I LOVE MY RECRUITING CAREER! I am asked to help companies achieve and exceed their hiring goals, provide career counseling to professionals who are climbing the corporate ladder, and get to be a small piece of the story for all parties involved.
I have conversations with both hiring managers and job seekers on best practices, interview tips, candidate experience, and market trends. These conversations add up over time and as I share my expertise our relationship is growing. For me, it is those flourishing relationships that keeps me going….for some it is over the course of months, for some years, and even spanning over a decade. I have been introduced to spouses, siblings, cousins, best friends, colleagues, and even children in need of hiring or having career changing aspirations and IT IS AWESOME!
For the last 14 years, I often lay awake at night thinking about who needs help and how I can best serve them, I wake up early in the morning with a passion to make a difference, and sometimes have very challenging conversations with those in transition with the purpose of motivating them to be their best self in the midst of self-doubt.
18 months ago I helped someone transition out of public accounting into industry. This person was interested in a career pivot and was about to forego that dream and take another position in public accounting. About that same time I am having a conversation with someone that I have known for 10-12 years, have kids similar ages, and attend the same church. He starts telling me about a newly created position that he is hiring for and that it is a little non-traditional background for the role…..and a light bulb went off! I placed a phone call, made the introduction, and it was in fact a match! I LOVE THAT!!!!
I have been invited to birthdays, weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, and unfortunately even attended a few funerals. Each of those invitations or events were special, but last weekend was one of my favorite moments. That former public accountant just passed his CPA Exam and invited me to the celebration at his parents house with family and friends. Not only did I get the invite, but he followed up with a person call and asked for me to attend. Saturday after the kids sports and around half-time of the Oklahoma State vs Iowa State game, I showed up. He came from a long line of CPAs and although he was no longer in the traditional accounting role, that CPA Exam was a big deal and him asking me to be there to celebrate with him was heartwarming and another reason for WHY I LOVE MY RECRUITING CAREER.
Hosted by Courtney Vien
The candidate experience is essential to hiring and retaining the right personnel, especially in today’s tight job market. Even the applicants you don’t hire walk away with an impression of you as an employer that can affect how your organization is perceived, as Troy Ashby, CPA, founder of recruiting firm Benchmark Search Group, explains. He offers helpful, concrete suggestions for improving the candidate experience and ensuring applicants form a positive emotional connection with your organization.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
Hosted by Courtney Vien
The onboarding process is crucial to helping new employees form a connection with your organization. Some employers, however, fail to pay sufficient attention to the onboarding process —making it more likely that new hires will leave. Troy Ashby, CPA, founder of Dallas-Fort Worth-area recruiting firm Benchmark Search Group, outlines steps you can take to improve onboarding and increase new employees’ sense of belonging.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
Play the episode below:
There is no denying the frustration being felt by CPA firms and employers across the country when it comes to hiring accountants. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated annual unemployment for people in business and financial operations occupations to be approximately 2.5%, making it all the more important that employers of accountants retain the ones they have. Yet employers sometimes neglect one very important key to retention: the onboarding of new hires.
An employee's first 90 days can be a precarious time. According to a study from BambooHR, one-third of approximately 1,000 respondents said they had quit a job within six months of starting it. Between 16% and 17% left between the first week and the third month of starting a new job.
It's important that employers recognize a common trait of nearly all new hires: They almost always experience a degree of uncertainty about their new position. It's also important to recognize the fact that your new hire most likely turned down another job (or possible counteroffer) to join your company. In this competitive market, your new hire is most likely still being recruited (and could be taking calls or even continuing to interview just to make sure he or she accepted the "right" position).
That's why, during the onboarding process, it's crucial that you successfully convey to new employees the strong investment you are making in them (and in turn the investment they are making in you). Here's how you can do that at each step of an employee's first 90 days:
0 days: Bridging between the offer and first day.
After the candidate has accepted your offer, do not let the next two weeks go by without making contact. The key to this time period is creating an impression of "people first": It's about relationship building, binding new hires to the team, and making them feel part of something.
I recommend the hiring manager reach out directly with a congratulatory message and a "welcome to the team" email. This is even more powerful when it includes an offer to have lunch or coffee in the time between the offer and the employee's start date. If time doesn't permit this, at least email information that can help new hires start learning about your organization and the tools they will be using.
30 days: Onboarding and establishing an emotional attachment.
Make sure the new hire's first days go smoothly. Starting a new job can be emotional, and employees need to see that what they were told in the interview was true.
In some cases, though, hiring managers may not be clear as to who will fulfill the onboarding role. They may mistakenly assume that all onboarding will be handled by human resources. This can lead to confusion and uncertainty on the part of the new employee. Don't let a breakdown in communication happen: Know your roles and who is responsible for what.
Have everything in order before the new hire walks through the door. A new employee's first day often includes a team lunch, paperwork, and getting acquainted with a new workspace. These are simple tasks that create a strong emotional attachment, which is why it is important to avoid oversights such as failing to have the computer set up or not having technical support on call.
Once you've set expectations for the position and the employee has developed a better understanding of the organization and its culture, make sure the employee is put on client engagements or given other assignments immediately. Even if the new hire is not fully up to speed, do not let him or her sit idle without work beyond the first week. Most employees want to be challenged and feel like a valued member of the team from the start. (In my experience, this is especially true of accountants.)
60 days: Continuing to learn and become independent.
You need to create a clear process for touching base with new employees and helping them set goals, even very early in their tenure. After all, this period is where you show your new employee that you are fully invested in his or her learning and development. Though this seems like common sense, it's something employers can often overlook given the multifaceted, fast-paced nature of their work. Smaller organizations that may not hire that often may also not have a formal onboarding process in place.
Here's one sequence I suggest: Over the first 30 days, managers should establish a cadence of weekly touch-base meetings with new hires. During the second and third months, these meetings can take place every other week as the employee starts to feel more settled in and has a better idea of what he or she is responsible for.
At the start of the employee's second month, the manager should schedule a formal 30-day review to provide feedback on expectations versus the actual work the employee has done, as well as identifying areas for development. The key takeaway from this meeting should be a strategy for the employee's success that includes goals, opportunities for continued growth and skill-building (including necessary training), and expectations pertaining to specific projects. This plan will act as a baseline the manager and employee can periodically review as a way of measuring success.
90 days: Being held accountable.
At the end of their third month, employees should be self-sustaining. While this is where the real accountability begins (because this is where the new hire starts making true impacts to the organization), it's often the easiest part of the onboarding process. Employees should continue focusing on growing relationships within their teams, broadening the projects they are working on, and focusing on bigger wins rather than shorter-term victories.
Employers can hold themselves and the new employee accountable by scheduling a formal 90-day review (the last official onboarding step) to ensure the employee is on track as measured against his or her goals, as well as to identify opportunities for continued growth and any additional resources that could help.
Though you may have assumed acquiring talent was the hardest part of the hiring process, the way you handle the onboarding process can separate your organization from others. Don't let the momentum you invested in the candidate experience slip away by failing to give onboarding the attention it deserves. The last thing you want to do is fail to keep the employee you just dedicated so much time and attention to hiring.
It’s no secret that the demand for finance and accounting talent is at an all-time high. While the opportunities for skilled employees have always been available, the current market has even more people evaluating the wider opportunities at-hand and whether it’s time to make a change.
While I strongly support the common belief that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one, it’s important to remember that you must respect your current employer throughout the process.
Here are five key takeaways for how you accomplish just that:
1. Clearly evaluate opportunities within your existing organization. First off, you owe it to yourself to look at any available opportunities with your current employer before you throw in the towel. Whether it’s a conversation about potential moves to another division or group, taking an honest (and creative look) at other openings is worth considering. NOTE: If you are only interviewing to get a raise at your current employer, think again. You’ll find better resolution is through honest and productive conversation versus pulling out a yellow card.
2. Don’t let your job performance suffer. After you’ve made the decision to officially begin your job search, it’s easy to get distracted and “tune out” from your current job and its day-to-day responsibilities. Don’t fall into this trap. You want your last weeks or months to be some of your best work. People have short-term memories; you’ll be remembered for your final contributions.
3. Do it on your own time. Staying dedicated to your current job performance means interviewing before work, during lunch or after hours. Take PTO if you need to, and if it’s easier, attempt phone screens if you know you’ll be interviewing a lot. Most importantly, do not use your employer’s resources such as computer, phone, printer, etc.
4. Take the high road. During interviews, be honest about why you’re looking to leave your current role, but never talk negatively about your employer.
