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Firm Management

The Search for Talent in Firms

Nine out of 10 accountants in the United States report that they have struggled to hire good, quality job candidates in the past year, according to a new survey.

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If you’re struggling to hire and retain talent in your practice right now, you’re not alone.

Nine out of 10 accountants in the United States report that they have struggled to hire good, quality job candidates in the past year, according to a new survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks. That’s an issue when 82% of accountants anticipate business growth in 2023.

If you’re facing challenges filling roles in your firm, these tips for hiring, cultivating, and retaining talent might help.

Find the Right People

Elizabeth Manso, CPA, founder of Brigade, has been honing her hiring strategy for her dispersed team over the years. Brigade consults with business leaders in real estate, healthcare, legal, consulting, dry cleaning, and not-for-profit organizations to transform their businesses with insightful financial reporting, accounting and controllership services, business consultations, and assessments.

“Since our firm started 15 years ago, quiet hiring has been a key recruitment strategy,” Elizabeth said.

Quiet hiring is the increasingly popular practice of soliciting candidates for a job without publicly posting the position. There are a couple of ways Elizabeth puts quiet hiring into practice.

“I strongly encourage my team to recommend new hires within their personal and professional networks,” she said. “They receive incentives after the 90-day introductory period when a referral becomes a valuable team member.”

An employee referral program taps into talent from within your network, rather than taking a chance on someone you don’t know. Think of it as hiring from your 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-degree connections on LinkedIn, instead of someone you don’t share a connection with.

Brigade has also connected with a recruitment agency to quiet hire. To get the most out of this hiring strategy, Elizabeth said she clearly communicates the necessary qualities and experience to the agency.

Above all, Elizabeth has learned that it’s best to hire slowly to ensure that she’s bringing on the right person for the role and the business.

Cultivate Talent Within Your Firm

Roughly half of U.S. accountants say a dwindling pipeline of graduates joining the profession is the biggest challenge to attracting talent, according to the QuickBooks research.

However, a smaller pool of job candidates who are fully prepared for accounting or bookkeeping roles doesn’t have to sound the death knell for your firm. First, find candidates who have the right skills and are a values-fit with your firm.

Elizabeth’s preferred assessment tool to evaluate a job candidate’s fit for a role is The Predictive Index,” she said. The Predictive Index is an online software platform that offers business owners a process-oriented solution to hiring for their companies.  “It may add some expense upfront, but worth it in the long run compared to the cost of team turnover,” she said.

Then, develop their expertise yourself.

Offering regular training and skills development, opportunities to obtain accounting qualifications at reduced costs, and professional advancement opportunities were among the top ways accountants in the QuickBooks survey found to attract talented workers. Mentoring is the leading way accountants create a competitive advantage, the poll also found.

Consider training and promoting among dedicated employees within your firm, too. If someone in an easier-to-replace role is a great value-fit and wants to learn more, try giving them the training to level up.

Update Policies and Engage Employees to Retain Talent

Growing your firm might mean that it’s necessary to hire more people, although taking advantage of technology that automates work and saves time can help mitigate that need too. You can also reduce the number of hires you need to make by retaining the great talent you already have working in your business.

Unengaged and burnt-out employees are behind the quiet quitting  phenomenon—staying in a job but giving it the bare minimum effort required. As an employer, set up your firm for success by codifying best practices that keep employees engaged and help them find balance with busy times and deadlines.

“I have spent the past several years cultivating a culture of high performance and high reward for my team,” Elizabeth said. “Since we are a relatively small firm with aggressive growth targets, there’s no room for quiet quitting. When there is a disengaged team member, I have learned through experience that it is best to hire slow and fire fast.”

Accounting firm owners and accountants in the QuickBooks survey said the ability to work from home or create a flexible schedule is the most desirable job attribute when hiring, and 35% said it is among the top traits for retention. Consider restructuring to accommodate a dispersed workforce or to allow for employees to design schedules that work best for them. Other job attributes that accountants said are effective for retention include:

  • Help with qualification costs, advancement opportunities, and training (36%).
  • Competitive salaries and raises in line with cost of living and inflation (33%).
  • The latest technologies to support their day-to-day work (33%).

Hire, Cultivate, and Retain To Maximize Talent Options

Practice owners can take solace in knowing that they aren’t alone in their hiring frustrations. With fewer qualified graduates seeking accounting jobs, it’s important to find the right people and develop candidates or employees who show great potential. Providing professional development and flexible schedules can make your firm more attractive—both to new hires and for loyal employees. There are still great options available, even when hiring is tough.


Survey methodology: Intuit commissioned an online survey in January 2023 of 2,000 accountants throughout the US, all aged 18+. 54% are employed by an accounting/bookkeeping firm or own an accounting business, 46% are employed by a non-accounting firm as an in-house accountant, and only 5 respondents indicated they work in a different industry segment. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest decimal place, so some charts or statistics shown here may not add up to 100% but 99% or 101% instead. Responses were collected in an online survey using Pollfish audience pools and partner networks with double opt-ins, random device engagement sampling, and post-stratification to ensure accurate targeting and results. Respondents received remuneration.