How to recruit the right people

It’s time to change the way you recruit new employees for your accountancy practice. The world has changed, people’s expectations have changed, and the old CV-based approach was never very effective anyway. But how do you know what works to recruit the right people?

On a recent Accountants Helping Accountants webinar, Kim Farrell and Jimmy Armitage of Wavelength presented these startling facts:

  • You will only hire the right person 1 in 4 times using a CV-led approach
  • 89% of the time, when someone looks good on paper but doesn’t perform, it’s because of poor cultural fit
  • 72% of employers believe they provide clear job descriptions but only 36% of candidates agree
  • 46% of candidates lie on their CV

You may already have experienced problems with new employees, even if you haven’t attributed them to your recruitment process.

That brilliant candidate you took on, with impeccable qualifications, who just doesn’t get on with anyone in the team?

That role where you can’t get anyone to stay more than 6 months so you’re continually trying to find someone new?

The new person who comes in and starts changing everything in a way that goes against how you want your practice to run?

Refining the way you recruit new team members means there’s a much better chance of finding and keeping the perfect candidate.

What you’re (probably) doing wrong

All too often, we approach recruitment from a position of urgency. Somebody leaves and we need to fill the gap.

As Kim Farrell says, “It’s always left until the last minute and at the point when it becomes a problem. Going into the market, you’re trying to find people for your team, you’re going in from a position of stress and this is why most people have a bad experience with recruiting. Because you haven’t taken the time to really think about what you’re trying to achieve.”

Think strategically, not tactically. Not, who can I get to replace X, Y Z, but what am I trying to achieve? You may want to start a new division or restructure your business. How can this role help your business reach your goals?

Kim Farrell again: “So once you understand why you’re hiring this person and what you’re trying to achieve, you can then ask the next question, which is, what would success look like in 12 months? And how would you measure it? Now this might sound obvious, and again, as accountants we do this all the time with everything that we do. It’s all about measuring, and then projecting forward and learning from those things that we’re measuring. It’s exactly the same in recruitment. But very few people do this, because what they’re doing, as I said, they’re going in a position of stress. And then that is putting together a shopping list of criteria and qualifications that they want without having really thought about, how do we measure whether they’ve been successful in 12 months?”

Time spent planning rather than wading straight into the job market gives you a much better chance of finding the right person

Why communicating your values is so important

The statistics that Kim and Jimmy highlighted show that 89% of the time when someone looks good on paper but doesn’t perform in the role, it’s because of poor cultural fit. They have the right experience and qualifications but they don’t share your values or your goals. This is often overlooked, but it’s really important if you want to have a happy, productive team.

And the problem starts with your job description.

Jimmy Armitage: “Once you look at your job description – and I challenge you to go and look at them – most of them are terrible. All they do is talk about the company, what they do and then the massive shopping list of criteria. But when we think about an advert, what an advert’s trying to do is speak to the customer and the customer is the candidate. They’re choosing to come and work with you, not the other way around. Because again, what we hear a lot is, it’s an employer’s market, there’s loads of candidates out there. Yeah, there are, but not when you start putting in all the criteria, and then you don’t communicate effectively, you’re just amongst a sea of other people. If you can highlight where you’re going, your vision, your values, an incredible picture of what it’s actually like to be part of your team and why a person would buy into what they come in to do, you will absolutely transform the types of people you will attract your business.”

However and wherever you advertise the role, make it clear what type of business you are. If your office has a relaxed, laid back atmosphere, that’s what you need to communicate. If you’re more of a traditional, suit and tie type of firm, then communicate that. Use language that authentically shows who you are as a business.

Revamp your job interviews

Before you even get to the interview stage, ask some questions of your candidates. It could be a full application form or just a couple of questions on an email. Ask the questions that will show you whether they can do the job. This way, you’ll weed out even more unsuitable candidates.

So now you have a shortlist of candidates who all look great. How can you be consistent in assessing them?

As Jimmy Armitage says, “Agree it beforehand. What is the key thing you want to know? And what is the answer you’re looking for? We all have biases. I played rugby and I’m an absolute sucker for this. If somebody mentions they like rugby, I’m probably going to like them. Now, if we’re in an interview, that is immediately going to get me completely using my biases, to start to favour some candidates over others. And if I don’t have a scoring mechanism to protect me, I could make the wrong decision.”

So draw up a list of the questions to ask, no matter who is doing the interview. Comparing answers to the same questions is much more reliable than going on gut feel. This is also really important to avoid the PLU syndrome – People Like Us – and encourage diversity.

And don’t keep your interviewees in the meeting room. Show them around the office, let them meet some of your team. How they interact with others reveals more of their true self than just sitting at the boardroom table. You could even bring a team member into the interview (or a part of it) – their views on who is right for the role are equally important.

It can be hard to recruit the right people but a consistent approach and a properly planned strategy makes it that much easier.

These are just some of the insights that Kim and Jimmy shared in a fascinating session. The webinar recording is available to watch in full on the AVN Know How Hub – more details here.




Image by vishnu vijayan from Pixabay