The accounting and finance sector, like so many others, charged into downsizing mode in the wake of the 2008 recession. The need to freeze hiring, reduce staff and cut costs blanketed A&F firms everywhere, as well as accounting and finance organizations within companies across industries. Ten years later, as we enter 2018, the economy is growing again, the outlook is fertile and green, and companies are hiring with confidence – or at least they are trying.

If you are a hiring manager or executive looking for exceptional accounting and finance leaders, chances are good you are struggling to find and hire people with a specific combination of skills, experience, education, credentials and personal style. The past decade has introduced new regulations, for example the ASC 606 rule, along with new compliance codes and standardized technologies – and these also factor into the qualifications employers seek in candidates.

Questions to Ask When Recruiting for Accounting and Finance Leaders

What do you do when your needs are imminent but qualified prospects are few? Here are some actionable answers, starting with getting a clear picture of the candidate market.

Scarcity or abundance? There is perception, and then there is reality.

As executive senior partner with a national recruitment firm, I specialize in accounting and finance recruiting. I regularly engage with clients experiencing the daunting challenge of finding and successfully hiring their ideal candidates for senior-level A&F roles.

What is happening is that on the surface, hiring companies are navigating a competitive, post-recession, candidate-driven market. And what they are finding is how accomplished, experienced professionals have all the leverage; they hold the cards in the career opportunities they are willing to entertain and the choices they make, whether they decide to stay or go. As a result, many hiring companies turn to executive recruiters, where they hope to find an abundance of candidates – but what they actually find is their perceptions affirmed.

Yes, there seems to be a scarcity of qualified candidates – but this is only a surface perception. In reality, there is an exceedingly rich pool of talent with equally impressive accomplishments and abilities – if companies would only open their doors, meet with them, and ask questions that reveal these professionals’ acumen, gravitas, hunger and drive. These candidates and their bona fides are assets-in-waiting for employers with the far-sightedness to explore, vet and hire them.

Following are some of the ways employers are breaking through the sparse exterior of today’s candidate market and turning the tide in their hiring initiatives.

Reassess your hiring priorities

If your company is like most others, you are coming out of the recession with a lean organization comprised of top players. Now you need to hire but you are cautious, maybe unwilling to take a chance on someone without the track record or specific experience in your job requirements.

It may be time to relax some of those requirements. Companies in highly competitive markets, where candidates have a lot of career options, are becoming more open to and comfortable with hiring candidates who don’t have every single box checked.

Put more cards on the table

Today, hiring senior-level professionals is all about the art of negotiation, and this is especially true in the worlds of accounting and finance. Employers are making concessions to fill important roles on a timely basis.

These concessions are not necessarily about settling for less but rather yielding more to candidates of choice. Bargaining chips include relocation and moving allowances, and paying for additional education, certifications and credentials while on the job. Companies are offering sign-on bonuses, performance incentives, cultural incentives for greater work-life balance, and more competitive benefits packages. Many employers are also willing to title up – giving a desirable candidate a higher title with perhaps fewer direct reports.

Know the resources available to you and incorporate them into your candidate recruitment and hiring processes.

Take a close look at the up-and-comers

The most substantial shift happening in the accounting and finance hiring market is how companies are discovering the benefits and pay-offs of hiring candidates who are up-and-comers in their fields – rather than holding out for heavy hitters who may never come along.

We at Lucas Group play a critical role in this shift because we have access to the nation’s largest network of A&E professionals, from senior accountants and financial analysts to director and C-level professionals, and because we employ the most exhaustive consultation and vetting program in the recruiting industry.

Through our efforts and resources, employers are able to train their eyes on impressive candidates who have performed maybe 75% of the responsibilities on the list of requirements. They are onboarding quick-study candidates who are great cultural fits, training them on the job, and almost immediately finding these professionals perform as well or better than peers who possess 100% of the desired experience. Up-and-comers go above and beyond for employers who take a chance on them – again, because they are hungry, driven and most of all capable.

Consider these valuable benefits: When you bring in less experienced but highly promising candidates in the lower range of your salary band, they have the ability to grow quickly into your position and your organization – without hitting the top of your salary band by the end of the year or next year. They also put you in a strong position for succession planning.

The proof is in the interview

In today’s competitive, candidate-driven market, successful hiring is not so much determined by employers connecting with candidates who are the most experienced or qualified on paper.

Rather, success today is an increasingly necessary and rewarding matter of identifying candidates who are most promising to the organization, asking interview questions that allow candidates to discuss in detail how they made an impact in previous roles, being prepared to best the hiring incentives of other companies eyeing the same candidates – and having the foresight to make a solid, educated hiring move for the growth of your company

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