In Pursuit of Profit
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Similarly, the recruiters at The ASP Team follow a process to help their clients find the right candidate who fits with their available accounting and finance position and culture – a work match!
The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) publishes an annual report detailing accounting program enrollment and graduate hiring trends. In their most recent report, they provided data on a problem that the accounting industry has been facing for the last decade. The problem is that fewer people are choosing accounting as a career. Our conversations with colleagues have yielded the same kind of feedback. It seems that fewer people (even those majoring in accounting) are going into accounting these days upon graduation. The AICPA backs this observation with data showing that from 2019-2020 the number of accounting graduates dropped by 2.8% at the undergraduate level and 8.4% at the graduate level. Furthermore, the hiring of new accounting graduates in 2020 decreased by 10%.
Controller or CFO – Which Do You Need?
At this stage, companies are feeling the limitations of their existing accounting personnel and are evaluating what their next move should be to keep the company moving forward. But knowing whether to hire a Controller or a CFO is a big decision, because, contrary to popular opinion, the roles are distinctly different.
As Kevin Briscoe, the CEO of CFO Selections, explains in nonprofit leadership podcast, “A Controller is ‘walls-in and rear-facing’ and a CFO is ‘walls-out and forward-facing’.” He goes on to explain that a controller analyzes what the company has done already while a CFO evaluates where the company is going next.
Stop Trying to Hire Your Unicorn Candidate! How to Hire Smarter in Accounting and Finance
Why? Well, it is an irrefutable fact that there was a drop in the number of accounting degrees being obtained between 1998 and 2008, which caused a ripple that is still being felt across many organizations. On top of that, the Great Resignation made finding senior-level accounting and finance professionals more difficult because of the surge in career changes and retirements.
But what is more controversial is the possibility that employers themselves may be to blame for the tight hiring market in accounting and finance. Yes, we said it. Those of you in search of a unicorn candidate may be partially to blame for the sentiment that there is no one qualified enough for the role you are looking to fill. Let us explain…
While outsourcing overseas used to just be a cost-saving measure, many accounting firms are now facing labor shortages that are forcing them to take this step out of necessity, not of their own choosing. The Washington Post declared that “The remote revolution could lead to offshoring Armageddon” and though that is likely an exaggeration, it demonstrates how desperate many employers are these days to find personnel to do the work that needs to get done.
CPA firms, large employers, and companies with complicated ongoing financial needs are in a pinch. They need skilled employees to do the work that keeps their businesses running but with a dearth of qualified candidates available, their options are limited. However, offshoring is not the only solution! It is often a far better option to upskill your existing employees to assist with this work than to send it overseas.
Why is this Year being Called “The Year of the Controller” by Accounting Recruiters?
Have you noticed a significant rise in controller job openings these days? We have! In fact, over the last year, we have worked with more companies looking to hire a financial controller than ever before.
But, why? Are controllers resigning en masse, leaving vacant roles in their wake?
No. despite all the publicity around “The Great Resignation,” existing controller jobs are largely not opening up due to turnover. Instead, they are mainly appearing at organizations where controller roles have not previously existed. Since the pandemic there has been an increased need for experienced financial leadership. More organizations are creating financial controller positions to meet these new needs. As a result, accounting recruiters began unofficially calling 2021 “The Year of the Controller” as it drew to a close. And by the time 2022 started, the moniker had stuck, carrying over to this year as well as the recruiting push continued strong.
Let’s look at what is driving this hiring trend, what should be included in a controller role, and how to hire a controller.
As a fan of Star Trek, one thing I like to ponder about is the concept of time dimensions. Can you be in two points of time at the same time? For many people, living in a pandemic has made the sensation of time change. Things have simultaneously seemed like they happened long ago and also only yesterday. And, at one point or another we have all thought, “It seems like it was years since I saw you. Wait, it has been years!” But time has more than just social implications. The concept of time is relevant to you professionally as well, especially as an accounting manager or a member of an accounting team.
To have an effective accounting and finance team, an individual’s time view preference must match their job responsibility. If it is not, your accounting operations may suffer, and your company may experience unnecessary attrition. What do I mean?
“Start with the core of the onion.” This is a mantra I use when talking to hiring managers about who they want for their job opening. This means starting with their most ideal candidate and working through different profiles. Most hiring managers are looking for either the next “up and comer” or someone who is established and has a solid 20 years left in the tank. As we work through candidate profiles, inevitably the recommendation is to always hire the person who can add the most value in the position.
In the world of non-executive accounting and finance recruiting, the ‘core of the onion’ answer is never “I’d love someone who is late in their career.” There is often a stigma attached to late-career candidates that is uneducated at best, and at worst tantamount to ageism. But late-career candidates should be considered equally with all other candidates. Understanding why first starts with thinking about a professional’s career trajectory.
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.
One of the most common questions we hear when talking to prospective clients is “How do I know if I have the right accounting team in place?”
Now, the underlying questions wrapped in this broader question can vary to include things like:
If you are wrestling with these same types of questions, use this guide to determine if you have the right accounting team in place to move your company forward: