How Accounting Firms Can Get an Edge in the Recruitment Gameby
As much as new grads compete for accounting jobs, firms face their own competition in recruiting new hires. And the smaller your firm is, the more you’ve got to get your name and brand out there.
Here are the best ways to toot your horn.
Internships. If you don’t already do this, start now. You already know that turnover is tough. Internships help you get ahead of the competition “and build a pipeline of talent,” says Janel O’Connor, director of human capital at Sikich, an 11-office firm with more than 600 employees based in Naperville, Illinois. Small to midsized firms especially will be up against big firms that recruit heavily at colleges and have that "Big Name" recognition. “You can’t just expect colleges to know your name and brand,” she says. The firm hires 98 percent of its interns. Big firms retain about 70 percent of their interns, says Robert Clovey, a CPA and associate professor of accounting and taxation at CUNY York College in Jamaica, New York. O’Connor also notes that former interns are good referral sources.
Colleges and campus career fairs. Sikich recruits at 25 campuses in the Midwest and nationwide, O’Connor says. The firm partners with professors and student accounting associations, sponsors study rooms and has a booth at career fairs. “That’s all part of us building our brand,” she says. The firm’s interns staff the booth as testimonial to working at Sikich and because students “don’t want to talk to anyone in HR,” O’Connor says. At the same time, firms can also work with student accounting associations.
Professional accounting associations. You can tap into leads and referrals through job boards, association relationships with schools and firms, and special programs. For example, the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) hosts the annual Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program for minority college students. One of the three-year-old program’s goals is to assist students at smaller campuses where firms may not visit, says Kari Natale, ICPAS assistant director of the CPA endowment fund. “We bring them to firms they wouldn’t otherwise have the resources or time to connect with,” she says. “These firms can’t go to every campus.” And because ICPAS has relationships with faculty and firm managers statewide, that helps the search process. “We aren’t a competitor,” Natale says.
LinkedIn. Don’t even whisper that you’re not using this veritable gold mine of recruiting possibilities. “It’s where everything is happening,” O’Connor says. “That’s our primary source of hiring, and employee referrals. We have the most robust recruiting package you can get with LinkedIn and we get every penny from it.”
Finally, don't forget traditional recruiting firms as well as one low-cost and highly effective solution: employee referrals.
Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has covered real estate, mortgage finance, health care, insurance, personal finance, and accounting and taxation issues for newspapers, magazines, and websites. A Chicago native and former South Florida resident, she now lives in New England.