Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

Cover Letters

“A well-written cover letter can be the difference between winning or losing a job opportunity.” – Larry Sheftel, Aprio

It is always great to be featured in The Journal of Accountancy. Thank you to Teri Saylor for contacting me to discuss the power, lack of power, and use of cover letters for resumes.

Do you expect a cover letter when someone submits a resume? Do you even care? Some beneficial information can be obtained from someone who writes an exceptional cover letter if the hiring manager at your firm actually reads it.

I believe that cover letters have almost become a thing of the past. Everyone seems to be in a hurry these days and do not think of including a cover letter. Those doing the hiring are also in a hurry too and don’t even read a cover letter if it is included.

I asked one of my clients if they always expect a cover letter with a resume. He said yes because they ask in the ad, “submit your resume and cover letter to…. ” They don’t care about the cover letter but they just want to see how many people follow instructions!

I hope you take the time to read the article. It was also nice to be featured along with my friend, Larry Sheftel of Aprio (pictured).

  • In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you.
  • Warren Buffett

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

Are You Hiring? Maybe Paro Is The Answer.

“We wanted to create a platform where freelancers could connect with the right client.” – Chad Taylor, Paro

The question in the title is really a stupid question. Every firm I talk to is looking for qualified people to help the firm provide exceptional client service. Some firms are so desperate that they are considering outplacing some clients. That probably needed to be done anyway, but considering not to take on new clients could be a disaster in the making.

So, how will you get through the 2022 busy season? Some firms have turned to Paro to obtain experienced tax and accounting skills. I have talked to clients who use Paro and they were very pleased.

I talked with Chad Taylor of Paro to get a better understanding of how they work. Here is the landing page for Paro For CPA Firms. Paro is a talent marketplace for US-based accounting professionals (freelancers). I learned that not just anyone can join their network – – they have to be vetted. They do test projects and they accept about 3 to 4% of those who apply. If you are matched with a person, you get to meet them and interview them before making a decision. They already have an onboarding process so that they can make sure it is a successful bridge between the firm and the freelancer.

Paro might not be the answer for you but it is worth exploring.

Following is information from their promo material:

The CPA Firm Solution to Staffing Capacity Challenges

What Paro Delivers

  • Highly vetted tax preparers, tax reviewers, accountants & auditors
  • Qualified experts with the precise skills, technical experience & credentials you need
  • Candidate matching in as little as 24 hours, driven by AI technology
  • Account management support to ensure successful project outcomes
  • Comprehensive guides & checklists for onboarding remote contractors

What Your Firm Will Gain

  • Flexible, convenient subject matter expertise to relieve workload compression
  • Seamless onboarding thanks to perfect-fit matching for your needs
  • Highly efficient support from public accounting experts
  • Cost savings compared to underutilized full-time staff
  • Pioneer the future of accounting via remote staff augmentation

  • I really believe that everyone has a talent, ability, or skill that he can mine to support himself and to succeed in life.
  • Dean Koontz

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

Starting Salaries

“When it comes to landing a good job, many people focus on the role. Although finding the right title, position, and salary is important, there’s another consideration that matters just as much: culture.” – Adam Grant

In my local newspaper today, I read a brief article that should make you think about raising starting salaries and not forgetting about the other perks.

An excerpt:

“Hardly a day goes by without a big bank announcing a significant rise in starting salaries for its youngest employees. JPMorgan Chase Citigroup, UBS, and Morgan Stanley are now paying first-year bankers $100,000, while Evercore, Jefferies, and Goldman Sachs will pay $110,000. In most cases, first-year salaries were $85,000-$95,000.”

I have observed that many accounting firms have not significantly increased their starting salaries over the last ten years! Of course, it depends on the size of your firm and on your location. But, boundaryless recruiting is changing all of that. Big firms are “raiding” the midwest and offering big city salaries without the person living in a big city.

What are you going to do about starting salaries? The old dilemma then arises. You have three-year staff making less than beginning staff. Other perks are also very important.

Here’s a link to the NYT article. Your partner group needs to discuss and identify how to address this challenge.

  • If you want to be a generous giver, you have to watch out for selfish takers.
  • Adam Grant

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Plant Seeds Early

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

The AICPA is encouraging all of us working in the profession to urge high school students to consider becoming a CPA. I have advised practitioners to do that for many years. Practitioners need to not only give presentations to college students but also to high school students. Speak to them about the awesome opportunities when you become a CPA. Many famous people have accounting/finance in their backgrounds, as do many CEOs.

