Hiring Forecast Has Good News for Accountants

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Despite the economy's steady, albeit somewhat unhurried, recovery, businesses in accounting, finance, and IT are reporting a significant increase in unfilled staff positions, according to the Brilliant Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast.

The forecast, conducted by Brilliant in conjunction with Richard Curtin, PhD, professor and director of surveys at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, indicates companies are poised to hire, and have the desire to add new talent to improve their business, but are "adopting a more conservative approach toward recovery planning due to recent economic instability and slow pace of gains."

The forecast indicates two-thirds, or 65 percent, of all respondents reported they currently have unfilled positions on their accounting, finance and IT staffs. This figure was above the 58 percent posted just three months ago, and 14 percent above last year's number.

The Brilliant Hiring Forecast, established in 2012, is a quarterly survey of human resources professionals and hiring managers in the accounting, finance and IT professions within a variety of industries, including financial services, professional services, health care, and nonprofits, among other industries.

The Q3 2014 Brilliant Hiring Forecast includes responses from 181 professionals, surveyed between May 12 and June 6, 2014.

Jim Wong, CPA (inactive), CEO and founder of Brilliant, says one reason for the high number of unfulfilled positions is the fact many companies may mistakenly believe there are more accounting graduates available to fill their open positions than actually exist, and are being more discerning in their hiring plans than the talent pool permits.

"Companies in industry are actively hiring for accounting professionals, but they are being more selective because they believe supply outweighs demand," said Wong. "The large public accounting firms, however, are fully aware that this assumption is inaccurate for accounting and finance professionals."

Wong said over the last 15 years there have been multiple periods where the accounting profession has seen a significant decline in the number of accounting graduates from universities, but the demand for these individuals in the workplace has not diminished, due to an increase in regulatory reporting requirements, compliance, and changing economic times where companies and legislation are mandating more timely and accurate accounting.

"Companies are still in high need of hiring trained and qualified accounting and finance professionals," Wong said.

Wong does believe, however, that companies are becoming more informed about the accounting profession's problem filling the talent pipeline, and will become more flexible in their candidate requirements, which will result in more hiring.

"The pent up demand for accounting and finance professionals will be met," Wong said.

The Brilliant forecast also indicates that in the big picture, HR professionals and hiring managers are feeling decidedly more positive about economic conditions for their companies in the Q3 2014 survey than at any time in the past year.

According to Brilliant, across all companies, 43 percent reported the economic situation of their companies had improved during the past year, up from 37 percent last quarter and 34 percent last year.

Those good vibes will also translate to good news for job seekers in the accounting, finance, and IT sectors in the year ahead.

"Hiring top talent is no easy task, nor is it accomplished quickly," Wong said. "Businesses want employees who are not only skilled at their jobs, but fit in with the company's culture."

The current hiring climate, and the expensive undertaking of hiring and training new talent, are pushing a new trend in hiring and recruiting, the survey found. Many HR officers and hiring managers report they are opting to hire temporary employees as a way to identify and test drive well qualified candidates for their open accounting, finance and IT positions.

"It's not uncommon, as seen in this survey, that companies hire temporary employees as a means to determine their skills and cultural fit in their firms," said Curtin. "Some survey respondents mentioned it was their usual practice to hire temporary employees as a means to screen for the best fit for their firms."

"Significant Restructuring"

The recession and its subsequent downsizing also gave many companies the leeway to "alter the way they ran their organizations," according to Brilliant.

"Nearly half of all firms surveyed used this time to undergo significant restructuring in order to match changing trends in their markets," commented Wong. "And with the most robust hiring plans seen in some time, planned staff additions represent solid evidence for firm expansion during the year ahead."

For public accounting firms, Wong said, the economic downturn required companies to do more with less. But with an improved economy, pent-up demand will need to be filled, because more confident employees may leave current employers for better work/life balance and compensation, he continued.

The Brilliant Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast also found businesses:

  • Plan to Increase Hiring. An increased pace of hiring of accounting, finance and IT professionals was planned by 28 percent of surveyed firms. This is a 5 percent increase over last year.
  • Anticipate Net Gains in the Total Workforce. Staff expansion was anticipated by 35 percent of all firms, up from 32 percent in the prior quarter and 25 percent last year.
  • Intend to Hire Temporary Labor. Among all firms, 16 percent reported they planned to increase the number of temporary employees they hired in the Q3 2014 survey, up from 13 percent in Q1 2014, and nearly identical to last quarter.
  • Use Social Media to Recruit Talent. The survey found a near universal agreement that LinkedIn was the top social media choice for recruiting top talent, selected as most effective by 97 percent of all HR professionals and hiring managers. Among users of social media to recruit, 28 percent spent under $2,500, 26 percent spent $2,500 to $10,000, and 26 percent spent more than $10,000 on social media advertising

When assessing the talent pool, respondents identified an "increasing emphasis on expertise," as the biggest gap in the skills of job seekers, cited by 43 percent in the Q1 2014, up from 39 percent in the prior quarter and 33 percent in the Q2 and Q3 of 2013.

