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Survey: Accounting Talent Pool Continues to Tighten

Sep 6th 2017
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The accounting profession is clearly experiencing a tightening pool of skilled candidates that could make competition to recruit even more challenging.

The recently released 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals also revealed that top job candidates are able to demand higher salaries and more flexibility in their schedules to achieve better work-life balance. Employers, as a result, experience a lower turnover in staff. On the skills front, more firms seek technological abilities to complement traditional accounting and finance skills.

Sweetening Salaries

Results of the survey indicate that firms across industries are bumping up compensation. In fact, companies frequently offer salaries above market rates even before negotiations with candidates begin. Some employers may extend signing bonuses, as well.

For example, the survey showed that in corporate accounting, CFO salaries vary from a mid-point of $ 192,500 to a high of $497,000.  An assistant controller can earn anywhere from $103,500 to $170,000 and a senior auditor can expect to earn from a mid-range of $85,000 up to $118,000 annually.

Retention a Top Priority

Because it’s getting harder — and more expensive — to replace staff who leave for new jobs, firms are putting extra emphasis on retention. Managers know that top professionals are likely to look for new opportunities if they can’t envision their next steps at the company.  

In response, firms are mapping clear career paths and offering mentoring programs and enhancing their corporate cultures.

Public Accounting Impact

There’s high demand for top talent in public accounting due to a severe shortage of skilled candidates.  In response, firms are taking advantage of every available recruiting strategy — from employee referrals to wooing back former staff.  CPA firms are pursuing recent college graduates with accounting degrees, and frequently offering higher pay than their competitors, as well as bonuses, perks and additional vacation time.  

To attract and retain in-demand accountants, many firms are prioritizing work-life balance policies, such as compressed workweeks, telecommuting and flexible work schedules.

Focusing on Fit

To reduce the risk of making a bad hire, more firms are performing pre-employment personality assessments to gauge how well-suited candidates are to the firm’s workplace environment. While these evaluations are not new, more firms are taking advantage of them.  

Adjusting Hiring Expectations

Given the limited number of skilled candidates, firms have become increasingly flexible with their hiring requirements.  Focusing on hiring for certain skills and being willing to train for others, allows them to be more nimble, giving them an edge over firms that remain rigid in their approach to hiring.

More than half (54 percent) of firm owners or human resource managers said they have wasted time hiring and training someone who didn’t work out and another 53 percent said bad hires caused increased stress on their staff.

In addition, 37 percent of managers reported increased stress on management and 20 percent reported decreased confidence in management’s ability to make good hiring decisions.

Investing In Employee Development

Professional development is taking on greater importance, and more employees expect training that supports their personal career growth. In fact, many professionals won’t stay at a firm that doesn’t provide continuing education opportunities.  

Recognizing Risks of Delayed Hiring

Many firms are taking longer to make hiring decisions, but doing so puts them at risk of losing top candidates as 69 percent of workers surveyed said they’d lose interest in a job if they had not heard from the employer within two weeks of the interview. While a thorough vetting of candidates is critical, stretching out the process longer than necessary can be a morale buster for prospective hires and puts the firm in a negative light.

Growing Their Digital Footprint

Firms are stepping up their online presence and branding to appeal to job seekers. This includes sharing more information online about employee perks and benefits, as well as other attractive elements of the work environment.

Where the Jobs Are

Companies are hiring accountants at all levels. They’re also looking for financial analysts, payroll staff, controllers, internal and IT auditors and risk and compliance professionals.

Hiring is especially strong in the healthcare, real estate, nonprofit, construction and technology sectors. Due to new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards, professionals with experience in revenue accounting, revenue reporting, and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting are in high demand.   

In addition, firms seek business systems analysts who can assist in installing updates and performing conversions for accounting software systems.

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