In this third blog in our series on recruiting, we are going to share best practices for staying on top of your recruiting efforts and tracking your results using an organized, systematic approach. We want you to develop a recruiting process that is ingrained in your firm and happens on a regular basis, even when you don’t have an immediate need for a candidate! We truly believe that the firm that does the best job of building a targeted network of up-and-coming CPAs will win the war for talent.
When speaking to partners and CPA firm leaders, we often hear stories about experienced hire recruiting that sound something like this:
Your firm loses a tax manager, or an audit senior, on November 15th, and human resources is tasked with filling that crucial role by January 1st. The likelihood of finding the right candidate (experience, level, cultural fit) when you are “starting from scratch” in November is very low. From this place, firms often fall into desperate hiring practices which can lead to turnover, or even worse, poor-performers who stay until we performance manage them out of our firms. If desperate hiring doesn’t occur, then no hiring is another possibility, and the rest of the firm’s remaining people shoulder the overflow, which can damage morale.
The story you should tell is one of a “relentless recruiting” firm where you dedicate resources year-round to developing a pool of resources and target candidates. Then, when a need arises, you are halfway there to filling it. As we discussed in our first installment in this series, Finding Success in Recruiting Requires a Change in Philosophy, “relentless recruiters” expand their firm’s web of influence on social media. Their staff members develop a network of relationships, like we shared in our second installment, Six Ideas for Building a Recruiting Community, which can then be tapped for employee referrals, references, or warm ways in to meet candidates.
Here are some “relentless recruiting” strategies to create your pool of target candidates:
- Build a “low-tech” Excel workbook for each discipline (audit, tax, accounting, consulting, etc.) and a tab/page for each level. This database will allow you to track the network of relationships that you and others in your firm are building. I’ve included a screenshot below of our Experienced Hire Target Recruiting Grid, which is one of the many tools we offer in our ConvergenceCoaching Recruiting Toolset. As you first build your list of target candidates, some of the columns may be blank; however, over time as your network grows and begins to bear fruit, you will be ready to fill in additional details like how you know the target, or who will own contact with the target.
- Know of every experienced hire candidate in your area using LinkedIn’s free features and functions. Go to the LinkedIn search box and type, for instance, “Cleveland Tax Manager CPA”. When I type this search into my LinkedIn profile, I receive a whopping 2,114 results! Along the left hand side of the screen are options to narrow the search to CPAs currently living in the Cleveland area (1,549 results), or in the Accounting industry (1,302). In our experience, you can expect about 10% of the results will be qualified candidates – at the right level, with the right experience – to add to your target candidate database.
I recognize 2,114 results is an overwhelming mountain of “resumes” to review, so schedule this as a long-term project and plan to set aside 30 minutes a day to work through the list. Remember that this is proactive work to put your firm in a more strategic hiring position going forward and, while not urgent, is of the utmost importance!
The first time you perform a search you will immediately see the importance of LinkedIn connection count, including both your connections (1st degree) and the connections of the people you are LinkedIn with (2nd degree). 1st and 2nd degree connections offer you a warmer way to contact the target because you or someone you know is related to them. Also the free features of LinkedIn allow you to reach out to 1st and 2nd connections only.
Many firms upgrade to a premium LinkedIn subscription for access to expanded features like candidate tracking, unlimited search profile saves, and the ability to contact anyone, even 3rd degree connections, through LinkedIn InMail.
- Get other target candidates into your database. As your partners and staff members meet other CPAs at CPE learning sessions, events, and association and board meetings, encourage them to bring back business cards of the people they meet and like and then add these individuals to your target database. If someone in the firm admires a CPA in your area (or outside if you offer remote work programs) who blogs on an industry your firm serves, add them to the database. Think of the target database as a dream list of the people you wish worked for your firm and teach your team how to dream big!
Once you have targets in your database, begin to devise ways to reach out to those who look the most promising. If an employee, vendor, alumni, or client is connected to them on LinkedIn, ask them what they know about the target, or how recruitable they might be. You might ask them how they feel about reaching out to the target on the firm’s behalf. As we stated in Six Ideas for Building a Recruiting Community, be sure your employee referral program pays a bonus even if the firm first identifies the candidate.
- Use creative ideas to get close to targets in a non-invasive manner, like following them on social media, introducing yourself to them at CPE learning sessions and local CPA events, or even at recruiting events at your local colleges. Apply those same skills you use to become more related to your clients to increase your relatedness with target CPAs.
We meet so many firms who feel hopeless about their ability to find the right candidates. We hope you will consider the words of the American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard, “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” Become a “relentless recruiter” and bring hope back to your team by proactively finding the people you need today!