Here’s a recent quote from Barry Melancon:

“Because today’s high school students have spent more time with their parents and experienced more uncertainty, they’ll be making career decisions earlier. The profession’s pipeline efforts must move into every high school in the country.” – Barry Melancon

There is only one thing wrong with this activity. I believe that you need to go into middle schools and even elementary schools.

If you Google “encouraging kids to be architects” or “encouraging kids to be engineers” you will see many books for kids on the topic. Do the same for accountants and you won’t see near as many kids’ books.

If you want to continue to have very talented people in the accountant pipeline you better get busy this fall and speak to elementary, middle, and high school students. Maybe you should write a book for kids!

  • You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.
  • Zig Ziglar

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hiring Remote Workers – Flashback Friday

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

So many CPA firms are looking for experienced team members. This group has always been elusive and continues to be so.

My advice has always been you must grow your own. Hire them out of college (from a pool of interns you have used) and invest significantly in their training and development. As they become experienced, ask them to stretch and take on more difficult work. Don’t let your current managers cling to work.

Here’s a flashback post – Be Open-Minded About Hiring Remote Workers. It references an HBR article that you should read.

  • Every business is having to transform today, no matter the size, it’s up to us to transform to meet those expectations.
  • Barry Melancon

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Interviewing Experienced Candidates

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world…but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney

It’s Friday again… already! It is time for a Flashback Post. This one is from January 2018.

Click here.

  • Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions and a healthy dose of curiosity. What do you think is the most important factor when building your team? For us, it’s personality.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Upcoming Webinar

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.” – Katherine Whitehorn

Save the date! – – Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Guy Gage and I will be presenting an informative webinar for The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). Here’s the scoop:

Interview to Hire the Best Candidates

Date: Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Time: 03:00 PM EST / 02:00 PM CST / 01:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST
Presenter(s): Guy Gage, III LPC and Rita A. Keller
Objective: In this 60 minute MAPCast on how to interview to hire the best candidates, participants will learn:

• The three common mistakes that interviewers make;
• Questioning techniques that uncover what you want to know; and
• Examples of situations that demonstrate interview proficiency.
Field of Study: Personnel/Human Resources
Program Level: Basic
CPE Credit: 1 Credit Hour

No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.

Click here for the course description.

Click here to register.

  • Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire.
  • Dan Zevin

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Hard Work

“A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  – Colin Powell

As part of the CPAFMA Strategy Leadership & Growth Accelerator Session yesterday, I was asked to talk for just 10  minutes about TALENT. Because I am again speaking today on TALENT, I decided to approach it from a different angle for the Strategy session  If you want to hear more of the nitty-gritty about hiring, interviewing, and retaining employees, please tune in today when I will be part of the Talent & People Accelerator.

We hear Talent talked about so much in the CPA profession. Let’s explore what we really mean by the word “Talent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, when larger firms were shedding people (mostly poor performers), I anticipated that more qualified people would be in the job market and firms below the Top 100 might attract some people who were experienced and capable.

What I am seeing is that didn’t happen. All of my clients and other firms in my sphere tell me that they are trying (several, almost desperately) to find more people with the skills and desire to work and succeed in public accounting.

Recently, I listened to a Ted talk by Suzanne Lucas @realevilhrlady. She writes and advises on HR topics. The subject of her Ted talk was FORGET TALENT AND GET TO WORK. I agree with her viewpoint on this and feel like it is an issue in the CPA profession. It is only 8 minutes long, you should listen to it.

She talked about Talent and the use of the word in hiring. Sometimes the words we use distort our intentions. We don’t talk about people anymore. We talk about Talent. Look at the titles of many of the webinars you have attended and articles you have read!  We talk about talent management and talent assessment and we moan about talent shortages.

For example, here are some titles of articles in CPA publications:

  • The Accounting Profession: Talents that Matter
  • How to Motivate & Retain Your Talent (JofA)
  • How to Win the Game of Talent (JofA)
  • Where Should You be Looking for Top Talent (AT)
  • I have spoken and written on the topic of Hiring and Retaining Top Talent numerous times!

We seem to think that talent is something you are born with. That a 4.0 GPA means you have talent. In our world, what talent means is you have the above-average ability to master accounting firm work very rapidly.

