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Finding The Skill Sets You Need in Today’s Hiring Market

The Aston Carter thought leadership series examines strategies for navigating the finance and accounting staffing labor market.

You already know that it’s difficult to hire finance and accounting talent. That’s been the case for the past five years, and there’s no indication that things will change anytime soon.

But as hiring managers know all too well, the need for niche, industry-specific skills and experiences can make a challenging job market even more difficult to navigate. And recent policy changes — like the tax reform bill and full implementation of ASC 606 standards — add even more pressure to the process.

We spoke with Aston Carter finance and accounting recruiters Meghan Green and James Magner to learn how companies and candidates can make the best of the current hiring market.

Yes, It’s a Candidate’s Market

Our experts confirm what the numbers indicate: it’s tough out there if you’re looking for financial professionals, especially those with specialized skills.

“In regards to the unemployment rate here in Boston for finance and accounting skill sets, it’s under one percent, which is obviously awesome for the candidates involved,” says Green.

Magner agrees: “I saw something recently where the number of available jobs exceeds the number of candidates actually looking. It definitely makes it more of a candidates’ market.”

But the long odds haven’t led employers to loosen their standards and turn to candidates who have more generalized skills. At least, not yet.

According to Magner, a big part of that is the demand for immediate help. “On the contract side, they typically need to hire people very quickly and don't have the time and resources to get that person really up and running. They need someone who can really hit the ground running.”

Given the high-demand, limited-supply scenario, what about hiring from other industries? While that is occurring in some cases — between health care and biotech, for example — it’s more the exception than the norm.

“Most hiring managers that we work with are very interested in someone who comes from their industry,” observes Green. “They gear more towards those niche skill sets and niche industries.”

The takeaway? The combination of immediate need-to-hire and must-have skills can result in a perfect storm of unfilled positions, inefficient hiring processes, and interrupted workflow.

But working with partners who maintain regular tabs on available talent can help companies weather the storm.

It’s All in the Timing

Consider this scenario: You’re looking for a permanent hire with very specific skills and experience, and you don’t want to settle for anything but an A+ candidate. At the same time, you have immediate needs to fill, so you look for temporary help to bridge the gap.

But given the tight market, what are the chances that a suitable contract worker will be available when you need them? Enter a reliable recruiting partner.

Because finding the right contract worker is job one for recruiters, they make it a priority to know who is available, and when.

“When we talk to people who are on a consultant or contract basis and we know they're a really good candidate, we stay around those people really closely and see when they’re ending,” says Magner. “We make sure we build really strong relationships with them, so when they are available they come to us for new opportunities.”

“Sometimes a strong candidate becomes available, and they weren’t a month ago,” says Green. “You have to be proactive, knowing that positions in these companies will open up down the line or at least are on the horizon.”

Be Flexible

Another way to find the talent you need in a challenging hiring environment is to rethink your approach without lowering your standards.

“If a temporary or contract hire really fits the profile and culture, and they can get in there and prove themselves, then don't hesitate to try to bring that person on permanently as opposed to taking months and months to find a permanent person straight off the bat,” Green advises.

It may also be time to rethink your requirements. Do you really need a CPA with a Big Four background? If the answer is “absolutely,” then your recruiter will find someone to fill the gap. But if it’s “maybe,” then the contract worker who is exceeding expectations may be worth a longer look.

And flexibility is a two-way street. Even though the job outlook for financial professionals is bright, waiting for the perfect position can get in the way of a solid career move.

As they say, it’s a win/win.

Make Retention Part of the Strategy

Finally, employee retention becomes even more important at times like these. That’s why recruiters maintain contact with their clients and candidates.

“We regularly check in on the candidate and hiring manager side, at the end of their first week and every single month after,” explains Green. Making sure that expectations are being met on both sides avoids unwanted surprises.

But be prepared for a possible pleasant surprise when your temporary hire turns out to be your top choice for a hard-to-fill permanent position.

If your business could benefit from a consultation about how best to find your most sought-after candidate skill set in the finance and accounting labor market, contact Aston Carter now.

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