Knowing how to hire the best accounting and finance talent isn’t easy, especially when you’re a small fish in a big pond. Large corporations that can offer more money and flashier benefits make the competition for top professionals pretty stiff.
According to a recent survey of small business owners, 50 percent of respondents believe hiring new employees will be the biggest challenge they’ll face this year — more than the need to increase profits (46 percent), provide healthcare plans for employees (44 percent) or grow revenue (39 percent).
So, when bigger salaries and an employer-sponsored cafeteria aren’t in the budget, how can you attract skilled accounting and finance professionals in a crowded marketplace? Learn how to hire the talent you need with these nine small business recruiting tips:
1. Emphasize the ‘Small’
As a small business manager, your workplace culture is your secret weapon. You’re not a mega-corporation. Play up this fact in the job posting and during interviews.
Small businesses offer valuable non-wage perks that many larger firms cannot, such as flexible hours, a collegial work environment, direct access to senior management, faster implementation of ideas and changes, the ability to branch out and try new roles, and so on. Don’t hesitate to toot that horn.
2. Use Different Recruiting Strategies
Your small business hiring efforts already includes traditional tactics, such as using online job boards and adding job postings to your firm’s website. But those who really know how to hire branch out and use additional methods.
For example, get to know the directors of nearby college career centers and ask them to keep an eye out for promising young accountants who would fit well in a small business culture. Does your company have a presence on social media? If so, how can you leverage the community you’ve built to uncover new talent?
If you’ve never used a recruiter before, consider contacting one. Skilled recruiters know how to hire because that’s all they do. These experts have access to deep networks and can spread word of your opening much farther than you can alone. Recruiters also can save you time by handling many aspects of the hiring process for you, something any small business manager can appreciate.
3. Leverage Your Current Staff
One trick to understanding how to hire the right accounting and finance talent is to talk to those you’ve hired in the past. Spread the word among your team.
Encourage your employees to contact their friends, family and acquaintances to generate a pool of personally recommended finance candidates. Who knows how to drum up promising applicants better than staff already familiar with the merits of working for your small business?
To make this plan even more successful, institute an employee referral program to encourage and reward team members for helping the company land talent.
4. Keep an Open Mind
It pays to be flexible during the small business hiring process. While you shouldn’t settle for sub-par employees, do try to see the potential in nontraditional candidates — diamonds in the rough.
For example, don’t automatically reject an otherwise skilled bookkeeper over what would normally be a resume red flag, such as an extended employment gap. Rather, during an interview, inquire about why the person was out of the workforce for so long. It could be that he or she had family commitments to attend to.
Similarly, consider taking a chance on new graduates and hardworking professionals who may make excellent workers but require a bit of extra training.
5. Don’t Drag Your Feet
Another advantage that small businesses have over their larger peers is that there are typically fewer layers of management involved in reviewing a staffing request, evaluating candidates and ultimately approving a new hire. That means hiring can happen much more quickly. And that’s good news in today’s market, for two reasons.
First, finding the right person can take a while. In a Robert Half survey, CFOs say it typically takes an average of four weeks to hire for a staff-level accounting or finance position; it takes five weeks for a management-level position. The more streamlined your process, the less time you’ll be without a critical member of your team.
Second, the most in-demand candidates aren’t available for long. If you can evaluate a potential hire and extend a job offer quickly, you have a better chance of beating the big boys for the best talent.
6. Remember that Recruiting is a Continuous Process
There’s no off switch when it comes to small business hiring. Knowing how to hire means always being ready to talk about your small business and remaining on the lookout for potential accounting and finance hires. At networking events, industry conferences — even social functions — have your elevator pitch and business cards ready.
The reason? Though they may not be proactively looking for a new job, many talented professionals fall into the category of passive job candidates; they would be willing to make a move if and when the right opportunity arises. Other individuals you speak with may have a friend or acquaintance who could be an ideal addition to your firm.
Remain in recruiting mode even when you don’t have active vacancies to staff. The more resumes and professional contacts you have in your pocket, the more prepared you will be if a staff member suddenly resigns or business demands skyrocket.
7. Build Your Brand
One key to knowing how to hire is being visible. Every business needs to build and market its brand, but doing so is especially important for small business recruiting, as you don’t have the name recognition that larger companies enjoy. After all, how can skilled accountants find you if they don’t know you exist?
Invest in an engaging and informative website, participate in appropriate social media channels for your business, and become involved in the local community. Send professionally written press releases to your city’s newspapers and local business magazines. Seek opportunities for speaking engagements and sponsor local events. As a company, donate time and services to worthwhile charities. While doing so, have employees wear T-shirts emblazoned with your business name and logo.
The more visible you are, the more likely accounting and finance professionals will remember your small business when on the job hunt.
8. Get Help When You Need It
One secret to learning how to hire is realizing that you don’t have to go it alone. While you’re recruiting for your full-time position, a specialized temporary staffing agency like Accountemps can help keep accounting operations humming. As one satisfied client told us, “With Accountemps, it was a simple email to state what we needed, then make our selection from the list of available candidates provided and set a start date! Much simpler and faster than the traditional hiring process. In addition, we couldn’t be happier with the skilled candidate we got.”
Small businesses can also use a temp-to-hire strategy as part of their effort to identify potential full-time staff accountants, payroll processors escrow assistants and more. This approach gives you the unique benefit of being able to evaluate candidates as they work with your team on a temporary basis. Once you’re confident they’re a good fit — and the workload is sustainable — you can convert them to full-time status. One of our clients explained why this strategy is attractive: “You sent the perfect person for us. She fit right in and brought exactly what we needed. Now, we get to keep her!”
9. Remember the Three R’s: Retention, Retention, Retention
The way to beat the competition is to hire on your own timeline, and the best way to do this is by improving employee retention, which ensures you’re not caught unprepared with a sudden vacancy.
So make an effort to keep your current accounting and finance team members happy and satisfied. Work with employees to map out a personalized career path, and promote a positive corporate culture through volunteerism, company outings, an employee appreciation program and the occasional free lunch. Offer flextime and remote work options, even one or two days a week, and your staff — especially working moms and dads — will appreciate your firm’s dedication to work-life balance.
Knowing how to hire accounting and finance professionals is key to running a business of any size. However, having an effective recruiting strategy is even more critical for small businesses; you can’t afford to misstep and make a costly bad hire. Use the tips above to jump-start your small business hiring efforts, and you’ll be able to successfully compete with the bigger players.