Related article:

How to Become a Temporary Accountant


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This is indeed promising, but it will be interesting to see whether the rapidly changing world of accounting software influences these trends, as it has in so many other industries. Accounting software is becoming much more user friendly, and accountants oftentimes are contracted to simply set up the software, provide training, and minimal management on contract, at least for small businesses. Large businesses that need teams of CPAs to negotiate through an ocean of regulations may be a different story.



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I agree with Angst, I am a CPA with good experience over 60 and sent out so many resumes, had one interview. The other point is companies looking for part time controllers, that is a joke. Controllership is never part time. Some of the people companies do hire that are not accountants by training record loans as income! Good luck.

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Well, while the new revenue recognition standards have been coming down the pipeline I haven't yet had the pleasure of going over them with a fine tooth comb; last I knew loans are a souce of income. The only problem with people who have no accounting training is that they use the term "income" which has one meaning for tax and another meaning for book purposes rather than the more accurate term of "revenue." It is far from academic as this distinction gives rise to permanent and temporary book/tax differences, and is the source of the delightful deferred tax assets and liabilities line items which would blow the mind of the uninitiated and even leaves Wall Street analysts scratching their heads. And don't even get me started on 'other comprehensive income,' which is a relatively new concept introduced in the past decade or two where unrealized income from changes to the value of investments--which can of course be notes, commercial paper, etc.--can get cycled through. The point being "income" is a terrible ambiguous term that is best avoided IMAO.

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Maybe if they hired someone over 50 once in awhile they wouldn't have a shortage.

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So true. Average employee longevity is surely below 15 years (65-50).

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Maybe if someone over 50 had the skills I need and would apply, I would hire them (by the way I am 50 and would certainly hire someone 50 or over). Seriously, there has been a shortage for a number of years and it is affecting my firm's growth.

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Because it's all about you, isn't it? You are telling me you run ads and no one over 50 applies, or headhunters don't present anyone over 50? Bull-kaka.

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People over 50 do apply but they don't have relevant experience. What am I supposed to do, hire some just because I'm a social program?

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If people over 50 don't have the experience, no one does. Try a FENG chapter if you want a room full of people qualified. Or is your company so precious that only a handful can possibly meet your technologically advanced requirements? You are a master BS artist, sounds like.

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I have a small CPA practice and I am looking for people who know tax law, can deal with clients, have good accounting knowledge and can actually prepare tax returns. So, maybe my needs are a little more specialized.

So, now I now why your nick name is Angst. You have some real issues.

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And can't find anyone over 50. As I said.....

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NW suburbs of Chicago. Thanks anyway.

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I'm 50 but I didn't go to college until later in life and graduated in 2008 with an accounting degree and became a licensed CPA in April 2013. I did an internship in my last semester of college at a CPA firm and they offered me a full time position when I graduated. I've been with them for 6 years now and I do worry that if I decide to make a change from public to private accounting it might be difficult for me to find another job because of my age and limited experience.

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I am over 50 - unemployed - live in Salisbury, MD - have 35 years experience in public accounting and am desperately looking for work

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Going into the accounting profession for myself, sorry companies. Owning your own accounting practice pays better and gives you the flexibility you need without having to be scrutinized for taking 15 minutes off to run an errand.

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Steve, I am about to finish Reg (my third section) of the CPA exam. I noticed that you have a firm in the northwest suburbs. I am 29 years old and need experience with a public accounting firm. I am really passionate about accounting. What do you recommend that I do to separate myself from the pact? I know my diligence and work ethic speaks for itself. Thank you.

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This is too ridiculous. These companies expect to hire someone that can step onto the position without any introduction, orientation or training. Often times they're expected to be the HR and IT department as well. Not to mention an expert user of whatever accounting software they may be using, along with sophisticated complex spreadsheet applications, Powerpoint, and on and on. They also want someone who went to an ivy league school and worked for one of the big accounting firms, at as a low a salary as they can get away with. And they're having trouble finding these people?

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This is just ridiculous. These employers want: an ivy league graduate who trained at one of the big accounting firms, an expert in Power Point, Excel, their accounting software and any other software they may be using. They expect people know everything about their company's operations (what is it you like about our company) and how to do the job on day one without benefit of introduction, training, orientation. Oh, and salary? Well, we all know what's been happening there don't we? So does it really come as a surprise that they can't find these people? They don't exist.

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You forgot "CPA required." :)

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Don't forgot the mandatory 5 years experience doing the exact same job.

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This is an odd article for me and here is why: I have
been looking for work on and off since last year. I graduated in May and still
can't find work. I have 2 1/2 years of accounting experience due to working
while going to school, but unfortunately that affected my ability to get a top
GPA. I know many students in my situation, so what does the job market look
like for grads with experience but not so great GPA's? It seems the growth in
work is for professionals with lots of experience, or grads with top GPA's who
do audit or tax and aren't necessarily the "brightest". It seems safe
to say we fall in the cracks. We will be lucky to get the left over jobs with
no growth and/or jobs that under pay.

My odds seem better if I just open my own business…(more
work, but the payout is better in the end).

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