Many accountants, even in the smallest of firms are keen to recruit the right people. In our mentoring conversations we will often discuss what type of person and experience is really needed and where compromises may be necessary. Often the upshot is a candidate profile that is more relevant and and easier right find than before we started talking.
But getting clarity as to who you want to recruit is still only the first part of the process.
The second part that is often forgotten is how to make your vacancy, role, and firm an attractive prospect and to differentiate yourself from other firms looking to recruit similar candidates.
This involves highlighting the unique features, benefits, and advantages of working at your firm, and being specific about what sets you apart from the competition. Essentially if your firm can ATTRACT your ideal candidate you increase your chances of winning the war for talent.
I’ve never liked this epithet but the only alternative one hears (the ‘battle for talent’) also sounds as if it belongs in a bygone era and is more relevant to the armed forces than to accounting firms.
However the ‘war’ and ‘battle’ descriptions reflect the difficulties that firms have in recruiting the people they need to provide the service they have promised to their clients.
These recruitment needs may be a consequence of growth plans for the firm or merely an effort to replace professional staff who have left for pastures new.
To make your firm more attractive to ideal candidates, consider the following:
- What are candidates looking for? Whether you run ads yourself or you engage an agent, you need to identify and highlight those features, benefits and advantages of working at your firm that will make your vacancy more attractive than those in other ‘similar’ firms.
- What are the real differences? Do you know or are you going to make the same broad assumptions, promises and assertions that other firms make re your firm’s atmosphere, approach, absence of long hours, work/life balance? Opportunity to work from home? Supportive , friendly team focused environment?
- Does your firm’s website, any online profiles and social media activity reflect and evidence these differences? What can you do to prove your assertions are based on fact? Let’s start with your careers page. You do have one don’t you? Or do you just have a bland ‘vacancies’ page, as if you were a supermarket with vacancies for additional cashiers or cleaners? To my mind an accountancy firm should be enticing new recruits by talking about their potential careers with the firm rather than the positions the firm wants to fill.
- What else can you do to prove that your company culture, values, and work-life balance are based on fact? Consider sharing testimonials from current employees – if possible, sharing how much they value your firm having previously worked for a larger firm and separately for a smaller firm.
- Be sure to clarify what matters to the candidate during the interview process. Don’t assume that money is the only factor that matters – candidates may be more motivated by things like opportunities for career advancement, a positive work culture, or the ability to work from home.
Effective interview technique is critical and other assessment tools may be helpful too if you want to maximise the prospect of a positive outcome to the recruitment process. It’s important to ask the right questions to determine whether the candidate has the skills and talents you need, but it’s also important to consider how you can make the interview experience positive for the candidate. This may involve highlighting the benefits of working at your firm or providing more information about the role and company culture.
If you have a two-stage interview process, be sure to keep in touch with your chosen candidates and keep them informed about the status of their application. This will help to ensure that they are still interested in the role and will want to come back for the second round of interviews.
After making a job offer, it’s important to follow up promptly and to strike a careful balance between showing genuine interest and not appearing desperate. A personal note from the person who conducted the interview, or a phone call to discuss the next steps, can go a long way in making the candidate feel valued and welcomed.
The final crucial stage of the recruitment process is often overlooked, but it’s important to ensure a smooth onboarding experience for new hires. This includes providing them with the support and guidance they need to succeed in their role, as well as regularly checking in to see how they are adjusting to the company.
An example of a poor onboarding experience is when a new hire is left to their own devices without any guidance or support. This can lead to a sense of isolation and frustration, and may even cause the employee to reconsider their decision to join the firm. To avoid this, be sure to provide new hires with a clear onboarding plan that includes information about the company, their role and responsibilities, and the support and resources they have available to them. And if you can show candidates a copy of this during the interview process you will be evidencing how much ‘better’ you are than most others who are interviewing them.
By focusing on the candidate experience and being proactive in providing support, you can win the war for talent and build a strong, effective team. By taking the time to clearly define the skills and experience you need in a candidate and then highlighting the unique features and benefits of working at your firm, you can attract top talent and set yourself up for success.
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