Shortage of Accountants Leads to New Recruiting Strategies

Accounting firms are resorting to all forms of recruitment to keep up with the workload stemming from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which was passed to clean up corporate America in the wake of meltdowns at Enron, WorldCom and others.

Charles Swanson, director of Ernst & Young's oil and gas practice in the Americas, has witnessed first-hand how far some companies will go to recruit new accountants. He has heard of firms calling up retired accountants, or recruiting former auditors who have moved to other career fields, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Swanson saw the extreme when he saw people at a downtown lunch spot sporting T-shirts that said, "If you're an accountant, ask me about a job opportunity."

"We never figured out who was doing it, but we were tempted to lock all our employees inside that day," Swanson told the Chronicle.

Sarbanes-Oxley rules are keeping the accounting profession hopping and with Section 404 coming into play, firms are requiring a second firm's services to independently validate the effectiveness of internal controls, which adds to the shortage of available accountants, the Chronicle reported.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' Houston office flew more than a dozen associates in from its offices in Edmonton and Calgary to meet the local demand.

Companies are snapping up every available accountant-including hiring new accounting school graduates, poaching workers from competitor firms, importing workers from overseas and a variety of other tactics.

"We just started a minimum 50-hour workweek when I first got there, and it wasn't even busy season yet," Terry Tekatch, one of the PwC workers brought in from Canada told the Chronicle.

Victor Burk, head of Deloitte & Touche's oil and gas practice pointed to Section 404 as the biggest drain on clients' time and money.

"Many companies don't have the excess staffing capacity to handle this work themselves, so they have brought in accounting and consulting firms, like us, for some of the compliance testing," Burk told the Chronicle.

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