It takes a certain personality to become a good CPA, and not everybody has what it takes. As the manager of an accounting firm, you probably already know how bad it is to hire the wrong candidate for the job, but you may never have thought about how missing the right candidate is almost as bad. Unfortunately, the hiring process at most firms is so heavily slanted toward avoiding the first mistake that it’s easy to make the second. When that happens, some truly great talent can walk right out of your office, rather than staying to make your firm something exceptional.
Start by looking for people who have a genuine passion for accounting work. This begins with where you recruit. Try sending your hiring manager to college campuses and hiring events, and put in an appearance at accounting software conventions. The kind of freshly minted CPA who goes to events like these is clearly passionate about the field.
Whomever you send to do the recruiting, be sure they’re clear about what you’re looking for in a candidate. You’re probably already in the market for people with technical skills and a knack for numbers, but there are a suite of “soft” skills an applicant can have that makes an otherwise-good candidate a great candidate. General business acumen is obviously useful, as is the ability to communicate with clarity and precision. If an applicant has a side business, or once managed a company, that can be a sign you’re on the right track. Leadership is something else to look for, as much of a CPA’s work requires taking initiative, especially as a CFO or controller. All things being equal, remember that opposites attract, and somebody from a unique background may well bring a unique approach to the work you do.
Finding the right candidate in a pool of qualified accountants can take extra work. Once you’ve found that person, the reward can outweigh the effort many times over.