Attracting and Recruiting a New Generation of Accountants

In order to continue the long-term success of an accounting practice, it’s crucial for CPAs to invest in the screening, interviewing and relationship development with up and coming accounting professionals. As the class of 2014 just received their diplomas, there is a host of fresh talent equipped with technology experience, new ideas and the drive to take your firm into the future. The key is meeting these fresh accountants early in their college career to make hiring an easy decision. In order to attract and retain top talent here are a few things to consider when recruiting.

It’s well documented that millenials are bringing new life to the workforce. With cloud technologies and anytime, anywhere mobile capabilities, flexible schedules and casual atmospheres, the professional work environment has drastically changed, and accounting practices must keep up with the movement to stay attractive to young recruits. Now’s the time to embrace the change and allow your practice to evolve with the new generation so your firm won’t suffer from a lack of innovation and not attract top candidates.


Hire the Right People

With thousands of college graduates seeking employment in accounting, its critical to select the right individuals to join your firm—after all, they may potentially be leading your practice one day. Through my previous experience as an adjunct accounting professor, I quickly realized accounting students are much different today than when we went to school. They work and think differently and have very different expectations of quality of life when starting out in their careers. It is important to know how to identify those characteristics in students that may make successful accountants one day for your firm, even if it comes off differently than you expect. It all comes down to two key factors: work ethic and technology prowess.

  • Work Ethic: An individual with previous experience in the industry outside of the required course-load signifies a strong, positive work ethic that will likely follow suit throughout their career. Look for students who were actively involved in their school’s accounting fraternity or held a few related internships while in school. This experience may not be with a firm or corporation – they may have taken the steps to start their own businesses while in school. Not only does this reflect diligence and determination, but it also displays that they can be a self-starter.
  • Technology Background: One primary benefit of hiring younger professionals is their experience with technology. These students have been surrounded by evolving technology throughout their entire lives and immerse themselves in new tools on a daily basis. It’s incredibly important to find a technologically adept candidate. They should have an interest in tech, are open to learning or personally use cloud apps and willing to bring that experience into the firm.

During the interview process, ask what types of cloud, social or mobile technology they used in school or how they were able to promote social events. It’s inevitable that recent graduates have experience with cloud-based software through common services like Google Docs, Dropbox, Skype, and all sorts of apps. Those that can articulate cloud benefits will be inclined to have a better understanding of the technology as well as key knowledge on how to best take advantage of these tools for efficiency and collaboration with your clients.


Create a New Experience

Remember, you are not the only one deciding whether the young accountant is a fit. They are deciding the same about you and your firm. In order to effectively appeal to this generation, you must move past the ideals of what an accounting office was like 10, 15, 20 years ago. Young professionals desire to be part of an experience, not just a cubical in a large room. So take the leap and create a comfortable, open work environment for your employees. This generation greatly values quality of life, and accounting firms should aim to reflect culture and match outside interests within the work environment. A few considerations to create a positive employee experience may include:

  • Create an alternative atmosphere: Offer the ability to work on couches, standing desks or even beanbag chairs if desired.
  • Provide break-time activities: Encourage your staff to utilize non-billable time for periodic breaks throughout the day. Create an environment for them to re-energize by providing fun activities like a pool table, ping-pong table or foosball table in the office.
  • Create interest groups: Find ways to match employees with similar interests and schedule events – running groups, book clubs, gamers, etc.
  • Choose simple software: Select simple, easy-to-use technology for your clients that young professionals would be excited to work with. There are a variety of applications for all areas of business (accounting, payroll, invoicing, etc.) designed for this generation, so don’t be afraid to try something new. When the accounting applications available are more like the apps they use regularly, making the transition to learn new software is easier for them.
  • Go completely virtual: Embrace the available cloud technology and create an entirely virtual office space that enables a flexible schedule. Utilize software that is tablet and mobile-friendly and provide mobile devices to your employees in place of the permanent desktop computer. A firm that is accessible on all devices, anywhere, anytime will be sure to stand out against the rest. Rather than the traditional mandatory “face time” in the office, allow for virtual FaceTime or use of applications like Skype and Google Hangouts for meetings.

By implementing key recruiting strategies and designing an experience that appeals to the younger generation, your firm will be able to successfully develop a strong team that will create success for the firm into the future.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the Global Vice President of Education and Enablement for Xero. In this role, she is responsible for developing and executing Xero’s worldwide education strategy with a focus on Xero University (Xero U) and Xero TV. Follow her on Twitter @AmyVetterCPA.