Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Interviewing Experienced Candidates

I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”  – Lee Iacocca

When it comes to interviewing potential new hires, I have observed that CPA firms are not very creative. Many firms have the same people do the interviewing whether it is a college recruit or a 10-year experienced person.

Are your interviewers asking the same questions they have asked for 20 years? Do they focus too much on where they went to school (even if it was years ago) and how strong their tax (or audit) technical skills are?

With an experienced person, ask more questions like these from Seth Godin’s recent blog post.

  • What have you built?
  • What have you led?
  • How do you make decisions?
  • How do you act when no one is looking?

For an experienced person, in public accounting, I would add:

  • How many people have you mentored?
  • How would you describe your tolerance for change?
  • Joe has interrupted you six times this morning with questions. What do you say when he interrupts you the seventh time?
  • The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.
  • Steve Jobs

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Do Your New People Look Forward to Reading Your Employee Handbook?

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P. J. O’Rourke

I am sure you have an employee handbook. Well, I guess I’m not that sure. I have worked with two firms lately who did not! Often, smaller firms don’t bother but even a brief, streamlined manual helps guide employees.

Does yours have a very boring title, such as Employee Handbook, Personnel Guide, Staff Manual or something similar? Why not jazz it up a bit and give it a new title? The title could be something like “The Smith & Company Journey” or “The Way We Work”. My favorite is “How We Do It Here”. Afterall, that’s what new people want to know…. how do you do it here? They want to fit in quickly and not make dumb mistakes.

First of all, you must be able to tell your people how your firm does things. It can’t be the all too often reality…… “If you are doing it for Jim, do it this way.” If you are doing it for JoAnne, do it that way.” Partners must agree upon and adhere to how work processes and procedures work at the firm and bend their personal preferences to align with firm standards.

Of course, you need to include your firm’s vision, purpose, and core values. Consider writing it in a more reader-friendly style.

Be creative in how you present it to your new employee. Don’t send them a pdf copy to read. It’s easy now to have booklets bound with an attractive cover then present it to them with a Starbucks gift card tucked inside.

Wouldn’t it be fun to give your handbook a facelift? Give it a try.

  • Reading gives us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are.
  • Mason Cooley

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Make Background Checks Part of the Hiring Process

“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” – Jim Collins

You are working in the CPA profession. You are honest, trustworthy and dependable. You sometimes take it for granted that everyone in the profession or entering the profession is the same.

That’s why so many CPA firms make a background check a routine part of the hiring process. I have observed that CPA firms use a variety of vendors and there are a lot of reputable ones out there.

Here’s a good article about hiring nightmares from Sharlyn Lauby – HR Bartender.

If you need some information about background checking companies to use, contact the CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA).

  • Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can't tell you whether someone will fit into a company's culture.
  • Howard Schulz

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Hiring Retirees

“I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.” – Albert Einstein

I read an article on the WSJ site about PKF O’Connor Davies LLP. It pleased me very much and made so much sense.

They want to hire retirees! If we are in such a talent shortage and many people 65+ are a wealth of knowledge, experience, and passion about their work, why not hire them?

In some firms, 62 is the mandatory retirement age. Others it is 65. People live longer now, they are healthier than generations before them, why not take advantage of their experience?

It doesn’t mean they are a partner the firm, it simply means they are an employee who can bring value to the firm and the clients.

These types of people, at PKF O’Connor, often work only three days per week but they help establish new practice areas, improve training and mentoring and have a wealth of contacts.

I believe that our youthful American culture is pushing some talented, older people aside much too quickly – – but that is a topic for another day!

  • You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100.
  • Woody Allen

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

What Recruiters Are Seeing

“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn, Wynn Las Vegas

I follow Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender). She covers HR topics, of course, but she also writes about general workplace topics.

Sharlyn recently was facilitating a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) seminar and discovered that recruiters wanted to vent. Imagine that! They are frustrated because candidates are not prepared for an interview.

Here are just a few things on their list of things they want to see from candidates. If you are recruiting people for your CPA firm, maybe you can relate to these.

  • Cover letters are not dead. They can serve a purpose.
  • Research the company (firm) – know something about them before you arrive. Simply visit their website.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Be prepared to talk about your future.
  • Ask questions.

Read the entire article here.

  • Time spent on hiring is time well spent.
  • Robert Half

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Searching For A Manager

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

Accounting firms are hiring. That is an under-statement. Most of the firms I work with are almost desperate for an experienced manager. Throughout this year I have heard this statement over and over again, “We really need a tax manager and they are impossible to find.”

Perhaps, someone already working at your firm is the answer. Top talent joins a firm where they believe opportunities for advancement exists. They don’t want to work at entry-level for years, then as a Senior for a few more years. Then, maybe in the partners’ minds they are seasoned enough to become a manager. That is why it is so important that you have documented career paths available.

If your firm is content with status quo and not experiencing impressive growth, top talent won’t join up. To become a manager, the firm has to need a manager.

