Recruiting in a Tight Labor Market - Work Smarter, Not Harder

Sure, you know the accounting labor market is tight, but everyone knows that, right? Right. But knowing this doesn't give you an advantage when many of your star candidates are talking with several of your competitors. Get a competitive edge by reviving your interviewing process.

In this volatile labor market, it's not a matter of whom you want, but who wants you. How do you make your firm more attractive to new recruits? Surprisingly, it's very similar to the process you use to make your firm attractive to prospective clients.

· Choose the right person or committee to interview. Make sure that the person or committee meeting with recruits is sensitive to their needs and desires. It doesn't make sense for a senior partner to interview with young recruits if he or she can't relate to twenty- or thirty- somethings. Interviewers should be prepared, informed, and mentally free to devote attention to candidates, too.

· Make the interview process a big deal. Sounds simple, but you want to impress on your candidates that they are important to your firm. They are, of course, but they need to know you value them. Beware of over-pursuing, though. These savvy interviewees will resent your overzealous efforts.

· Know your firm's identity and sell it. Candidates can be overwhelmed by the opportunities available to them. Make a list of key characteristics that make your firm unique and focus on these. Doing this will enable prospects to differentiate your firm from the rest of the pack when they make their decision. Whatever you do, don't say anything negative about your competitors. Negative selling is never a good idea and it sends the wrong message to your interviewees.

· Listen. Applicants will be happy to share what they "want" in an accounting firm employer. Once the prospect has told you what's important to him or her, it will be easier for you to focus on shared values your firm has to offer. Many interviewers spend too much time talking to candidates about how great their firm is instead of listening to what the candidate wants.

· Learn it. Live it. Recruiting in the 90s is not an end-of-the-semester effort. It takes an organized, year-round plan to ensure you have the right recruits when you need them. From online web site applications to on-campus presentations, recruiting is a way of life in today's public accounting firm.

· Let your team recruit for you. Consider implementing a recruiting incentive program to turn up worthy candidates. Who better to tout how great your firm is than those already working for you? Make it worth your team's while in the form of a bonus and they'll be sure to keep their eyes and ears open for talent.

· Know what you want. Finally, do your homework before the candidate gets to your office. Recruiting costs your firm thousands of dollars annually. Make sure you know the characteristics of successful employees. Finding these same characteristics in prospects will help you choose smarter and retain that star recruit.

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