5. Ensure a successful transition. Your reputation will only be as good as your departure. After you’ve accepted an offer, give your employer adequate notice (at least two weeks). Transition effectively by putting together a detailed plan and going above and beyond to thoughtfully train the existing internal resources who will be fulfilling your responsibilities until a replacement has been hired. You may even have the opportunity to train your replacement if they are hired or promoted before your last day.
Feedback? Best practices or stories to share? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.
Firms and employers are having an especially difficult time hiring accountants. In the AICPA's 2017 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues survey, small firms with employees named "finding qualified staff" as their No. 1 concern.
The high demand for accounting talent can be closely tied to continued growth of the economy. Job growth for accountants and auditors between 2016 and 2026 is predicted to be 10%, which is faster than the projected national average of 7% for all occupations.
While there's no silver-bullet solution for alleviating the frustrations being felt by CPA firms and organizations seeking to hire accounting talent, one way to begin is by improving the candidate experience across the recruitment process — starting with the job interview.
In short, the candidate experience can be defined as the attitude and behaviors aspiring candidates have about the recruiting process, including the stakeholders involved, the positions they're applying for, and the organizations they're applying to. The role the candidate experience plays within the recruiting process is monumental. It affects your ability to attract talent and influences your organization's brand and its bottom line.
To deliver a compelling candidate experience throughout the interview process, you must first take into full account the high level of sophistication this candidate pool has. Know what's important to them and be prepared to proactively address — and even advocate for — what they want.
For example, privately held companies may want to give candidates an accurate impression of the company's overall stability and viability in the market. CPA firms might want to address what the average partner track timeline looks like (for local and small regional firms, reference recent partner promotions). You'll also want to hit on billable-hour averages and community involvement.
Let's drill down into the phases of the interview process and ideas for improving the candidate experience in each one:
Making an emotional connection by involving the team in the interview process will allow the candidate to understand the office dynamics, while also instilling trust (this is even more critical when conducting video interviews for a virtual office environment). Showcase your organization's culture and benefits, highlighting any unique perks, and setting real expectations (in a recent LinkedIn survey, 44% of professionals said benefits like health coverage and paid time off would likely keep them at their current company for more than five years). Honesty is also key; the worst thing you can do to a candidate is not tell them something they should know.
It’s no secret – companies large and small are understaffed in the world of accounting, and management is growing increasingly frustrated. With demand for accounting jobs significantly outpacing supply of qualified candidates, market participants seeking to hire accounting talent often become reactionary and focus on immediate need rather than applying foresight.
While each situation is different, the daily grind often interferes with an employer’s intention to hire and retain top-flight accounting talent. Oftentimes we’re scrambling to plug holes in a boat we’re navigating with only one paddle, when we should instead endeavor to amass the complete toolset needed for smoother sailing.
Let’s take a look at several areas of focus that will help with retention, employee engagement and – ultimately – less hiring.
Culture Is Intentional
An organization’s ability (or inability) to hire begins with culture and employee engagement. While a 2015 Gallup study reported only 32 percent of employees are engaged, it found that 59 percent of those engaged employees are less likely to look for a job in the next 12 months. Creating a culture of strength, trust and “stickiness” matters most to employees. Ultimately, this comes down to relationships. There is a strong positive correlation between how you treat your employees and how your employees in turn serve your customers, directly or indirectly. The bottom line is that your customers will be treated in a manner similar to how you treat your employees. Thus, the essence of The Golden Rule as applied to your employees will pay off in spades in favor of your customers or clients.
Have A Clear Vision
Another key component of culture is having a vision and educating employees on the “why” factor. Understanding the “why” can be transcendental to an employee’s sense of purpose and give meaning to what might otherwise be considered rote daily tasks of a given job. When company vision is widely communicated and thoroughly permeates the essence of a given organization, the natural result is a team of employees who understand their value and roles.
Always Be Learning
Once employers embrace employee growth and retention as a key component of their culture, their hiring paradigm shifts to one of optimization rather than backfilling.
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers, and 68 percent of employees prefer to learn while at work. When you create an evolving continuing education culture, you’re giving employees much more than mere employment. Finding opportunities to teach and train your employees will take intentionality and time. Something as simple as paying for their enrollment in an online course may have profound effects on an employee’s ability to grow professionally and develop potentially life-changing industry expertise.
Another opportunity could be to cross-train within your organization. It may be the spark an employee needs to catapult themselves and the organization to new heights. Moreover, structural or budgetary impediments to promotion from within can be overcome by cross-departmental delegation and can breathe new life into curious-minded and ambitious employees.
