is on top of existing regulations for capital requirements, consumer protection, anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing and more. These new rules mean that risk, compliance and internal audit professionals as well as those with experience in the healthcare industry, are in high demand.

The second driving force is demographics. The baby boomer generation has always had an outsize influence on hiring trends, and this sway holds now that they’re leaving the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce has entered or is nearing retirement — taking years of experience and knowledge with them.

In addition to looking for seasoned professionals, employers are also hiring recent graduates. Internal auditors and general accountants with up to one year of experience, for example, are projected to see their base wages increase by almost 4 percent, according to the 2015 Salary Guide. Employers seek entry-level employees with internship or volunteer experience, and are willing to train them to fill specific needs.

In-demand skills

Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates who can do more than just reconcile accounts and file tax returns. Businesses of all sizes are interested in accounting and finance professionals who not only understand numbers, but can work with big data and explain what they might mean in terms of growth projections and possible mergers and acquisitions. As such, financial analysts and business systems analysts are in especially high demand, as they can help companies improve efficiency, control costs and strengthen their information systems.

Hiring managers look for individuals who also possess the following technical and soft skills:

  • Advanced skills in Excel, Hyperion (for analyst and financial reporting positions) and Quickbooks (for small and medium-sized enterprises)

  • Experience with enterprise resource planning systems, advanced modeling and programming languages like SQL (standard query language) and Python

  • Bicultural/multicultural background, language skills and knowledge of country-specific reporting requirements (for multinationals and companies expanding internationally)

  • Non-technical skills like presentation, collaboration, leadership, communication, ethics and initiative

The bottom line: Employers will face hiring challenges and will have to work harder to woo top talent, which is good news for accounting and finance professionals.

Whether you’re recruiting or being recruited, download our Salary Guide and consult the Salary Calculator to see the latest trends in accounting jobs.

This blog post first appeared in the CGMA Update newsletter from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).