For accounting and finance professionals, it’s official: The job market pendulum has swung in their favor.
According to a new report released this past month by the global staffing firm Robert Half, “As unemployment rates fall, job openings rise and more people voluntarily leave their positions; it’s no longer an employer’s market.”
According to Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half in Menlo Park, California, “Growth in companies is creating a high demand for qualified candidates.” Candidates at the top of their game, he says, can expect a good solid job offer and some almost-forgotten perks.
“Despite the economic climate over the past few years, if a candidate is well prepared with good skills, they should be able to land a good position,” says McDonald. “In the accounting and finance arena, we’ve been seeing this trend for the past 2.5 years.”
Recent research from the U.S. Department of Labor in the fourth quarter 2014 bolsters his confidence. The most recent statistics indicate that staff and senior accountants, financial analysts, business systems analysts, controllers and internal auditors are some of the most in-demand roles across the country and have unemployment rates well below the national average.
For example, unemployment rates for accountants and auditors are at 3.1 percent; bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks at 3.2 percent and financial managers at 3.3, less than half the national average.
Over the past month more than 257,000 jobs have been created, despite a small uptick in the overall unemployment numbers.
This is good news for job seekers in the accounting professions where the industry is seeing more movement, employees leaving current positions for promotions or a move up the corporate ladder.
Many ask for, and receive higher compensation, including sign-on bonuses, relocation packages and additional time off or flexible work schedules.
Of course, it's a different story if you're sitting on the other side of the table: It’s getting tougher for companies to find skilled candidates for job openings, especially in competitive urban markets such as New York, Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, and St. Louis.
Because of this, many executives report a greater willingness to negotiate salaries with qualified applicants.
“Companies are likely to find themselves needing to negotiate salaries for top job candidates, unlike a few years ago,” says McDonald. “Willingness to negotiate can often make the difference between landing top candidates and losing them to the competition.”
Because of the skills gap and talent shortage, McDonald says hiring managers need to move quickly in their recruiting efforts. For potential candidates, he advises them to do their due diligence before getting down to brass tacks.
“Research the industry, network through LinkedIn with individuals who are employed at your target company and know your worth on the open market,” he says. “Demonstrate how you contributed to the bottom line.”
“Substantiate your worth with facts,” McDonald advises. “If an offer is made, be diplomatic and use hard data to buttress your case.”
Whether you’re a millennial or not, McDonald believes if your skill sets are up-to-date, you have in-demand experience, are versed in the latest financial regulations, and possess required technology and knowledge to be competitive, then “it’s a good job market for you today.”
As the pendulum swings further to the side of the employees’ favor, McDonald says companies are more willing to go the extra mile to retain valued employees.
This includes paying attractive salaries, investing in professional development, providing opportunities for career advancement and recognizing and rewarding current employees to keep them challenged and happy.
With more choices available for candidates, companies need to move quickly and decisively through the hiring process to get the applicant who fits their needs.
“Time is of the essence for hiring managers,” says McDonald. “Savvy employers are constantly on the lookout for talent, whether through networking, user groups, trade associations or even re-hiring past employees who may have been laid off.”
“It’s always good to stay on good terms with former employees,” he says. “You may return as a current employee.”