If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly aware of the acute talent shortage that is facing the accounting profession today. The problem is at least simple to define: firms are competing for an increasingly smaller pool of qualified candidates. 2019, the most recent year AICPA reported on the matter, saw the lowest number of CPA exam candidates in more than a decade. Meanwhile, many firms are in the unfortunate position of turning down work because they don’t have the resources to service clients. The causes for this are complex and myriad. Many thought leaders point to a pipeline problem, where young people are not being properly funneled down the path that traditionally led to accounting careers. Others point to a culture of overwork that leads to burnout.
In any case, it’s an all-hands-on-deck situation, and that means marketing teams taking on roles they may not be familiar with. Recruiting has traditionally been a siloed activity, with recruiters responsible for attracting candidates to fill openings. But when you’re confronted with a situation where firms are turning down work, it’s only logical that efforts should re-allocated away from business development and toward finding talent. As marketers, we bring distinct skills that can serve our counterparts in recruiting to overcome these challenges. To that end, here are eight ways that marketers can help solve the recruiting challenges facing their firms.
1. Optimize the recruiting experience.
As marketers, we’re used to looking at interactions from an experience perspective. Normally, we have our customer’s journey in mind. But there’s nothing fundamentally different about a candidate than a potential client. In both cases, there’s a process we need to optimize in order to maximize the chances of attaining a particular result — in this case, having job candidates pick your firm. One way in particular marketers may be able to help is with the digital experience you offer candidates; for an in-depth look at this important topic, check out this month’s Seasoned Marketer here. (link to Seasoned Marketer)
2. Differentiate your firm.
Our understanding of differentiation is a key skill we marketers bring to the table. As we all know, differentiation is a critical exercise for enabling us to tell our firm’s story in a way that’s persuasive to our target audience. But marketers can also apply this skill to recruiting efforts to great effect. Maybe your firm offers unique mentorship or coaching opportunities; maybe you give employees the opportunity to work 100% remotely. Whatever it is, candidates want to know why they should choose your firm, so taking the time to analyze and communicate what makes your firm different from the rest is well worth the investment of time and effort.
3. Establish your employer brand.
Differentiation is clearly important, but if you really want to wow candidates, consider building out your employer brand. According to LinkedIn, 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job. This is an area in which employers like big tech, for instance, have long been leaders. But in a tight talent market like the one we are in right now, national and regional firms alike have greater cause than ever to pay attention to the impression they are making on potential candidates.
This employer brand you build is complimentary, though distinct, from the brand you put in front of current and prospective clients. And it’s a top-to-bottom exercise, leveraging all the components of branding that we know can be so effective, from the look and feel of the brand, to the tone and diction the brand uses, to the messaging that it adheres to. It’s a major project, no doubt about it. But resources should be directed to the areas in which they are most needed, and for many firms right now, that’s talent acquisition.
4. Leverage SEO.
Right now, your ideal candidate could be seeking new job opportunities. And where does a job search, or any search really, begin? On the internet, of course — or more precisely, on Google. Marketing teams can translate their understanding of search engine optimization to build campaigns centered around attracting candidates. From identifying keywords to develop content around, to identifying trends to be aware of, to optimizing pages for human and computer readability, the awareness of SEO that marketers bring can help contribute to an effective recruiting initiative. Make sure your firm is not ignoring this important tool for attracting candidates.
5. Look out for ranking and award opportunities.
Marketing is ultimately based on the power of the written (or spoken) word and the capacity for rhetoric to persuade. But the objective status that rankings and awards confer on a business add a legitimacy that words alone cannot offer. Often, the difference between businesses that win awards and businesses that don’t is simply applying. Moreover, awards have a tendency to cascade into more awards; that is, once you win one award, it makes it a lot easier to win other awards. Our recommendation? Look into local or industry-based “Best Places to Work” that your firm might qualify for. DEI-related awards, too, can make your firm more attractive to the widest possible swath of candidates.
6. Manage your Glassdoor presence.
One of the biggest impacts the internet has had has been the rise of review culture. Whether it’s restaurants, wine, consumer technology, or kitchen appliances — if you can name it, there’s a site that specializes in reviewing it. Employers are no exception. Glassdoor and other employer review sites offer candidates an inside look at what working for a given employer is really like. Want to know the best thing you can do in this critical environment? Encourage your employees — all of them — to write Glassdoor reviews of your firm.
Some marketers may remember the scandal that emerged several years ago when it was discovered that employers were gaming their Glassdoor reviews. This is a risky — not to mention unethical — approach that has more drawbacks then benefits. The biggest drawback is that companies miss out on a unique opportunity to receive honest feedback regarding their employee experience. When Glassdoor is used correctly, it can be a way for employers to get the kinds of insights and feedback that are almost impossible to acquire through any other means, including internal surveys or polls (even anonymous ones). Understand and respond to this feedback to make your firm into an even better employer that attracts top-tier candidates.
7. Highlight employer lifestyle content on social media.
Social media is, for many firms, one of the biggest and best ways they have of connecting with the general public. But these audiences are not just useful for brand awareness or demand generation, as they are most commonly used for. The most effective recruiters make use of these channels to showcase what it’s like to work for their firms. Think about all the cool things your firm has to showcase as an employer: team members bonding, interns working on real client projects, management coaching younger professionals to become future leaders, team members volunteering in the local community — the list goes on and on. Social media, which already naturally trends toward lifestyle content, is the perfect medium to showcase all of this to an audience that is almost certainly seeking it out before even applying for any of your firm’s openings.
8. Partner with HR.
A recruiting marketing campaign is fundamentally a cross-functional initiative. And it’s important to remember that recruiting professionals are the subject matter experts here. As always, it’s the SMEs that have the knowledge. As marketers, our job is simply to amplify and harness that knowledge to create marketing campaigns that both answer a business need and connect with the target market. Take the time to develop relationships with your HR counterparts and truly understand their perspectives and needs, and your firm is sure to benefit.
What do you want to know?
What have you been doing in the recruiting area that has been successful? What tips do you have? What would you like to learn? The Minute plans to dive deeper into this topic in the first quarter of 2022, so share your ideas and what you’d like to learn with our editors at [email protected] or [email protected].
About Aaron Welch
Aaron Welch is a writer and content marketer at BPM, one of the 50 largest accounting and advisory firms in the country. With nearly five years of agency, freelance and in-house experience, he has written for businesses in the financial services, technology, telecom, construction and life science industries, as well as for public sector clients.