Take A Broader Look At Benefits
A decade ago, benefits were often a final-stage checkbox for candidates. Today, decisions are often made based on benefits offered, making them both a recruiting and retention tool. You might not be in a position to change healthcare plans or increase the 401(k) match, but I look at benefits in a much broader way.
When you are looking for a competitive advantage in recruiting or retention, consider options such as flexible work hours, additional PTO, catered lunches, working remotely, community service days, and wellness programs. If I were to focus on only one of these, flexibility is one of the key components, especially with today’s technology.
Once you have identified your differentiators, it is imperative that you re-educate your employees on those benefits to reinforce the opportunities.
People approach me often because they’ve had an employee get poached by another company. Plainly stated, your employees are being scouted, recruited, and seduced by hiring managers and recruiters from time to time; other companies are prodding for what might be lacking in their careers and/or their current roles. But employers who view and treat their employees as more of an extension of the organization’s ethos will often be unscathed by these attempts and retain the very employees they’ve embraced.
Feedback? Organizational best practices to share? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.
Benchmark Search Founder Troy Ashby will join the 44th class of Leadership Dallas, a prominent leadership development program sponsored by the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC). The class was chosen based on their high potential for leadership and commitment to the Dallas community.
"I am honored and excited to participate is such a prestigious program", Ashby said of his acceptance into the 2019 class. "I am passionate about the North Texas community and cannot wait to be inspired and educated with other influential leaders from such diverse backgrounds."
Founded in 1975, Leadership Dallas prepares a diverse group of leaders to serve as agents and sustainers of positive change for the quality of life in the Dallas Region. The program serves as a opportunity for individuals who are both acknowledged and aspiring leaders to continue their professional development and further cultivate a demonstrated commitment to the serving the community.
It is the goal of Leadership Dallas to:
For more information about the program, please click the link to read the DRC's press release.
The Dallas Regional Chamber recently honored Benchmark Search as it's June Member Spotlight. Recruiter Partner, Troy Ashby, serves on the DRC Experience Council and was also named Chair of the DRC’s Top Investor Stewards Program in January, which is an extension of the Member Services team.
Dallas, TX – May 30, 2018 – Benchmark Search, a Dallas-based firm specializing in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals, today announced its official launch of operations.
With more than 15 years of professional service experience, including more than a decade with one of the nation’s largest recruiting firms, Founder & President Troy Ashby established Benchmark Search on the bedrock belief that exceptional people, progressive culture, and an unrelenting devotion to serving clients and candidates is the formula for developing deep and transformational relationships.
“At Benchmark Search, we strive to be viewed by clients as their human capital trusted advisor,” said Ashby. “Not only do we have the technical expertise required to deliver excellence, our team remains current on changing economic indicators to help clients make the most informed decisions.”
Benchmark Search has a meaningful, deliberate, and collaborative approach to community involvement. Members of the Firm routinely devote significant time and resources to causes and activities that make a positive impact across Dallas/Fort Worth. In addition, the Firm currently supports two Community Partners – March of Dimes and Richardson Family YMCA. Ashby was recently appointed chairman for the Richardson Y’s 2019 annual fundraising campaign.
Ashby is a Certified Public Accountant and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Master’s Degree in Accounting Information Systems from Oklahoma State University. He previously worked in public accounting at Ernst & Young, Arthur Andersen and Whitley Penn. Ashby serves as 2018 Chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Top Investor Stewards Program.
About Benchmark Search
Benchmark Search specializes in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals. The firm is predicated on the bedrock belief that exceptional people + progressive culture + unrelenting devotion to serving our clients and candidates is the formula for success. The team believes in developing long-term, trusted relationships with its clients and candidates to help companies and careers advance and thrive. For more information, visit benchmarksearchgroup.com.
Benchmark Search Group was founded by a CPA with prior experience in Big 4 public accounting, executive search, and a leader for one of the largest finance and accounting staffing firms in the United States.
With more than 15 years of professional service experience and over a decade in staffing and recruiting, our firm was created with a focus on quality first and making a positive impact for our clients, candidates, and the Dallas - Fort Worth communities.
As a trusted advisor, we believe in establishing and continuing genuine relationships which empowers professionals to further their careers. Our commitment to excellence and integrity, combined with resilience allows our clients to focus on their business while we provide them with highly skilled employees.
Benchmark Search Group specializes in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals.