At CPA firms across the country, aging baby boomers in senior roles are approaching retirement and driving consolidation. Throughout the marketplace, a pitched battle is underway to secure the top talent as the supply of highly qualified candidates remains tight and accounting firms continue to feel the employment pinch.
In a recent study, the Hinge Institute conducted with over 800 employee prospects and talent evaluators, we discovered that many employers are investing in unproductive marketing channels to find job candidates. Even more surprising was the fact that fully a third of the firms surveyed failed to identify the one critical channel used by almost 90 percent of job seekers.
Our research found that the five most popular marketing tactics used by accounting firms were (in descending order):
- Job ads
- Job fairs
- Other social media
Yes, even social media juggernaut Facebook, with over one billion users, failed to grab the attention of most qualified job seekers. Likewise, Twitter and red-hot Instagram weren't serious job-finding resources.
The number one channel used by professional job seekers looking for their next career move? LinkedIn. Our survey revealed that 86 percent use this site to network with other professionals, post profiles to attract employer interest and research job opportunities, even if they are not actively looking for a new position. That makes LinkedIn the single most important marketing channel for recruiting – even more so than networking and personal recommendations. LinkedIn has not only become the networking platform of choice, it’s where prospects go to look for opportunities first when they’re ready to find a new position.
Here are the most under-utilized but effective recruitment marketing channels (in descending order):
- Networking/colleague recommendations
- Firm website
- Recruiter/staffing firms
- General job listing websites
- Industry publication articles
- Niche job boards
- General web search
Their own websites are another recruiting tool that many accounting firms don’t take full advantage of. The firm website is an ideal place to build and reinforce a positive employer brand that will attract prospects. In fact, one-third of job seekers are likely to use firm websites to gather information during their job search. Yet, less than half of firms seeking new job candidates actively use their website to attract prospects.
And yes, the age of the individual plays a role in the tools they use. When we looked at the appeal of different channels to varying age groups, we found a number of similarities – but some stark differences as well. It stands to reason that firms managed by the Baby Boomers we mentioned earlier would instinctively resort to traditional methods of recruiting such as job advertisements (popular with one-third of the firms we surveyed), but only 14 percent of job seekers actually responded to them. Likewise, job fairs are still a preferred recruiting tool for over 20 percent of firms looking for new talent, but these are visited by a scant 9 percent of job-seekers. This led us to suggest that job fairs were on their way out, with declining relevance.
However, when we teased apart the survey data by generation, we were surprised to find that the younger Millennials were 4-5 times more likely to attend job fairs than their Gen-X and Baby Boomer peers. This would indicate that firms looking for fresh, new talent could still be well served by job fairs in some situations, while older, more experienced, executive-level candidates connect with potential employers through other sources. Still, job fairs factored far lower in general as an overall effective recruiting tool and in all likelihood don’t warrant the over-investment some firms make in them.
The most important takeaway here is that LinkedIn is proving itself to be the most effective recruiting channel today for top accounting talent. Traditional methods such as placing job ads continue to lose steam as both older and younger talent look increasingly at digital channels to research firms and find their next job opportunity. Will your firm be there to welcome them with open arms?
About Lee Frederiksen
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.