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Building the CPA Pipeline: Untapped Talent—Outreach & Onboarding

Jan 31, 2023
Photo of a job interview between two women sitting at a table.

As I am sure most of us have seen over the last couple of years, the ability to source, attract, develop and retain top accounting talent has been notably difficult. Labor demands within the profession, a new emphasis on work-life balance and shifting demographics have all played a part, making this task increasingly difficult without diminishing its importance as an integral part of the growth of our industry.

This sobering reality makes the process of sourcing, developing and retaining top talent all the more important.

Outreach & Recruiting

In order to build a firm foundation of talent, we must start at the beginning — sourcing and recruiting. While the idea of college campus recruiting has been well established, it is possible to expand this concept to the campuses and accounting programs of two-year (junior/community) colleges and high schools. Doing so allows firms and recruiters to get a head start on getting students excited about the potential and opportunity that a career in accounting can provide. Leveraging student accounting organizations in promoting the profession has proven to be effective as well; in the process of choosing a career path to follow, many students will first look for the opinions of their peers.

Establishing mentoring relationships earlier in a student’s career (high school, early college) also can help to reverse stereotypes about the industry that are well set in by the time students need to traditionally choose a career path. Connecting students with practicing accountants early on will go a long way in shaping (and changing) the perspective many students have on the field of accounting.

Uncovering Untapped Talent Pools

As the landscape for both employers and employees has changed over the last couple of years, so has the pool of talent that needs to be utilized in the process of building the “pipelines” we are striving to create.

To take full advantage of this shift, we must expand our focus to less-traditional candidates — those looking for greater flexibility, better benefits, shorter commutes or a larger opportunity for remote work. 

Another avenue of talent pool expansion centers around the re-focusing of skill priorities for those positions in question — “must-have” versus “preferred” skills. “Must-have” skills are those that are necessary for a candidate to perform at the position in question. “Preferred” skills are those that help a candidate’s potential for landing the position but should not exclude them from consideration.

Focus on Onboarding

Once candidates have been sourced and offers have been made, it is important that hiring organizations ensure that assumptions are not being made in the onboarding process about what a new hire needs for success.

Once onboarded, it is vital that new hires, at any level, take part in a mentorship program. Leaning on guidance from experienced CPAs and higher-level professionals at the onset of a new hire’s career will increase the likelihood of their long-term success within your organization.

Reprinted with permission of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

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Sean P. Breheney, CPA, MBA
About the Author

Sean P. Breheney, CPA, MBA, is a principal at PKF O'Connor Davies, LLP. He is a member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs Student Programs & Scholarships Committee and numerous interest groups.