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Accountants in Demand in 2014

As accounting professionals look to the New Year, they have a lot to celebrate. The unemployment rate for accountants stands at around 3.9 percent and Forbes recently listed accountants and auditors at No. 2 on its list of Top Jobs. Iinitiatives in business, government, and nonprofit organizations to cut costs and improve productivity have resulted in increased demand for accountants. And it seems things will only get better.

Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2018 the accounting profession will have expanded by 22 percent over a 10-year span, creating an estimated 500,000 jobs in the process. This prediction is supported by the nation’s CPA firms which are adding staff at a 2.3% annualized rate according to a new CPA Trendlines study. Growth is also evident in paychecks. Starting salaries for jobs in corporate accounting are expected to rise between 2.9% and 4.5% in 2014, depending on the specific role and the size of the company.

Designations

The best job opportunities will be for accountants and auditors who have an accounting degree and CPA license. A recent survey found that over half of corporations which hire accountants deemed the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designation and the CMA (Chartered Management Accountant) as very important. This is supported by the fact that enrollment in CPA programs in the US are at a record high.

Expansion

The accounting and finance professionals’ role is continuing to expand into that of a decision-maker and business-partner. An increased focus on risk management means that accountants will need to demonstrate complex business and managerial skills. Finance teams will play a larger role in the future by providing the story behind financial and accounting data. Nontechnical skills such as verbal, written, and presentation communications - once nice extras for a candidate to have – are now considered standard expectations for accountants and finance professionals.

An increase in the number of businesses, changing financial laws, corporate governance regulations, and increased accountability for protecting an organization’s stakeholders will continue to drive the demand for accounting. This will surely make 2014 a Happy New Year for accounting professionals.

Accountants in Demand in 2014

Finance Talent Gap

The financial services sector is continuing to build up its workforce, despite current market unpredictability. Around 50 percent of sector CEOs are looking to increase their headcount over the next 12 months, with about half of these anticipating staff increases of more than 5% over the coming year.

While this is good news for job candidates, employers in the finance sector are not hopeful about the talent pool. Only a third of financial services CEOs are certain that they will have access to the talent they need to execute their company’s strategy over the next three years. Forty percent believe that it is getting harder to hire good people in their industry according to Deloitte’s 2013 Global Finance Talent survey.


These talent constraints are already impeding and inhibiting business growth plans. Approximately one quarter of the financial services CEOs have had to delay or cancel a key strategic initiative over the past 12 months because the right people were not available to execute it.

The finance team is increasingly being asked to meet new demands from the business, at the same time that the pressures of globalization and increased regulation are changing the role and function of finance. The challenge for CFOs, and the industry, is to find a way to address growing and specialized talent needs in a changing environment.

Strategies to help financial employers deal with the talent shortage include:

  • Attract: Work hard to attract the talented, hard-working, productive candidates available in the talent pool. This means positioning your company effectively as an employer of choice and having a hiring process that is as efficient and as painless as possible.
  • Develop: Commit to talent development. Top performers want to be assured of an ambitious and rewarding career path. Training and development programs are essential to growing the talent you already have.
  • Retain: Retaining talented, ambitious employees is important. The pressure to replace experienced employees, managers, and executives will escalate as retirements of the nearly 80 million Baby Boomers increase in the next decade. Creating and implementing a retention program for your high potential employees is a critical step.

The finance talent shortage is an issue that will not go away any time soon. Employers who acknowledge the talent gap, and take steps to address it, will find themselves in a more favorable position in the future.

Finance Talent Gap

Job Search Tips for Older Workers

Because of the number of Baby Boomers and lower birth rates of younger people, job supply and demand will eventually favor mature workers. But for now, employment opportunities can be hard to find. In March 2013, 51% of job seekers 55 and older were unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, compared with 41.7% of those ages 25 to 54, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. Over the last two years the trend has been clear: older workers are unemployed and remain unemployed for a longer period of time.

However, there are still promising employment opportunities for job candidates 55 years of age and older. It just takes a modern and social approach. The following are four tips that help older candidates enjoy success with their job hunt:

  • Use and Grow Your Network. Harness the power of your personal, community, and business network. Mature workers have the advantage of a developed network, both online–for example, through LinkedIn–and offline. Think about your connections and who can potentially refer you for an open position. If your employment application is marked as a referral, it triples your chances of securing an interview.
  • Promote Your Experience. Instead of trying to downplay your age with your attire or language, focus on how you can play up your strengths and assets. Your experience is an asset and you should express this to potential employers. Put it out there: you may look to be overqualified, but let the hiring manager know that this position is exactly what you are looking to do. Be sure to share how your experience lets you add unique value to the role.
  • Keep Current on Trends. Keep up with trends in your industry. Follow blogs, join relevant groups on LinkedIn, and participate in the discussion. Look for a local networking group for people in your profession, or start one if it doesn’t exist. The more people you meet and reach out to, the more you will learn and the more likely you are to find job opportunities.
  • Expand and Refresh Skills. Depending on your field, you may need to advance your skills to be competitive. This is especially true with new technology. Find out what skills potential employers value and take a class or a refresher course in your community or online. If you’re not already active in social media, develop a digital footprint.

Looking for employment can be a challenging process. Do your best to remain positive and do something active every day to get your interest in employment out to former colleagues, social contacts, and potential employers. With constant effort, and a little luck, you could find your ideal position sooner than you think.

