There is a talent gap right now in the accounting and finance sector in the Northeast region of the United States, which is driving organizations to reconsider their hiring strategies and dedicate more resources to staff retention, according to The Execu/Search Group.
The New York-based staffing and recruitment firm recently polled more than 200 clients in the Northeast across several different sectors for its 2015 Regional Hiring Outlook study, which was released earlier this month. The report found that the economic recovery has forced employers to play catch-up – and many are struggling to meet the demand for top job candidates.
According to 63 percent of survey respondents, who included C-suite executives, directors, and managers, their biggest hiring challenge of 2015 will be finding qualified candidates. That hiring hurdle is substantially larger in the accounting and finance sector, where 80 percent of respondents reported that as their top challenge.
“This finding shows that the accounting industry [in the Northeast] is experiencing a talent shortage,” Gary Grossman, president of the Permanent Division at Execu/Search, told AccountingWEB. “In this job market where the supply of qualified candidates cannot meet demand, accountants who possess the top technical and soft skills that are in demand can expect to receive multiple offers from top employers.”
The Execu/Search study identified the most in-demand technical and soft skills for the accounting and finance sector in the Northeast. Technical skills employers are looking for include:
- Technical accounting
- Internal audit
- Financial planning and analysis
- Regulatory reporting
- US Securities and Exchange Commission reporting
The top soft skills in demand by employers include:
- Problem solving and analytical thinking
- Initiative and drive
- Team player
- Communication skills (written and verbal)
The shortage of qualified candidates in the market has led to what Execu/Search refers to as “the war on talent,” or the struggle for one company to outdo another for a top candidate. Companies must act quick to ensure that they have the proper steps in place to not only attract top talent, but also position all employees for long-term growth and success, the study said.
So what can managers do to find top talent for their open accounting positions? Grossman provided the following three tips on what US businesses – no matter the location – should do to find the right accounting candidate:
1. Use your current employees as a resource. “They may have friends or acquaintances who are actively job-seeking, or may be able to connect you with other accountants they know.”
2. Turn to a recruiting firm. “Use a recruiting firm that you have done business with, or use one that you were referred to and is considered an expert in your specific field of accounting. If a recruitment firm has done extensive work in the area you are hiring for, their existing foothold and expansive network in that field gives them unique insight into the places to find the type of candidate you are looking for. In fact, they are usually able to submit passive candidates who weren’t actively looking for a job, but would be a good fit, while they look for more.”
3. Move forward with the hiring process as quickly as possible. “Being slow to respond and conducting too many interviews before extending an offer is a sure way to lose a top candidate to another accounting firm. On a related note, once an offer is accepted, hiring managers should ensure they maintain consistent communication with the new hire. An accepted offer doesn’t mean anything until the accountant’s first day of work, so make sure the new hire isn’t being courted by any other employers by keeping the lines of communication open and ensuring their needs are being met.”
Firms Boosting Compensation in 2015
Companies who were polled by Execu/Search for its hiring outlook are expecting to increase staff compensation this year as part of their employee-retention strategy. Sixty percent of Execu/Search clients in the Northeast said they have plans to boost staff compensation in 2015. That number rises to 79 percent in the accounting and finance sector.
“Firms are increasing compensation to not only attract new employees, but to retain their most talented accountants, as well,” Grossman said. “Businesses are cognizant of the fact that compensation can influence a candidate’s decision to accept one offer over another, or can lead an employee to pursue an opportunity at an organization that is willing to pay more. Accountants know they are in high demand and will take their talent elsewhere if they feel that their needs aren’t being met, so firms are being more competitive with compensation.”