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Easy Ways To Avoid A Bad Hire In Public Accounting

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In the realm of public accounting, hiring plays a significant role, often presenting a mix of remarkable, mediocre, and dreadful candidates. For firm owners, it is the latter category that leaves a lasting impact—causing stress, financial loss, and even doubts about their chosen path in public accounting.  

Drawing on our 25 years of experience in public accounting, we have developed a practical model for you to demonstrate to those in charge of hiring what the cost of a bad hire is in your particular circumstance. Do you use recruiters? Do you fire fast or fire slow? How long will it take before poor outcomes are even noticed? Our Bad Hire Calculator easily turns these issues in to financial costs to consider. 

Actually, and even worse, recent surveys conclude that the financial cost is not even the most important issue for firms who hire a poor performer – it comes after partner stress and the effect on team morale. Imagine adding these to the financial cost the Bad Hire Calculator shows you. 

After depressing yourself by calculating the cost of a bad hire, here are some ideas to avoid one. These are especially suited to small or mid-sized firms who do not have a dedicated recruiting function. 


Hire with a purpose  

Evaluate if you are hiring the right role. Could outsourcing or offshore contracting be viable alternatives? Consider how the new hire aligns with your firm's strategic plan. See the hire as an opportunity to move towards your ideal structure. Differentiate between essential skills on day one and those that can be taught. If you merely seek a like-for-like replacement, you may already be down the path to disappointment. 


Master the art of interviewing  

Establish a well-defined interview process and make sure to use an interview panel composed of individuals with intimate knowledge of the role and at least one person with interview training. The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior – and at interview you are trying to gain the best understanding you can of past behaviors in various situations. The candidate is likely to be as well prepared as you, so probe deeply and do not accept glib answers. 


Verify beyond the resume 

Resumes often provide an aspirational account of candidates' achievements in previous roles. Candidates will now download the job description in to ChatGPT and get AI to write their ‘perfect’ cover letter whilst getting AI to amend their resume to fit your job. You would almost worry if they didn’t. Use skills testing to provide concrete evidence of their technical capabilities. Ensure that your tests are suitable and closely aligned with the technical skills required for the position. The results should enable you to objectively assess if the candidate possesses the necessary skills to fulfil the job requirements. This is what Accountests does. 


Emphasize team compatibility 

Conducting a reliable personality assessment before the final interview can reveal the candidate's preferred working style and identify areas that warrant further exploration. A well-crafted personality profile can even shed light on a candidate's potential to excel in client-facing and business development roles. The Accountants Personality Profile Questionnaire does this.  


Swift decision-making  

Having an efficient process and access to the necessary tools enables you to make quick and informed hiring decisions. Candidates have options, and if they apply to your firm, chances are they are exploring other opportunities as well. Your task is to swiftly identify the promising candidates and secure their commitment. Towards the end of an interview, gauge their interest by asking if they would accept the job if offered. Make offers with deadlines to create a sense of urgency. Anticipate counteroffers from their current employer and learn how to manage them. Use our Hire Fast With Confidence Guide to learn the tips and tricks. But most of all, act fast at every stage. 


If you need more convincing, go back to the Bad Hire CalculatorWe know it takes a bit longer to do this properly and get it right. But consider the benefits vs the pain of getting it wrong. A bit like any professional work we complete for a client. When preparing a tax return, we use checklists and processes to make sure we not only get it right, and best the best answer for our client. Why wouldn’t we do this for ourselves when we are hiring? 



About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers. 

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