Job Search Tips for Older Workers

Making a Great Hire

This morning, I was talking with an accounting firm that is an SNI client about what makes someone a great hire. While we discussed a number of criteria candidates should have, we both agreed that great hires come from a great hiring process. More often than not, a job candidate’s eventual success can be tracked back to the interview process. Here are three ways that hiring managers can increase the number of “great hires” they make.

Detail What Is Needed.  Often, organizations begin the hiring process with an idea of what they are looking for, but not a specific job description. Or worse, they use the job description from the last time they hired a similar candidate. It is important that before each new hire you develop a detailed job description, including job specific and transferable “soft” skills required for the role. Do not define the position in relation to those having held, or currently in, the position; instead, take an objective look at what the company and the department need to increase productivity and overall performance. By taking these steps, and having a clear picture of what is needed, you will increase the likelihood that your new hire will be successful.

Ask Situational Questions.  One of the main purposes of an interview is to get insight into how a candidate will perform on the job. Use situational questions to gain an understanding of how the applicant thinks, works, and interacts with others. Ask the candidate for a specific example from their current position which aligns with challenges they would face in the job. Avoid questions that are too general. Ask the candidate to relate an actual experience or story. Be sure to build the questions around the skills and competencies in the job description. This provides the candidate with information on the work environment and how their skills would be applied, and gives you an idea of how they might work in your culture.

Add Don’t Duplicate.  One tendency I see in many hiring managers is to look for people just like themselves. While this may be a great way to build a bowling team, it’s not a great hiring technique. Research shows that teams which have diverse personalities and brain styles produce higher quality work more quickly. When hiring, look for someone who not only has the desired skills, but also brings a new perspective or personality to your team. Instead of looking for someone who can “easily fit in,” consider candidates that would bring a fresh perspective or different way of thinking. Consider things your team is currently lacking, such as someone who takes a critical look at situations, and seek these in a candidate. Diversity in employees is the hallmark of learning and growing organization.

When it comes down to it, hiring is both an art and a science. I always encourage managers to screen for skills and hire for personality and drive. This way you get an employee who can contribute on multiple levels.

Making a Great Hire

Phone Interview Tips

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the hiring process is the phone interview. In an effort to save time and resources, many employers use phone interviews to help screen out candidates that might not have the skills and personality fit for the position. However, many candidates underestimate the importance of a phone interview, thinking of it as just an administrative step in the interview process. But make no mistake, a phone interview is a “real” interview and if you do not complete it successfully, you’ll never move forward in the process.

The following are six tips to help you make the most of your next phone interview:

1. Avoid Surprises. If you get a call for a phone interview that has not been scheduled in advance, do not feel pressured to do the interview. Let the caller know that you are happy to talk, but could you speak later, and suggest a time. Just like an in person interview - you need to be prepared.

2. Eliminate Interruptions. When doing a phone interview, use a land line if possible. If you have to talk on a cell phone, let the interviewer know and have an action plan should you experience a service interruption. Also, if you are doing the call from home make sure children, pets, and other interruptions are out of the room and if possible supervised.

3. Get Them Talking. Make the most of your time with the interviewer by engaging them in a dialog. While he or she will have a set of questions they want to ask, the interview is also a chance for you to learn about the company and position. Try asking an open-ended question to spark a conversation.

4. Don’t Dominate. One of the biggest challenges to participating in a phone interview is not being able to see the other person. As a result it is easy to get talkative and go on longer than you should. As a rule, don’t speak for more than one minute without pausing. At this point, you can ask if more details are needed and give the interviewer a chance to respond.

5. Listen Actively. Take notes covering the questions the interviewer is asking. This can help you prepare for an in-person interview and to write a great thank-you note after the call.

6. Define Next Steps. At the end of the call, express your interest in the position and thank the interviewer for speaking with you. Also be certain to ask what the next steps are in the process and the overall timeline for filling the position.

Phone interviews can be a challenge, but they are a regular part of the interview process. If you are prepared and focused you can use your next phone interview to get to the top of the in-person interview list.

Phone Interview Tips

Salary Benchmarking

Determining what to pay employees is a two-sided coin. Employers want to pay employees enough to help them to feel valued and avoid them looking for a better offer. But employers are also concerned with over paying employees to the point of unnecessarily inflating payroll and effecting organizational profitability. The best way to work out what you should be paying your employees is to benchmark salaries with other companies that have similar roles by reviewing salary survey data. This ensures that your pay rates are competitive enough to attract and retain high-quality employees without being overly inflated.

For 10 years SNI has published a National Salary Guide. Our guide provides market data for the following industries: General Accounting and Finance, Tax, Internal/External Audit, Administrative and Office, and Information Technology. Specific data is available for the following locations: Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut/Massachusetts, DC/Virginia/Maryland, Denver, Minneapolis, New Jersey/Philadelphia, Florida: Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Texas: Dallas and Houston.

The data can be viewed by large, medium and small companies.

The guide provides ranges of pay for key positions, from the lowest to the highest current rates. Employers can use our Guide to decide at which level to set your company pay scales. If your goal is to attract top talent, you may opt to set your pay rates in the upper quartile. However, if you are attempting to compete with low cost providers, you may prefer to choose a salary range that sits in the middle of current market rates. More than 80 percent of business managers and HR professionals said their companies either participate in or purchase at least one salary survey each year, according to a Salary.com poll.

If you are looking for a solid source for specialized and specific salary data to help you set and evaluate your salary ranges, consider using the 2014 SNI Salary Guide.

Salary Benchmarking