The Accounting and Finance Employment Market: How Long Do In-Demand Candidates Stay There? (Part 1)

I recently spoke with Robert Half Regional Vice President Steve Kenney, based in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, to discuss the shelf life of a skilled accounting and finance professional. What does that mean exactly? First off, we’re not talking about an expiration date. Rather, for those in a hiring capacity, it’s about taking into account how competitive the marketplace is for the kind of candidate you want to hire – and how long they will last before they accept a job – with your company or somewhere else. It takes a nimble approach and well thought-out hiring process when it comes to hiring today. 

The following two-part Q&A has been edited for clarity and length:

Q: What’s the shelf life for a skilled accounting and finance professional in today’s job market?

A: It depends on the situation and the kind of individual. But if you have the in-demand credentials and two to three years of experience, you could see multiple offers from potential employers in 30 days.

To the extent you have a skill set that’s in high demand – a staff or senior accountant, financial analyst or senior financial analyst, or are in an accounting manager role at a small company – these kinds of candidates can generate multiple opportunities, but often will take the first position they are offered if it is attractive enough. For that reason, astute companies realize that when they see a good fit, they must be ready to act on it with an immediate, attractive offer.

Q: How has this changed in recent years?

A: As the unemployment rate has gone down, at 6.7 percent today, the unemployment rate for accounting professionals has typically been as low as half that. In some markets, such as the Twin Cities, it’s far lower than that. It’s made it challenging to find skilled finance and accounting professionals. In major industries such as financial services, regulatory changes have increased and laws have passed that have exacerbated the need for those kinds of services.

Essentially, it’s become harder and more competitive to find talented accounting professionals. There’s been a dearth of these candidates following the economic recession – especially at public accounting firms and for senior and managerial-level roles. Companies are looking for at least three years of experience so that candidates can eventually move into higher-level roles.

Q: Why is it important for companies to be nimble in today’s hiring environment?

A: If you have a key position to fill, the hiring cycle is going to work against you. Those who feel they have the luxury of taking their time to fill vacancies will lose out to others who are more nimble. You need to be able to decide what an ideal candidate looks like, know it when you see it and extend an offer.

Q: What does it mean to be nimble?

A: It is important to know precisely what an acceptable candidate looks like from a technical perspective, and also decide what soft skills and personality attributes are important. In all likelihood you may not meet more than one person who meets your criteria at the same time. If a candidate meets your criteria, be prepared to quickly send an offer letter to your top candidate. A streamlined hiring process from the time you receive the resume to the point of offer is critical. Also, make sure you’ve done your research on finance and accounting salaries for the position and that your offer is competitive, if not above market rate.

Click here to read more advice from Steve in Part 2!

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Steve_KenneySteve Kenney is the regional vice president for Robert Half Finance & Accounting in the Twin Cities. He has nearly 30 years of staffing and recruitment experience in the finance and accounting fields. In addition to his work with Robert Half, Steve serves on the board of directors for Ampersand Families, a nonprofit organization that provides permanency services to youth and families throughout Minnesota.