Hiring Accountants 101

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: hiring accountants isn’t easy.

Just ask any hiring manager or HR professional. How do you ensure that you’re bringing the right accounting and finance talent into your organization? Your job, after all, is staffing, not accounting — you deal with people, not numbers. And you probably recruit for various functional divisions in your company, as part of your ever-expanding portfolio.

Staying on top of all of the many different designations, associations, and what not in any one of them is no mean feat — especially when you’re hiring for positions that require very specific and specialized technical skills and qualifications, as in accounting and finance.

Of course, that’s why Clarity Recruitment exists: to make the work of hiring easier for you and your organization. But as any corporate recruiter will tell you, we’re that much better at our jobs when our HR partners can tell us exactly what they need or what they’re looking for in a candidate — when they know the different accounting terminologies, systems, softwares, designations, specializations, and functional areas and departments. As a starting point for hiring managers and HR professionals looking to fill an accounting or finance position, we’ve put together the following primer, to help give you some of the basics on hiring accountants.

Know the different designations

You should have some grasp of each of the three different designations and their respective conditions for accreditation. There are three different professional designations available to accountants in Canada: Certified General Accountant (CGA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and Chartered Accountant (CA). To earn any one of these designations, individuals must complete the requirements set out by that designation’s authorizing body. These vary between designations, in terms of the levels of education required for entrance, the kinds of testing administered, and the type of work experience expected. For example, CAs have to article at an approved CA training firm to obtain their designation; CGAs, by contrast, are permitted to work anywhere during accreditation.

Also, there are some minor, but important, differences between the designations, in their areas of expertise. For example, while CAs are able to sign off on audits in all provinces, CMAs are not. On the other hand, the CMA offers its designees a more specialized focus on managerial accounting, as its title suggests. CGAs, who can perform auditing in some provinces, are known for their broader knowledge and expertise in all of the functional areas of accounting.

Be familiar with the different titles, departments, and roles

Your organization’s accounting and finance teams are made up of many different players and parts. In addition to the position you’re staffing, you should be familiar with the entire roster of personnel in your finance division, from the CFO and VP Finance on down.

At most companies, the finance function is divided among the following departments: Financial Operations, Financial Planning and Analysis, the Internal Audit Department, the Tax Department, the Treasury Department, and the Risk Department. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the different mandates and responsibilities of each (even though in many organizations there is often significant overlap between these units).

Check on your candidate’s standing with their association

Each of the designations has their own national and provincial associations. As a basic part of conducting due diligence during the recruitment process, you should ensure that any candidates you’re considering for a hire are in good standing with their associations. You can easily inquire into the status of a candidate’s designation either by contacting the appropriate association directly, or by asking your recruiting partners to do so.

Look for systems skills

What kind of accounting software does your organization use in its financial operations? Regardless of how urgently you need to fill the opening, it will help immensely if the candidate you’re considering for a hire is already familiar with your company’s software of choice — whether it’s SAP, Great Plains, Oracle, Quickbooks, Sun, Accpac, or one of the many other common accounting systems, or perhaps a custom solution that is specific to its practice or industry. Proficiency with Microsoft Excel, which is almost universally employed by accounting teams for data manipulation and analysis, is another important consideration when evaluating a candidate’s technical skills.

As an accounting recruiter in Toronto who’s spent a good part of my ten-year career hiring accounting and finance personnel, and helping other companies acquire the right talent for their finance needs, I know how difficult it can be make sense of it all. I also know how important it is to work closely with our partners so that they can make informed, educated decisions about their recruiting needs. With this guide in hand, you’ll have a head-start on learning the ABC’s of hiring accountants. If you want detailed information about each of these points, as well as some more advanced tips — including the kinds of questions you should be asking accounting candidates in interviews — be sure to check out our white paper, “Help! I’m Interviewing an Accountant.”

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) for more great tips and advice!