You don’t need a manager if:

  • Your firm is not dynamic, growing and generating new opportunities.
  • Your firm has a level of managers in place who are not dynamic and growing.
  • Your young people see your current managers as roadblocks

Keep in mind that promotions are no longer based on seniority. So many firms have current managers that were promoted to manager to reward them for longevity and productivity, not because they had proven ability to manage and inspire other people. In many cases, it is the opposite.

So, the next time you need a manager, look inside and ask a top performing senior or supervisor to stretch. They may be tired of waiting and already searching for another job. Bringing in someone unproven over them might be the last straw.

  • The future depends on what you do today.
  • Gandhi

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Moving Past “Engagement”

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” – C. G. Jung

Some progressive companies are now moving beyond the over-worked term, employee engagement.

It’s no longer just about how they feel about their role and your firm. It involves the complete employee experience. Is your firm focused on the employee experience? You can bet that other accounting firms in your market are initiating ways to attract YOUR people!

Per a recent article on Entrepreneur, there are four key pillars to the employee experience:

  1. Connection
  2. Meaning
  3. Impact
  4. Appreciation

To me, these are fairly self-explanatory. However, it would be a good exercise for firm leaders to explore these four topics and define what they mean relating to your firm and your people.

I often think about a slogan from one of the car companies a while back….. “Enjoy the Ride!” Are your people enjoying the ride at your firm?

  • Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Hiring – – It Is More Important Now Than Ever

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Too many CPA firms have not hired right. They might hire for GPA. They might hire for professional demeanor (whatever that means). They might hire for ambition. They might hire because of a gut feeling.

Be sure you are focusing on hiring RIGHT. Be honest with candidates. The CPA profession is challenging, requires hard work and professionalism.

Here’s an excerpt from my newsletter from hireMAX about what Warren Buffet thinks about hiring.

Behind every great leader is a team of dynamic individuals. This is true of Buffett. What were the traits that he looked for as he hired his managers and advisors? Frequently, he speaks at universities and explains that he looks for integrity, intelligence, and energy when hiring.
Obviously, candidates need to be intelligent. However, you can get the grades in class but not know how to apply the information you’ve learned.
Intelligence is the very basic requirement to consider as you hire. No one will work with or hire someone dumb and unequipped for the role. After you have the intelligence factor, then go to the next trait as you seek to hire.
Energy is essential for any new hire. This doesn’t mean that you want the most energetic and coffee-crazed person working for you. Rather, you want an energetic candidate to take initiative in your company.
Lazy people don’t get far in life but those with drive and passion do. Employees that take initiative and are proactive to get things accomplished will most likely have that entrepreneurial spirit that you long for.
The right candidate to hire should be intelligent and energetic. There is one missing and yet very important trait to be considered. Integrity is something that you cannot do without in your employees. They must be trustworthy and it is a trait that they make happen within themselves. You can’t pick your eye color or what you look like but you can decide whether you will live as a person with integrity.
Warren Buffett’s formula for a new hire is extremely useful and easy to follow. You don’t want an intelligent person without integrity because that could cause problems for your organization. Further, you wouldn’t want a lazy person with intelligence because it wouldn’t do you any good if they don’t take initiative.

Look for candidates that have intelligence, energy or initiative, and integrity. You will find that someone with top talent and these traits will be an outstanding addition to your company. Warren Buffett is living proof that hiring with these things in mind is beneficial to companies and teams seeking to grow.

  • Human Resources isn't a thing we do. It's the thing that runs our business.
  • Steve Wynn

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Utilize Stay Interviews

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

I have blogged a few time about the topic of stay interviews. They have gained more wide-spread popularity in recent years, of course, because of the accounting profession’s need to retain top talent.

One interesting observation that has been uncovered with the use of stay interviews is the fact that your people want you to hire great people. They do not want the firm to tolerate poor performers.

It certainly does make sense – they want to be part of a high-performing team. If you keep mediocre people, the firm will also eventually become mediocre.

Inovautus Consulting recently did a spotlight article about the stay interview process at DesRoches & Company, CPAs in Virginia Beach. It is a great story.

  • Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.
  • N. R. Narayana Murthy

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

You Didn’t Act

“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin

How many times have you contemplated the fact that you should have done something but you didn’t?

Maybe it was passing on hiring a new college graduate and several years later that young CPA is already well-known and active in your business community.

Maybe it was procrastinating on buying document management software and then when you finally did it, you realized all the efficiencies you had been missing out on.

Maybe it was not giving enough recognition to that up-and-coming superstar and they suddenly leave to take a job with a competitor.

  • You know you should offer at least one more holiday.
  • You know you should work with your partners to provide enhanced communication inside your firm.
  • You know you should be truly paperless.
  • You know you should offer flexibility and remote connectivity so people can work from anywhere.
  • You know you should hire a consultant to help you with a specific challenge.

You know you should do more of these things, but you don’t know for sure they will work or you don’t yet feel enough pain to act.

As Seth Godin says in a great recent post… “All the good stuff happens when we act even if we don’t know for sure.”

I think I’ll go buy a lottery ticket!


  • Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
  • William James