Recruiting top talent when the unemployment rate is so low

Steve Saah, Executive Director – Robert Half Finance & Accounting

September 28, 2018

group of young people sitting

If you’ve tried to recruit experienced accounting and tax staff recently, you know firsthand just how competitive the current hiring environment is. And the situation is not going to ease up anytime soon.

Employers across the United States are eager to fill almost all roles in finance, accounting and tax. Tax reform is driving some of the recruitment activity. The following positions are in especially high demand:

  • Accounting manager
  • Controller
  • Financial analyst
  • Internal auditor
  • Payroll manager
  • Senior accountant
  • Staff accountant

When the talent pool contains a limited number of skilled workers, firms need to employ savvy strategies to attract the employees they need. Here are four tips to make sure recruitment doesn’t become an obstacle to business success.

1.    Move faster on hiring decisions

Nimble employers have an advantage over the competition. With an extremely low unemployment rate in the finance and accounting fields, employers who wait aren’t going to land the best hires.

About half of the workers who responded to a Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey said two weeks is too long an interval between the initial interview and the job offer. With so many other tempting positions out there, applicants are likely to lose interest in your company and pursue other possibilities when the hiring process takes too long.

See where you can accelerate your timeline. Perhaps allot only one week to interviewing applicants rather than spreading out the process. Then get back to your top picks as soon as possible. If you aren’t quite ready to decide, keep the lines of communication open so they know they’re still in the running. Recognize that your top choices may get away if you draw out the process, regardless of this communication.

2.    Benchmark salaries

A primary tool for attracting new hires in your position is to offer competitive salaries. The salaries you have in mind for top candidates may have to be bumped up, but by how much? Consult a trusted resource like Robert Half’s 2019 Accounting and Finance Salary Guide, which has data for key roles in public accounting, corporate accounting, financial services and healthcare. The starting salary ranges are broken down by percentiles, which are based on the level of skills and experience, the complexity of the role and the competition for talent. To customize the results for your city, take advantage of the easy-to-use salary calculator.

Don’t risk having highly skilled financial professionals pick another job offer over yours because you were out of touch with the salaries top performers expect — and often get.

3.    Leverage your benefits and culture

Salary may be king but, let’s face it, it’s not always possible for accounting firms, especially smaller ones, to compete on salary. That’s when your basket of benefits and perks can help. A generous vacation policy, coupled with flexible scheduling and minimal travel, may convince top candidates to join your team. Accounting and finance professionals, especially millennials, appreciate an organizational culture that features respect for their work-life balance and allows them to pursue their personal interests.

4.    Look to the technological future

Despite the fears that automation will be a job killer, digital transformation initiatives such as business automation and artificial intelligence are more often driving a need to increase — rather than decrease — staff. Now is the time to prioritize advanced technological proficiency when hiring. 

It’s not getting any easier to hire the skilled accounting and tax professionals you need for your business. Consider adopting the latest hiring strategies, and you’ll make the process a lot smoother.


Steve Saah is the executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. He is responsible for leading worldwide operations and based in the company’s Washington, D.C., office. Steve has been with the company since 1998 and was previously an assistant controller and internal auditor. For more information about Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half, visit www.roberthalf.com.