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Top 10 hiring mistakes accounting firms make

As attracting and retaining accounting talent becomes increasingly competitive, firms are hindering their chances by making these 10 hiring mistakes.

Insights Louise Pope, Aequalis 13 May 2017
— 4 minute read

Hiring is not easy, as a matter of fact it’s quite difficult. In today’s market, recruiting and retaining employees are more critical to business success than ever before. By being more strategic about recruiting and retention, you can work more effectively to save time and money by recruiting the right person the first time.


Good accountants are sometimes hard to come by, but they’re not impossible to find. It simply requires a well-designed search and hiring process.

That being said, access to qualified candidates is simply the first step in the hiring process. Next you have to sort through those candidates, invite some in for an in-person interview, and ultimately make a selection that you think will be best for your firm.

When it comes to hiring new people, many firms aren’t maximising their efforts without even realising it.

Here are a few common mistakes that many companies make when trying to hire a new employee:

Mistake #1: Not having a structured hiring process

Filling open positions can be a daunting and time-consuming task, so it’s important to have a structured and standardised hiring process in place. It’s critical to set a hiring timeline and implement a uniform process for attracting and interviewing candidates.

A bad hire wastes time and resources, so it’s important to make certain that your company hires right the first time. Having a structured hiring process in place will ensure that you hire the right people for the right job the first time around.

Mistake #2: Overly narrow job specifications

Every manager is in a rush because their project is behind schedule and unanticipated problems have cropped up. When a manager needs to add staff, its usually because they need the right help and they don’t have time to babysit whoever they hire. The manager needs specific skills now.

This attitude is at the root of overly narrow job specifications, and it can spell doom for the manager, for the new hire and for the work.

Mistake #3: Human resources does the recruiting

Consider that the person who first talks to a prospective hire is your companys front line of communication with your professional community. What does an HR representative - even the best one in your company - really know about the work?

Dont make the prospective technical candidate step through bureaucracy before you have a chance to make your pitch. In todays market, you could lose him to an employer who makes a full-court press from the onset of the recruiting effort.

Mistake #4: Asking the wrong questions

Misleading or discriminatory questions can quickly get hiring managers into hot water. Most managers are aware that there is a distinct set of questions that are off-limits during interviews. Most of these questions pertain to age, ethnicity, religion and other personal topics.

Mistake #5: Hiring “what comes along”

The traditional recruiting and hiring process is based on a faulty selection model. When you run ads, you create what’s referred to in the research world as “selection bias”. That is, the process you use biases the outcome of your search for new employees. You get to hire only the people who come along, not those you would like to hire.

Since when is your company’s motto, ‘Hire what comes along’? When you retain a specialist recruiter, you change the nature of your hiring strategy. You pursue the best workers who are most suited to your needs; you’re not restricted to “What comes along”. The message here is that you should be keenly aware of the consequences of the process you use to recruit and hire. Youre probably limiting yourself more severely than you suspect.

Mistake #6: Unreasonably long decision process

Recruiters know something that job candidates hate, and that most employers are too busy to think about. The longer an employer takes to make a decision about a particular candidate, the less likely the candidate is to be hired.

The advice I regularly give job hunters: judge the company on how it sticks to the decision schedule it gives you. If they fail more than once to meet the notification deadlines they themselves have set, start talking to other employers because theres likely a profound management problem that you cant see.

Mistake #7: Talking instead of listening

Time is money, and it can be tempting to rush through interviews in order to make quick decisions and fill your open roles. However, when an employer opens the interview with an in-depth discussion of the job and company, it’s easier for a candidate to script what they think would be desired responses.

Mistake #8: Being overly impressed by formal education

While education is clearly important and worth pursuing, having a degree does not necessarily tell you whether an applicant is bright, empathic, or flexible enough to learn and grow with your company.

Mistake #9: Inadequate reference checks

In too many companies, reference checks are entirely inadequate. HR usually conducts them, using a carefully orchestrated, one-sided protocol. Yes, there are legal issues, and these must be addressed. But its the hiring manager who should conduct these checks after being taught how to do it right.

When youre hiring, dont pay lip service to the importance of reference checking. Involve the people who will work with the new hire.

Mistake #10: Lacking a solid onboarding program

Having a clearly defined onboarding program is crucial. Hiring managers may sometimes feel that their job is complete once a new employee is hired and starts his or her new job. However, it is important to provide new hires with an orientation and training program to help them settle into their new positions within your company.

Final thought:

Making the right hiring decisions always begins by having a well-developed process that provides deep insights into potential candidates and a clear understanding of competencies required in the position. By avoiding the key hiring mistakes outlined above, you can better inform your hiring decisions and hire right the first time.

Top 10 hiring mistakes accounting firms make
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Louise Pope

Louise Pope

Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.

In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today, and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry, and is known for telling it like it is.