The definition of the word is: A special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude. b : general intelligence or mental power : ability. 2 : the natural endowments of a person. 

If we believe that music requires talent and that we could never do it – we are wrong. We probably could.

People that made a true impact in the world did it through hard work. Yes, Mozart composed his first piece of music at age 5, and, yes he was talented. Lin-Manuel Miranda says it took him about seven years to write Hamilton. It took him one year alone to write the second song in the show, “My Shot.” He did it through hard work and dedication.

What we really seek are people who are trainable and can develop skills. Skill is something you gain through hard work and dedication.

Could I learn to paint or learn to play the piano? Of course. I don’t have natural talent but I could do it through a lot of hard work.

I never did the hard work to be able to run a marathon – I could have but I preferred ice cream and long leisurely walks.

When we are hiring, we need to ask, “Can this person learn what we have to teach?” Does she have the determination to learn hard things? We all know that fresh college accounting graduates can’t do the work in public accounting right away but do they have the grit to learn? Have they worked hard in the past? Have they failed and then succeeded?

I have heard many, many very successful CPA partners say “I certainly didn’t have a 4.0 GPA.” The average student (not considered top talent) has often become an expert and a very highly-compensated CPA firm partner.

Just about anybody can learn just about anything if they are willing to work hard.

Google asked what makes great employees and perfect grades were not at the top of the list. What was? Listening, critical thinking and problem solving.

It isn’t all about being endowed with natural talent, it is about the hard work of building skills.

CPA firms should be more willing to make significant investments in quality training & development. If more focus was put on training/development you might find that you have more productive and skilled people working at your firm, formerly considered average performers. I still hear horror stories about new hires more or less being thrown to the wolves, so to speak.

Many years ago, I began to talk about team members rather than using the words staff or employees. I thought if we used the word TEAM enough we might actually become one. Why not put more focus on seeking team members who are willing to work hard and develop the skills necessary to be CPA and not stress the word TALENT so much?

I still believe that it takes grit and perseverance to become successful in the public accounting world. Look for people who have demonstrated passion and dedication followed by hard work to build skills. They will succeed.

  • Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.
  • David Ogilvy, advertising business tycoon

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Accounting Graduates

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy

There are reports that tell us that the number of accounting graduates being hired is steadily declining. Yet, many firms are still saying that they need people.

In some firms, the “need people” has come to mean they need more non-accounting graduates, such as people with more advanced technology skills.

Per Todd Shapiro, CEO of the Illinois CPA society says, in an article via Accounting today: “Hiring of accounting graduates is down 30 percent. That’s a massive decline in hiring of accounting graduates by CPA firms. This isn’t companies that traditionally haven’t hired accounting graduates that aren’t CPAs. These are accounting firms.”

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

Shapiro notes that firms are hiring more non-accounting graduates. It only makes sense to me that accounting students need to be sure that they have more advanced technology skills than at any time in the past.

If you didn’t read the article by Michael Cohn (via Accounting Today), you should.

  • You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world…but it requires people to make the dream a reality.
  • Walt Disney

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Establish a Scholarship for Accounting Students

“If anything is going to change in accounting education, it’s going to have to come from practitioners.” – Jason Ackerman, CPA

For the long-term, public accounting firms still need to attract top talent. I have heard all kinds of stories about some firms cutting back on hiring and even laying-off or furloughing people. Sadly, some firms admit that they have used the need to tighten their belts to get rid of poor performers.

One great way to attract talented accounting students to your firm is to sponsor a scholarship program. If your firm hasn’t established one yet, here are some tips from Jason Ackerman of BNA CPAs & Advisors in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I have admired how Jason and Bernie Ackerman continually search for ways to improve their firm since I met them many years ago at an AICPA conference.

Here’s how BNA’s scholarship program works.

To qualify as a BNA scholar, students must want to have an internship and want to become CPAs. During the fall semester, the firm will interview students who are interested; the students selected will receive an internship for the following semester, during tax season. The students will be paid like normal interns; after the internship, if both the firm and the students want to continue, they will receive additional scholarships in the amount of $10,000 per student per year to help pay for CPA exam fees, CPA exam review courses, and college as a whole. In return, the students must agree to pass the CPA exam before graduating and to work for BNA for three years postgraduation.

Read Jason’s entire article, Creating a CPA Scholarship Program, via The CPA Journal.

  • A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.
  • Bruce Lee