How to Find and Onboard Top Accounting Talent Remotely

Do you remember getting advice for your first job interview? You probably heard things like, “look them in the eye,” or “make sure your handshake is firm.”

But remote hiring changes everything.

Kinda makes you feel for interviewees who can’t shake hands through a computer screen, and who find it hard to look you in the eye while staring into a webcam. And this is only one aspect you’ll need to consider, if you plan on interviewing, hiring, and onboarding talent via a remote setting.

In this article, we hope to give you a firm foundation to create a remote hiring process for your accounting firm.

First, Get Your Hiring Process Down

Having a clear, documented recruiting and hiring process is possibly the most important element of staffing your firm.

That’s true for in-person or remote hiring.

  • If you don’t know who you’re looking for, you could hire someone who doesn’t meet your expectations
  • Not knowing how each interview will flow creates awkward conversations that don’t tell you anything about the person (and takes extra time)
  • Failing to know where qualified candidates look for jobs, or how to properly filter candidates means even more time wasted

So, how do you avoid these problems? Here are three steps.

1. Create an Ideal Teammate Persona

Similar to an ideal buyer persona, creating an ideal teammate persona is also beneficial.

Here are three things to consider:

  • Your current team: Who are the people you rely on most? Not only for their tasks, but initiative, attitude and a joy to be around? Now write those attributes down, and turn it into the person you’re looking for, during an interview.
  • Your current clients: What services are most in-demand? How quickly are you growing? These questions allow you to gauge how quickly you need to onboard new hires.
  • Your firm goals: Want to move from basic tax and audit services to higher-value fare? Add a partner? Double the number of clients? Knowing your goals helps you set the pace for your remote hiring and helps plot out when to gather a new round of applicants.

Set the Terms of the Interview Process

Having a few questions in mind and showing up for the Zoom call (or whatever video chat you use) isn’t a process.

Sure, instinct is an important part of choosing candidates that’ll get along in your firm, but people put on a show during an interview. If you don’t have a firm process and try to get the real person, your interviewee could end up running the show.

Here are some potential tactics to have a firm remote process.

  • Multiple steps: In small firms, sometimes the process is a 20-min interview + a gut feeling = new hire. Add steps to your process. Don’t make it excruciating and ensure the steps move the right candidates closer (and the wrong ones further away). Note: The next two ideas could be steps in your process.
  • Mixed bag of questions: A candidate who wants the job will have prepared answers for traditional interview questions. But how about sending them a few questions in advance? They turn them in a day before the interview, and you get to drill deeper during your remote call. Harder to prepare, giving you a better chance to see their raw answers.
  • Practice project: Prepare a fake project and ask interviewees to handle the deliverable. You could see if they’d do it for free, but it’s a good idea to pay them a one-time fee, if the deliverable is met. This gives you an idea of how they work, which is valuable.

Extra Tip: Use a service template in Jetpack Workflow to see how they’ll work inside your practice management system. Those who make the cut will then already have experience with your firm’s workflow.

Figure Out Your Recruiting Funnel

Did you know that upwards of 70% of job openings are publicly listed (e.g. Indeed, Monster). And more recently, there are about 1 million more job openings than unemployed in the U.S..

Add those two stats together and it’s clear — You need constant recruitment to keep your firm staffed.

Here are some tips.

  • Raise awareness about your firm: Marketing is the process of raising awareness and attracting potential clients. This is the same, except for people you want to work with. Do some speaking at college accounting programs (either in-person or virtually), network, and any other format that can be brought over from marketing and applies to hiring.
  • Look for new and experienced candidates: Colleges are great to acquire newly-graduated talent. But we’re living through something dubbed the “Great Resignation.” And that means tons of experienced accountants looking for a change of pace. Which leads to the next tip.
  • Entice with overt benefits: Many firms have rigid work schedules and traditional vacation/sick policies. Plus, they may not get exhilarated doing bank reconciliations day-in and day-out. Can you offer something different? Cross training? Paid time to get certain financial certifications? Flexible work schedules and vacation? These things make a big difference when you want to recruit the best.

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Then, Get All Your Processes Down (Vital for Onboarding)

After your recruiting funnel and hiring process is down pat, it’s time to work on your firm’s systems.

Onboarding costs money. You’re paying someone for full-time work and they don’t know how to do anything! Plus, other members of your team (and yourself) are spending time training them.

If your processes are clearly documented and quickly understood — onboarding takes significantly less time.

Specific Processes + “Over the Shoulder” Training

Typical training looks something like this:

  • Step one: New hire watches a skilled accountant perform tasks
  • Step two: New hire helps a skilled accountant perform those tasks
  • Step three: Skilled accountant helps new hire perform those tasks
  • Step four: Skilled accountant watches new hire perform those tasks

Boom! They’re trained.

But if both the new hire and skilled accountant work from clearly-outlined tasks, within service templates (specific to your firm), in a project management tool that records progress?

That’s the onboarding process that lasts for the long haul.

Want to go a bit deeper? Here’s a bit more on designing the ideal workflow in your firm, by documenting your processes.

Establish a Timeline for Training and Review

With a full-accounting firm, training can take months (or even years). And if it takes longer to get someone established, you really need timed, structured instructions and accountability.

For example:

  • Basic month-end close process: 2 weeks of training
  • Payroll services: Additional 2-4 weeks of training within new hire’s first 90 days
  • Budget and forecasting: Additional 4 weeks of training within 180 days
  • CFO and advisory: At least one year of regular job shadowing of a current CFO/advisory accountant

In addition to the clear timing of cross training, you’ll also want to have regular one-on-ones with your accountants, if possible. (Note: If you have partners, this process can be divided up.)

Imagine if every 2-3 weeks, new accountants sat down (virtually) with you. After a few months, you’d:

  • Be very comfortable with one another
  • Know if they’re not going to work out
  • Build trust and really have a close-knit team

Remote Hiring Made Easier with Workflow Software

You know where all of your remote hiring, accounting services, and even your new hire onboarding processes can go?

If you said, “workflow software,” you’re right!

Choosing the right software takes some time and consideration. And we want to help. To do just that, we’ve put together a massive buyer’s guide. In it, you’ll find tips on choosing the right solutions for your firm, and reviews of 11 of the best platforms on the market.
Want it? Download it right here.

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