The Accounting and Finance Employment Market: How Long Do In-Demand Candidates Stay There? (Part 2)

This marks the second in a two-part interview with Robert Half Regional Vice President Steve Kenney, based in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, on the shelf life of a skilled accounting and finance professional. Here is the first part of the interview.

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

Q: What criteria should companies use when recruiting for a new position, especially one where the specialty is in high demand?

A: More and more companies are, in effect, almost setting two bars – a technical and cultural fit bar. The technical bar is typically lower. Companies are focusing more on soft skills and cultural fit. If you can find someone you’re excited to work with 50 hours a week, the technical aspects can often be taught once the chair is filled.

Even if there is a candidate who doesn’t check every box for you – perhaps she’s coming in from another industry, for example – but is a fast learner and fits your corporate culture, it’s wise to move quickly and hire the person. You can train her on industry-specific issues or any other areas of technical expertise that need honing. What you can’t train are attributes such as bringing a positive attitude and enthusiasm to the office, adaptability, and personality match.

Q: What areas can employers evaluate and improve to shorten the hiring process?

A: They should go into the hiring process knowing exactly what an acceptable candidate looks like.

They should also limit those who conduct the interview process to only the people who will have a meaningful impact on the hiring decision. Gone are the days of bringing a candidate back five times and asking for a consensus from seven people. In this marketplace, if there are two people who are going to be critically important, then shorten the number of interviews. Make sure only those two are involved and that they make the most out of their time with the candidate.

Companies are often making an offer now after the first interview with a job candidate. Employers who want to see a comparable candidate before making a decision are losing their initial, top candidate, while the seat they are trying to fill stays empty. Yes, you’re not paying that person’s salary so it may seem you’re saving money. But there are hidden costs such as lost productivity and opportunity costs and additional stress placed on the rest of the team while the position remains vacant that can result in the opposite effect. What seems like a short-term gain could end up as a long-term loss.

In addition, working with a specialized recruiter when it comes to hard-to-fill positions can accelerate the process and make the job search easier for hiring managers.

Q: What does all this mean for accounting and finance professionals looking to secure new positions in the months ahead?

A: To the candidate with lots of options who has a well-fleshed out resume and the credentials, I would suggest they do their homework on the culture of the companies they are assessing.

To the experienced candidate that doesn’t have the credentials – perhaps a 2.9 GPA instead of 3.9 GPA – they need to critically assess their own soft skills and make sure they are presenting themselves as positive and inquisitive. That will set them apart, even if they only have say two out of four technical components.

Q: What about candidates who have been unemployed for an extended period How can they make themselves marketable to potential employers?

A: There are a number of avenues they can pursue. They should consider investigating temporary or part-time work. It allows you to keep skills sharp and shows initiative. That initiative will have value on the resume. Most employers today understand there are good people who haven’t been able to find work. No temporary, part-time or contract work of any kind could be a red flag for a potential employer.

It’s also important to continually be increasing the network of people you know – such as through volunteering. People often find jobs through who they know. You never know from where your next job is going to come.

In many places, such as the state of Minnesota, there are also nonprofits, state and federal agencies focused on finding help for the long-term unemployed. Those programs are set up for a reason and job seekers should be taking advantage of them, if they aren’t already.

Click here to read Part 1 of the interview with Steve.

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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.