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What are the best innovations in recruiting entry-level talent at the top 100 accounting firms?

Can the best tax and accounting firms beat the odds and recruit quality entry-level professionals during this tight job market? Some leading talents think so.

The accounting profession was ranked 75th among the top 100 jobs in a recent survey, which was not likely to be seen as good news by tax and accounting firms looking for new talent.

And while the industry currently has an unemployment rate below 2%, many accounting students have interrupted their studies during the pandemic, which has delayed entry into the profession by a year. On top of that, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy reported an 18% lessen the number of CPA sections that were processed in fiscal year 2020, indicating a backlog in accounting student participation in the exam.

In the short term, competition for entry-level accounting talent will likely increase, and this adds to an already tight job market. The American Institute of CPAs, which represents two-thirds of individual CPAs in the United States, estimated that 75% of its approximately 450,000 members became eligible for retirement in 2020.

All of this means accounting employers will need to be creative in how they attract entry-level talent, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. Indeed, this has become more important as client priorities escalate around diverse talent working on their assignments and broader environmental, social and corporate governance issues.

Recruitment of junior professionals

We sat down with some of the most creative leaders in the Top 100 accounting and professional services firms to discuss how they’re appealing to entry-level professionals, especially as the world of hybrid and virtual work grows. Their innovative tactics include:

Leading with Goal-Based Recruiting — Global consultancy Kearney approaches its conversations with entry-level candidates by keeping an eye on the goal and establishing a visceral connection with candidates early in the recruitment process. Stephen Parker, Kearney’s human resources director, started using this strategy before the pandemic and doubled down in 2020 when virtual recruiting became the only option.

Parker describes how the firm helps candidates think through for themselves what it is about the work they do that matters both professionally and personally to them. This practice helps candidates find meaning in their work, Parker says, adding that it also allows the company to see how it can deliver and what it expects from candidates.

This innovation has proven successful in the company’s efforts to recruit diverse candidates, especially when combined with the company’s investment in long-term relationships with on-campus expert groups. , societies and forums in which potential graduates from underrepresented backgrounds come together.

Leveraging Technology to Extend Reach to Graduates – Tax consultancy CohnReznick has used the pandemic-driven recruit-from-anywhere opportunity to leverage its technology to expand the way it identifies candidates. Imad Khoury, the company’s national director of talent acquisition, has started using the Handshake technology platform – which he describes as “a LinkedIn for students” – to expand the company’s reach from 100 schools before the pandemic to 2,700 in the past two years. .

Because geographic barriers no longer exist, “we understand the values ​​of looking at talent from the perspective of skills, expertise and background, no matter where they are based, to come join our family,” says Khoury. .

The results have been amazing from a diversity perspective, both geographically and demographically, he says. Using technology, Khoury’s talent acquisition team was able to reflect candidate diversity in all the ways the company wanted, allowing CohnReznick to more intentionally identify early-career talent, especially in historically Hispanic and black institutions. As a result, the firm hired nearly 100 more graduates than the previous year and increased the diversity of its latest class of 2021 by more than 10%.

Use a multilateral retention strategy from day one — Aronson LLC, wanting to deepen the authentic connection with its new hires from day one, prioritized a multi-pronged relationship-building approach to onboarding its new hires. Dawn Bailey, director of operations and people engagement at the firm, explains how Aronson ensures that every employee feels a warm welcome and a continued sense of belonging from the start of their tenure with the firm. This is achieved through a rigorous registration strategy of one-on-one meetings with management, a mentor for new employees, a human resources representative and an individual career advisor.

“Re-recruit” existing employees permanently – CohnReznick also takes steps to ensure its employees feel connected to multiple communities simultaneously within the company through community building activities with their immediate peers and managers, industry practice groups , lines of business, employee resource groups, among others.

Clearly, the way tax and accounting firms today recruit entry-level talent has changed dramatically from previous years, due to the pandemic, new technologies and the current labor shortage. .

Jonathan Kearney, senior audit manager at CohnReznick, perhaps best described what accounting employers are trying to achieve with all of their current efforts to recruit and retain accounting talent, saying of his own firm that he has “never worked in such a passionate organization. to ensure that all of my authentic self can be successful and recognized, and what that does for me as a manager is that it pushes me to be more passionate about conveying that to the people I work with, that I support and grow.

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