How to build an effective recruitment process for your small accountancy firm

Congratulations, you have a vacancy in your firm. You're either growing your firm, or you've got a chance to reshape it slightly. (Perhaps not what you were thinking when your team member handed in their notice!)

With the lack of decent qualified or part qualified accountancy talent out there at the moment, it's not easy to find good people. Oh, and if you want someone with deep and extensive cloud expertise you are looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack!

Given the market conditions at the moment, you could be forgiven for lowering your standards on who you will accept for the role. You want the best person for the job, not the best person that hears about your vacancy, or just anybody.

If you are like our club members, you don't want to spend ages recruiting and you don't want to pay for a recruitment agency (I've never met a small accountancy firm owner who happily paid for a recruitment agency)! If you are going to avoid using recruiters and get someone in quickly, you need a good recruitment process to help you get the best candidate. Here are some thoughts on how to find a great new team member quickly without using a recruitment consultant.


How to find employees - the critical step

Let's assume you can't see into your crystal ball or you'd buy winning lottery tickets, not run a small accountancy practice. You don't know who will be the best candidate; you can only make sensible assumptions and rule out ones that are unlikely to be right. The recruitment process is about stacking the odds in your favour, not a guarantee of perfection.

Let's be honest, you don't really know what your firm will be like in three years, so you're looking for the best person to fit something that might change!

So, the important point in your recruitment strategy is to think about your requirements:

  • Roles they will be doing
  • Roles they might be doing in the future
  • Qualifications you need and those that might be nice
  • Skills they must have (and those that would be useful).
  • How they'll fit in the team. What sort of personality would be best?
  • Attitudes you want.
  • Anything else?

Don't just find employees to replace those that left; think about your firm, the structure and what roles you need them to do now and moving forward.

The biggest mistake most employers make

A recruitment process where you don't define the best person, don't find enough people and don't test for what you need is the most common recruitment strategy; it's called gut feel and hope. It ends in tears!

Behind that is the big problem in many small professional firms; not considering recruitment until you have passed the point of needing the new person! Even if you don't need anybody for a few months, you can still network for good potentials. A good recruitment strategy is like marketing.

What goes into a good recruitment process?

  1. Definition of what you need, considering what you know about how things might change and the skills in your firm already. You can call this a personal specification and a job description if you like, but it's a definition of your needs.
  2. Finding a large number of potential candidates. The days of a "job centre advert" have long gone, if they ever existed. Are you using all the channels available to you?
  3. Screen out the immediate rejections. A common method for this is important, and could you involve your team here.
  4. Telephone (or Skype) interviews. Short fact-finding discussions can help you make the shortlist shorter, without wasting too much time. You're not looking to find the perfect person, just find the most suitable to investigate more.
  5. Tests. What skills do you need, that you should test for? Qualifications and certificates only show they made the grade at some time in the past! Desktop exercises, a short accounting exercise, a quick review of two sets of accounts – what would be appropriate? There are normally ways to test for the skills you seek. Do test all the candidates. You might be able to involve your team here, saving your time. The more your team are involved, the more they're likely to work with and support the new member of staff.
  6. Social Media. It's said that people are less likely to lie on their LinkedIn profile than their CV, and it's also public information. Do you check Social Media?
  7. Competency-based interviews. A series of questions aimed at finding out what they have done in the past, increase your ability to compare candidates and decrease the dreaded "gut feel".
  8. References. No, you won't find out all their skeletons in the cupboard of their last employer – but you have increased the chances that they are who they said they are!

One tip for your recruitment process

Get back to them as soon as possible after each stage! The worst thing in the world is to find somebody good, who goes elsewhere as you didn't respond in the time they expected.

What other stages could you add, or have you used in the past? Are there other ways you could involve your team?

Ready to kick-start the growth of your firm?