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Top Tips for Hiring Raw Talent In Accounting Firms

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When you’ve advertised a role for a lower level position a few times, and no one of any interest has applied, you get the message that the talent pool is dry. You go on-line and see all the talk about hiring based on attitude – “experience not necessary”. Suddenly your in-tray is full of applicants many of whom you might cross the street to avoid. How do you work your way through this minefield? This article is not trying to give you the full work up on how to do it, but some tips to change up the existing hiring mechanism you use: 

  1. When you’re drawing up the Person Description (and don’t miss this step) be clear on minimum educational or work experience requirements. You might combine minimum high school grades with minimum work experience vs a bachelors degrees with less work experience 


  2. Focus your job advert on what you’ll be able to provide them. Learning opportunities and culture are often paramount to candidates. A 2021 Adecco survey found that millennials care more about being fulfilled than earning a lot: 70% agreed with the statement ‘it’s more important for me to feel fulfilled at work than to earn a lot of money. More graduates put learning and fulfilment in their top 3 requirements for a position than do salary


  3. Consider using an applicant tracking system especially if you’re trying to fill more than a couple of roles. The paperwork and administration can be daunting. 


  4. Group your candidates quickly in to 3 buckets “Interview”, “Maybe” and “No”. You can dip in to the “Maybe” pile if the “Interview” pile is too small. If you see outstanding candidates don’t wait – call them straight away! 


  5. Use competency based interviewing – using the tried and testing method that “the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior”. See our Hire Fast With Confidence guide for how to do this.


  6. Be aware some candidates are good at interviewing, and they will come across very differently if your interview is the first they’ve had vs the fifth. Some candidates know how behavioral interviewing works and come prepared, making the interviewers job hard. Those with English as a second language may be good workers but stumble at interview. That’s why we would always recommend testing as well.


  7. Test your candidates. In testing you get what you pay for – a free test is likely to have little or no validity and may even embarrass you in front of the candidate (they know about testing to!). Most firms would use a personality profile (work style preferences) and an ability test (intelligence, numerical and verbal reasoning). This gives you objective evidence to compare to the interview. Smaller firms usually do this before second interview. Larger firms may use limited testing early in the process to screen out candidates.


  8. But a warning with testing. Know how to interpret the reports. Get whatever training you need. AND know how you’re going to use the results to make decisions before you start. Especially for personality profiles make sure you’ve completed it yourself before trying to interpret the reports of others. 


  9. After you make a selection build rapport with the candidate during the period before they start work. Evidence suggests 35% of candidates will accept an offer and keep looking. We’ve all heard the stories of firms patiently waiting for new graduates to start on Day 1, only to find they took a job elsewhere. Don’t let that happen to you. 

Hiring raw talent is hard. Training them once you’ve hired them is harder still, and much costlier. Making sure you start with the right people will mean it’s more likely this investment pays dividends for your firm. Know your candidates. 



About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers. 

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