5 Tips for Hiring an Accountant

Hiring an accountant for your organization can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to make the process a little less painful.

You’re sitting in your office pondering a set of numbers, when you decide that you need to ask Chuck, one of the accountants on your finance team, what he thinks. Chuck, however, has left the building, seeking his fortune as a professional trapeze artist (or so you suspect).

Unfortunately, you’ve concluded that you need to find Chuck’s replacement. But hiring new staff is never fun. And hiring an accountant? That has all the entertainment value of putting burning pokers underneath your fingernails.

But don’t worry. Hiring an accountant doesn’t have to be torture. Here are five tips that will make your hiring process a lot easier.

Determine what it takes to do the job today

When hiring an accountant, ensure that you first assess the business requirements of the position. This means talking to all the different stakeholders and coming to a consensus about what matters and what doesn’t.

Businesses evolve at a face pace, as does the work they require. Don’t assume that what was acceptable in this role two years ago is acceptable now. Make sure your job requirements and description are up-to-date.

Establish benchmarks for the first year

To streamline the process for hiring an accountant, assign key milestones or deliverables for the first 12 months. This will, of course, eventually help the new hire hit the ground running, so that they will know how to ace those first few months on the job.

But it will also allow you to accurately describe your expectations for the position to candidates. Ideally, those candidates who aren’t capable of meeting those expectations will be ruled out earlier rather than later in the process, leaving you with a more qualified pool of talent.

Don’t assume that what was acceptable in this role two years ago is acceptable now.

Standardize your interview questions and style

Provide a standard set of questions and recommend a specific interview style that the team can use to assess each candidate. It’s far preferable to have everyone consistently singing from the songsheet, as opposed to improvising with each new candidate.

Essentially this means you are creating a scorecard which allows you to evaluate all candidates according to the same set of requirements. That, in turn, will make it easier to rank and compare them against one another.

Keep the process moving – and don’t delay decisions

Try to compress the interviewing schedule so that promising candidates can move through the process quickly, in as few as one or two visits to the office. It’s important to offer candidates closure; leaving them to twist in the wind while you make a decision is one of the biggest mistakes employers make in the hiring process, and is a sure-fire way to lose out on the premium talent on the market.

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Your colleagues and all other important decision-makers should be on standby, just in case a candidate really impresses in their initial interview. The candidate should have an opportunity to meet the key stakeholders at an early stage and develop an interest and investment in the company. At the same time, this will allow you to move quickly and decisively on quality talent.

In hiring an accountant, you have to be prepared to pay for results.

Be prepared to pay (or settle)

In hiring an accountant, you have to be prepared to pay for what you want. Realistically, top talent costs more money.  Spare yourself some frustration by dropping any illusion that you’ll be able to snag the $90,000 candidate for $70,000. Even if you’re successful in hiring a star at a discount, odds are that they’ll eventually demand a raise anyways, or you simply won’t be able to retain them; paying someone significantly below the going-rate on the market will have them looking for – literally – greener pastures elsewhere.

Understand where your trade-offs are, and which requirements you’re willing to relax, if it will keep the hire at a paygrade you can afford. If you can be flexible on some key requirements, then your pool of suitable candidates will increase. But ultimately, if your mind is made up on what you want in a candidate, and you’re unwilling to budge on any of your criteria or requirements, you should be prepared to pay what the market demands.

Hiring an accountant doesn’t have to be a slow, painful process. If you take the time to determine the key requirements from the different stakeholders, standardize, streamline, and simplify the process so that things can be moved along quickly, and are willing to pay a fair price for the right talent (or else be flexible with your requirements and expectations), you can end up with a quality hire. While following these five tips is no guarantee of hiring the perfect candidate, it will certainly increase your chances for success. And if not, well – there’s always the circus, with Chuck!

What are some ways your organization has simplified the process of bringing in new people to its accounting and finance teams? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!