Recruiting Expert Reveals How to Attract 50X More Qualified Job Applicants

Jeff Phillips, founder of Accountingfly and publisher at accounting blog, Going Concern, has been in the recruiting business for over 20 years. He's about to reveal how to attract 50X more qualified job applicants. Because, in today's firm, keeping your best staff is harder than ever before. Demand exceeds supply causing turnover issues. In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Jeff Phillips discuss:
  • The checklist for hiring only the right staff
  • The big problem in accounting staffing today
  • How to write a job post that attracts 50X more qualified applicants
  • A quick way to make a new hire feel at home


The Checklist for Hiring Only the Right Staff

Jeff Phillips, cofounder and CEO of Accountingfly and publisher at Going Concern, knows the vast majority of accounting firm owners are not good recruiters. It's why they turn to Jeff's company for help. He estimates only 15% of owners are actually good recruiters. That's why for the other 85%, they must have a checklist to retaining top talent and attracting more qualified job applicants. See, as you get busier running the business rather than working ON the business, stuff like hiring gets thrown to the wayside. Jeff admits he gets pulled into different areas to 'put out fires' rather than focusing on working ON his own business. It's natural to do so. Hence, it's important to have a checklist for hiring and maintaining staff. The checklist doesn't need to be pages long. But, you need to create certain steps during the hiring process (e.g. the right questions get the right answers get the right candidates), onboarding (e.g. what are the first 10 things to do with a new hire), and maintaining (what do you need to do each month, quarter, and year to keep them HOOKED to your firm and not looking around). The first place to go when constructing your checklist is to build a vision. Your vision is not a mission statement about 'doing great work' Your vision is what sets you apart from others. At AccountingFly, Jeff wanted to create a cloud business where everyone could work from wherever while making it faster and cheaper for applicants to find jobs and firms to find applicants. You must have a brand. What sticks out to candidates? The vision is critical. It starts with the founders. "Why did we start the firm?" Here's one example. Jeff asked a recent firm owner 'why he started his firm?' His answer wasn't about doing tax returns, it was "he worked in public accounting, was tired of the grind, and wanted to start a firm where he took care of clients his own way without missing his kid's activities.' That's a real vision and others will relate to it or be repelled by it. The best job applicants are the former. On his blog, GoingConcern, which is read a lot by millennials, he did a survey what accountants look for in firms, and the overwhelming answer was the vision.

The Big Problem in Accounting Staffing Today: 

Demand for qualified job applicants aka accountants is far outpacing the talent pool. It's been this way for many years now. On top of that, a whole generation is about to retire (the boomers), this will cause a huge gap in the marketplace. If not enough accountants are there to fill the voids, a massive need will be there. The race for talent is over and the talent has won. They now have the pick of the litter. You are competing with other firms for top talents. You then have to settle for sub-par talent. That's why what Jeff reveals today is absolutely paramount for the future of your firm.

How to Write a Job Post that Attracts 50X More Qualified Job Applicants

Jeff did an A/B test of a job post against a standard HR job posting, and he pulled in 50X more job applicants than the boring ol' HR document. This all goes back to what was mentioned before: vision, brand, and what makes you different? The key question to ask yourself when writing a job posting: "Why should you (the applicant) give your career to our firm?"  It's not why the applicant should work for you, you need to sell them. Questions and ideas to ask yourself as you write the job posting:
  • "Why you will love the size of our firm"
  • "What is our culture like?"
  • "What is the vision for the business?" (that darn vision again)
DAVID'S TIP:Write the post like a human talking to a human. Not a human writing to an unknown face, or a robot talking to a robot. Visualize your ideal candidate and talk to them like they are reading it now.
One thing Jeff learned when he worked at for a few years was to sell benefits...not features. Your culture is huge. So, a feature is "we wear jeans on Friday." A benefit is more like "when you come to work, especially on Jeans Friday, you'll feel relaxed even with deadlines looming. We value comfort over stress."  Not a great benefit statement, but you see the difference from your firm who does jeans Friday and another. Culture is a shared collective emotional state of your firm. How can you put that into words so you're different from the firm down the street? You don't have to say radical things. Just be different in a way. Check out and how they differentiate themselves. Transform words from your team into a vision statement. Ask your long-standing employees what they like about the firm and I bet you'll find a vision statement in there. In the famous book by Michael Gerber, E-Myth Revisited, Gerber discusses the owner's vision and personality is imperative. When you bring up benefits over features, it connects humans together.
DAVID'S TIP:Write in a style and with a vision statement catered towards who you want to attract. If you're a more technician-type firm rather than laid-back, put that in the job posting. If you're a more relaxed environment, turn up the information about that. You'll attract the right person rather than a stale old posting where the applicant must figure out the culture after they are being interviewed.
The key piece is you want turnover to happen in the hiring process not after hiring. After all, some recruiters charge up to $25,000 per position and that's nonrefundable.

A Quick Way to Make a New Hire Feel At Home: 

The average turnover in an accounting firm today is around 20%. Turnover is bad for business, as you know. Unfortunately, in this industry where your accountants are the profit centers themselves, it hurts 2X. Keeping a checklist will focus you on hiring and retaining the right talent. What does a recruiter recommend so you will keep more employees (and this could hurt his business)... Make them feel special. When Jeff started a new job in Austin a few years ago, the new company who hired him got him a gift certificate, a cool pen, CD full of local band music, a welcome to Austin packet. This happened years ago and yet he still remembers it. That's the impression you need to leave right away with a new team member. A company Jeff likes, Gusto, decorates new hires cubicles when they arrive on Day 1. Also, employees around the person would reach out via Linkedin before then as well. That sounds like acts of kindness...and it is...but, it's probably also part of a checklist they go down with new hires. Another way to retain more qualified job applicants is to focus on training. Millennials especially do not like feeling out of place or lost with their work. That's a recipe for disaster with them. A way to stop this is to have proper delegation. Give crisp, clear results on what is expected at the job and give the training so they can succeed. Lastly, how a proper system of check-ins. Marcus Buckingham says to have a check-in with every person on your team. Ask "what are your priorities?" and "What can I do to help?" Most of your asks for help will be rebuffed, but it shows the employee you care about them. That goes farther than any gift card. If you want to reach out to Jeff and ask about Accountingfly or just say 'thanks', email Also, check out his blog:

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