Recruiting Is Marketing and How Training Helps Retention

By Michelle Golden - Recently, there were some excellent ideas shared on AAM's accounting marketing discussion list. Somebody had asked for ideas and suggestions for the increasingly challenging task of firm recruiting.

Marketers strategize about recruiting because recruiting is essentially marketing to a talent audience instead of a buyer audience.

Vickie Hicks of KPM CPAs in Springfield, Missouri, shared some of what she learned when she worked in the Career Services office at Missouri State University for 10 years. She explained, "My role was to connect students with recruiters and to oversee the placement of business majors specifically."

She made some recommendations that closely parallel marketing strategies used for new business such as targeting, consistent visibility, name recognition, and clearly communicating the unique benefits of going with your firm:

  • Keep a consistent presence on campus. Attend career days even on years you don't plan to hire... speak to the clubs, speak to classes.
  • It's all about name awareness. The students I worked with were often gun-shy to go with an employer their first time on campus. I worked with many a frustrated recruiter because they expected to ride in on a white horse once every 10 years and hire all the good candidates - it rarely happened. Our firm takes the Good to Great approach, we hire great people. So, on years we thought we weren't hiring, we often did anyway.
  • Sometimes it's the little things. The Accounting Club on campus had a Welcome Back to School BBQ. We called and offered to bring frozen custard for everyone. This meant we were on every poster promoting the event, got a mention in every classroom presentation, and a lot of recognition at the event as our polo wearing staff handed out custard to every student there. Cost us less than $100 and was priceless.
  • Consider internships. We have found that the recruiting game keeps shifting earlier and earlier. You have to pinpoint really great students as early as their junior year to show them how wonderful your firm is. Funny, but at that stage they haven't even had their hard accounting classes yet.
  • Bring your partners into the hiring process. It shows you value the recruits. But also balance that with younger staff to show you value the new employee.
  • Have good materials. Outline benefits, typical job duties, social activities, etc.

Mary Nielson of Larson & Company, a 35-person firm in Utah, wisely observes that the responsibilities of recruiting do not end with hiring. "Make sure you have a plan for after you've extended offers to candidates," she suggests.

"When I first started here, we did not have a formal training program at all. Even if you're small, you should definitely develop one. Otherwise," she explains, "you could end up in a situation where you hire really qualified individuals with lots of potential but they don't work out due to frustrations (on both your part and that of the new hire) that could have been easily avoided through a formalized training program.

She's absolutely right. I've seen this in several firms (law and CPA) myself.

One symptom of this problem can be owners/managers who assert that it's not really a great loss that a person left because of his or her work quality or low volume of productivity. While the person may simply be an under-performer, this can also suggest absence of training and supervision.

If a firm can spot a trend such as a particular department where there seems to be a revolving door for entry-level team members, it's pretty likely that the root cause is lack of teaching followed by lack of utilization of the person because they have gone untrained.

Without infrastructure to guide them, they are simply left to flounder. After all your hard work finding and hiring someone, not to mention the investment in doing so, it is an awful shame to lose them because processes aren't in place to properly teach them what they need to know in order to be successful.

Mary agrees. She says, "To coin a phrase from our firm, we don't like putting people in jello molds, but you do have to give them popsicle sticks...otherwise they end up being a shapeless mess with no support at all."

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by Michelle Golden - Michelle is a change-agent in the accounting profession. She helps firms address the stuff that holds them back from progress in business development and operational improvements. She’s also on the forefront of social media marketing. 

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