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  • How to Hire an Accountant When You Can’t Find the Right Person

    Feb 24, 2022

    IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses. The following blog article has been provided by Eric Moore of Accounting Solution Partners (www.asp-nw.com):

    How to Hire an Accountant When You Can’t Find the Right Person

    This is a common story we hear: “We’ve been searching for an accountant for months and just can’t find anyone!”

    Clients that come to us with this story are usually weary and desperate for help in finding the right candidate for the specifics of their role. Often times work has been piling up and employee morale is down as other staff tries to cover the gaps. It is at this point that hiring managers begin to wonder if they should settle for less than what they were looking for, using the old “someone is better than no one” rationale. However, under-hiring for a role is often more costly than continued hiring delays.

    So, if your recruiting efforts to find a new accountant, accounting manager, or controller have fallen flat, do not despair. Our experts have teamed up to provide you with some of our best tips for hiring an accountant (the right accountant) for your company!

    Reevaluate Requirements

    Sometimes when there seems to be a dearth of qualified candidates for a role, the problem is not the pool of applicants. Instead, the problem is the job listing itself.

    When writing the job description and screening candidates focus on the “need to have” credentials instead of their “nice to have” counterparts. For instance, one of the biggest mistakes we see is when companies list their accounting position with experience requirements that include a CPA license. Quinn Finnigan explains why you might not need a CPA when he says:

    There are many reasons a company may want a CPA. Knowing that your new accountant has their license provides a certain level of general assurance about their credibility and know-how. This can help a company seeking to operate without much oversight of their accountant and, therefore, they’re able to trust that their hire knows what they are doing in a hands-off environment. Also, external stakeholders like banks, PE firms, or VC firms may want assurance that the person handling a company’s books is credible. This is a valid reason to seek a CPA, but certainly not the only way to assure a candidate’s credibility… Most companies need an accountant who possesses a deep knowledge of the specific accounting intricacies of their industry… However, this may not be a CPA. It is a myth that CPAs automatically come with higher levels of industry-specific knowledge… In this case, a company is better off focusing on finding a candidate with deep industry accounting experience than focusing on a CPA license as a required qualification.

    Decide what you truly need and what you can do without and then modify the job description for the role to reflect that maturity. If you are struggling with how to revise the job description, using a recruiting firm instead of conducting the search in-house can provide the expertise and impartiality needed to weed out unnecessary requirements. You may find that these kinds of tweaks solve your hiring problems by opening up the available applicant pool.

    Change the Offer

    If the requirements for the role are well-articulated and solidly aligned with your needs, the problem may not be with the bait, it may be with the hook.
    Remember, the offer is every bit as important as the requirements and responsibilities of the role. Compensation, benefits, work flexibility, and opportunities for advancement all combine to influence a job seeker’s decision.

    Unfortunately, the easiest component of an offer to change is typically management’s least favorite to acquiesce on – the salary. If you are having trouble bringing in the right kind of talent, you may need to reconsider your budget.

    In instances where there is not room in the budget to allocate additional funds for the role, you will need to get more creative. In the case of a higher-level accounting role, like that of a controller or senior accounting manager, you may need to split the role to afford the accounting muscle you need. For staff accountants, offering better perks and prioritizing a healthy work-life balance through things like flexible work schedules and remote/hybrid work arrangements can bridge the gap between a candidate’s expected salary and what you can offer.

    Hire an Interim Accountant

    External factors can affect the hiring market in ways that companies have no control over and cannot remedy themselves. When external factors are complicating your hiring efforts, shrewd business managers bring interim hires in to fill their open roles temporarily. These short-term hires plug the gaps until the long-term solution they are looking for comes to fruition.

    Think about it, when your window breaks, do you just leave the sharp glass sticking out of the hole and make your peace with the mess until a top-rated glass company can come out to fix it? Or do you have someone come and clean up the mess and board up the window until a replacement pane can be located and installed?

    Sure, an interim hire does not exempt you from having to keep searching for a longer-term hire, but it does ensure that your company’s most critical accounting functions will be maintained effectively while you look. And the benefits of not letting the work pile up to dump on a new hire are innumerable because when you finally find someone, you will want that person to be able to hit the ground running, not have to dig themselves out of a mountain of backlogged work.

    Outsource the Work

    If none of these tactics work, it may be time to contemplate whether you need a full-time, in-house hire at all. Instead, maybe an outsourced accounting solution would fit your needs.

    In our experience business owners tend to shy away from outsourcing even when there is a strong business case to be made for doing so because they like to retain control. But, if you are having difficulty finding the right person for your accounting role on an ongoing basis, why not try outsourcing your accounting activities? Like any other service, you can always cancel if the offering does not meet your expectations or fit your needs. If you are open to the idea of hiring an interim accountant, a fractional accountant should not be scary.

    Sure, fractional accountants provide part-time accounting help for companies that need seasonal, project, or interim work. However, they also provide a la carte accounting help for as much or as little time as you need without the added compensation costs of a regular employee like payroll taxes, health insurance, or retirement contributions. For this reason, outsourcing your accounting is often a more viable solution for time-pressed or cash-strapped organizations.

    When you are ready to hire an interim accountant to hold you over while you continue searching for the perfect full-time candidate or would be open to the idea of outsourced accounting services, contact us! We specialize in placing accounting and finance professionals into fractional roles for a variety of reasons, including hiring delays.

    If you have questions relating to the content of this article, Eric Moore of Accounting Solutions Partners would welcome the opportunity to answer them.  Mr. Moore can be reached at (425) 492-1901 or moore@asp-nw.com.

    IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.

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