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Attract and Retain Accountants Amid a CPA Shortage

Published by Adam Hale on Feb 9, 2024 6:00:00 AM

The accounting world is in the midst of a licensed CPA shortage unlike any we’ve ever experienced. It’s simple: Not enough people are entering the profession and going through the rigors of obtaining a CPA license. The 150-hour license requirement, alongside the difficulty of the licensing exams, are now seen as a roadblock to attracting more licensed accountants. 

There’s some light on the horizon. State legislators in Minnesota, for example, are now entertaining a bill that would lower the 150-hour requirement and introduce alternatives to obtaining credits — including professional experience. Still, in early 2023 the NASBA upheld the 150-hour requirement, taking some steam out of those hoping to reduce friction for licensing. If accounting education doesn’t change to meet the future, the industry will face serious challenges. 

With any luck, by the time you’ve hit this blog post the seas have changed. If they haven’t, then you’re in the same boat as almost every other CPA firm around: struggling to find talented, trained, and licensed accountants. The time to get creative with your accountant hiring strategies is now. Here, you’ll find a few strategies that can help you attract and retain accountants at your firm. 

Go on the Offensive and Source Talent

Attract and Retain Accountants Amid a CPA Shortage

Start with the premise that the talent you want isn’t just going to waltz right in the door and ask for a job. The accountant crisis is such that finding the right people will require you to get active and spend time, effort, and financial resources on recruitment. 

There are multiple ways you can get savvy about this: 

Stay Active on Social Media and LinkedIn 

With this type of employer-employee dynamic, top talent can afford to be choosy. They also have the time and patience to fully vet potential employers. Your social media presence (or lack thereof) will be a factor in whether potential hires decide to reply to your accountant recruiting attempts. Are you actively posting thought leadership on social media? Are you actively posting about your positive company culture and excellent work-life balance? 

(For tips on how to use your existing content to create a content windmill, check out this webinar.) 

Alternatively, how deeply do potential hires have to dig to figure out that information? If it looks like you’re actively avoiding talking about culture and work-life balance, potential hires will assume you’re avoiding the conversation because that landscape is not a good one at your company. 

You want a firm where people are actively engaged. If potential hires think everyone in your firm is quiet quitting, that’s going to be a nonstarter. 

Create a public presence that reflects the culture you have, or the one that you’re actively building. It will go a long way toward getting better candidates in the door.

Attend and Network at Industry Events and Conferences 

Attending events has never been more important from a recruiting standpoint. These events are a great place to find talent. Importantly, make sure that you have all of the materials you may need ready to make an effective pitch to candidates. This can include, but is not limited to: 

  • Business cards

  • A physical brochure about your firm and a digital landing page on your website designed specifically for job candidates

  • Prepared answers to common questions about your firm and the opportunities you have available 

Additionally, make sure that you follow up with potential candidates soon after the event is over. If you have a physical office, invite them in for a visit. Flying out candidates is exceptionally common in several industries, even for entry-level positions. Tech, finance, law, economics, and consulting firms often foot the bill to bring candidates in for interviews, networking, and dinners.

Partner with Colleges and Universities to Recruit 

The Big 4 accounting firms (Price Waterhouse Cooper, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG) have been doing this for decades. It’s almost an open secret that these firms almost exclusively recruit and hire from a select few colleges, and mostly only top-ranking schools. 

For a smaller accounting firm, that presents an opportunity. There are plenty of excellent students at schools that these colleges and universities tend to ignore. Many accounting students would love to get the same recruitment experience that their peers at higher-ranked universities enjoy. 

Seek out schools with established accounting majors to form partnerships. Attend their job fairs, and then treat it like you would the industry events and conferences. Making a great impression on younger talent can give you an advantage in the accountant recruitment process. 

Invest More in Training, Salaries, and Perks 

The 150-hour licensing requirement is just one of several roadblocks leading to troubling times in the accounting industry. Generally, there’s a larger demand for CPAs than ever. A combination of fewer CPAs and more demand has led to a flashpoint that caught the industry off guard. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t still make big wins in this tough job market and find great talent. Focus on what potential and current employees need and want most. That includes: 

  • Boosting pay (we’re accountants, so we all understand the basics of supply and demand)

  • More actively supporting and guaranteeing a better work-life balance and crazy ideas, like a 4-day work week

  • Offering training and support for junior accounts who need to get licensed 

That last point is critical. Many individuals who don’t have accounting degrees may be potentially great accountants, but have never considered the profession before. If you can get to them early in their career and help them not only see the value in the profession, but also smooth the process for them as much as possible, you’ll create a stronger pipeline for talent. 

Check out our Hiring Guide to get a better idea about how we’ve had success at hiring for a virtual account firm.



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