5 Recruitment Tips for Small Accounting Firms

Grow Your Firm

Small teams can be the best teams, but only if you start with the right people. For small accounting firms, this means recruiting people that are not only great at their job, but also a pleasure to be around. Unfortunately, finding these charismatic, high-performers is a lot harder than simply posting a job opening and crossing your fingers (also known as the “post and pray” approach).

For one, there are a lot of candidates out there, but there’s also a lot of competition. According to Randstad, there has been an increase in new jobs in Canada’s finance and accounting sector, meaning accounting professionals have greater choice when it comes to the positions available. This is particularly true for job seekers in Toronto, where more than 65% of those new jobs are located. While this all may sound a little bleak if you’re currently on that recruitment grind, we promise that there’s a way to make sure your firm has a shot at finding and acquiring those unicorn candidates. From giving yourself a social media-friendly rebrand, to offering unconventional perks, there are a number of steps you can take to grow your dream team.

1. Get Social

While social media may be the place you go to kill some time while waiting in line for coffee, it’s also a powerful recruitment tool—yes, even for accountants. Whether you know it or not, potential candidates are looking at your company’s social profiles in order to get a sense of everything from open positions, to work-life balance. In fact, Talent Works has discovered that 69% of candidates are more likely to apply for a job at a company that consistently manages its brand. While this may seem a bit surprising, there are a number of reasons why social media has quietly become a powerful recruitment tool:

  • It’s a cheap (often free!) way for you to share job vacancies with a large audience.
  • You can easily reach passive candidates who may not be actively looking for new opportunities.
  • Social media can showcase your office culture, personality, and aesthetic in a way that no job description can.
  • Social media is where most people—especially young job seekers—are spending their time.

Still not convinced? Take the case of the Australian accounting practice Illumin8, which describes itself as “different, a little quirky, with a whole lot of personality.” To show off its playful personality and inclusive culture, the firm takes full advantage of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even on LinkedIn—the most buttoned-up of all the social networks—the firm stays true to its quirky tone and creative aesthetic with recruitment videos calling all “kick-ass administrators” to join its team of “rebels without a cause.”

LinkedIn job posting by for a new administrator by the firm Illunin8.

LinkedIn job posting by for a new administrator by the firm Illunin8.

Of course, just because one firm’s playful videos work for them, doesn’t mean you need to ask your employees to start hamming for the ‘gram. You know your company culture and values best, so make sure to present an authentic tone and voice across your social channels and other marketing materials.

2. Review Your Reviews

While most companies are aware of websites such as Glassdoor, few actually take the time to consistently check those reviews. If this is your approach, you’re already in trouble. According to Talent Now, more than half (55%) of job seekers abandon applications after reading negative reviews online. More importantly, 84% of job seekers say that the company’s reputation as an employer is very important when it comes to making a decision about where to apply. In other words, your reviews are worth a lot more than you think, so they should never be left unattended.

Even if your bad reviews seem to come from disgruntled employees out for vengeance, it’s important to address the comments rather than dismiss the situation as nothing more than sour grapes. Take reviews as a moment of self-reflection and think about what your accounting firm could do better. After considering where you might have gone wrong (and taking some time to compose a thoughtful response), address the concerns of the negative reviewers. This goes for positive reviews as well, which you can address with equally positive comments. In short, the more you know about your reviews, the more you can do to address (and even combat) any concerns a candidate may have about joining your firm.

3. Put A Face To Your Firm

Even if you have a massive Facebook following and rave online reviews, that doesn’t mean you can forget about networking the old-fashion way: face-to-face. Whether it’s conferences, professional events, or even student job fairs, take the time to make personal connections and show people the faces behind your firm. Maureen Hoersten, a chief operating officer of staffing agency LaSalle Network, also suggests building strong relationships with universities and professors when looking for younger recruits. Indeed, by taking advantage of speaking engagements, hosting lunch-and-learns, and allowing new students to job shadow for a day, you can build a personal connection with candidates that goes deeper than a job posting on LinkedIn ever could.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go into every networking event leading with how desperate you are to hire. Rather, set out with the mindset that you’re there to have conversations, not interview potential candidates. This is especially important when meeting with people who aren’t actively job hunting right now, but could be in the near future. In fact, 77% of professionals are passive candidates, so never discount the long-term value of a building strong personal network.

4. Rethink Your Hiring Process

Among some small accounting firms, there is a belief that attracting top talent is the hardest part of recruitment, while everything that follows will fall nicely into place. However, attracting top candidates is rarely the only problem that small accounting firms face when bringing on new hires. In other words, you need to consider everything that happens between receiving a candidate’s resume and sending out that official offer letter. For instance, do you take too long to pick your top candidate? Office Vibe notes that the best candidates are only off the market for about 10 days, so treat your new hires like perishable goods and scoop them up while they’re still fresh (before someone else does).

Similarly, a flawed interview can leave potential candidates with a bad taste in their mouths. Take the time to audit your interview process and make sure that that you’re not just hammering away at technical questions, but also looking for someone with the right fit and potential. For instance, the Australian firm Growthwise interviews its shortlisted candidates twice, with the second interview being a more relaxed, informal chat with the whole team. The idea is that this approach allows the firm to better gauge how well the candidate will fit in with the team, and not just how well they will do their job. Remember, the better the interview process is for your new hires, the better it will be for you as well.  

5. Tempt With Incentives

Sure, you can do all of the above perfectly, but when it comes down to it, sometimes incentives can be the deciding factor. Whether it’s a higher salary, benefits, or bonuses, extra perks can turn just another job offer into something irresistible.

Of course, most small accounting firms don’t just have extra cash lying around to woo potential candidates. So what can you offer instead? A lot actually. Non-traditional perks such as a flexible schedule, remote working, volunteer opportunities, or even a dog-friendly office, can be just as attractive to some candidates as big bonuses.

In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review found that a large number of candidates would heavily consider an opportunity with more flexible work hours over a higher salary. This is particularly true of new grads, with Accountingfly finding that 59% consider good work-life balance to be the most important factor when choosing an employer.

Just take the case of the Toronto-based firm Fuller Landau LLP, which was recognized as one of Canada’s Top Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2018). Part of what makes the firm so attractive to candidates is perks such as paid volunteer days, tuition subsidies, flexible hours, telecommuting, and reduced summer hours. The firm even hosts an annual Summer Day, where employees from the Toronto and Hamilton offices get together to bond over an activity such as whitewater rafting or scavenger hunt.

Fuller Landau LLP employees on their way to ride the rapids during an offsite summer event.

Fuller Landau LLP employees on their way to ride the rapids during an offsite summer event.

Though it's easy to make recruitment all about the work, many employees are changing jobs to find a better work-life balance, so showing off how you can help them achieve that goal can make your firm all the more attractive. It also never hurts to keep your office stocked with free coffee and snacks.

At the end of the day, small accounting firms are only as great as the people who work there, so it’s important to make sure that everyone you bring on is someone you want to work with each and every day. While it may take some time to get your Facebook page up to speed, or to figure out how to offer more flexible work hours, it’s worth it to build your accounting dream team.