Stellar tax professionals: How to recruit, retain, and develop them.

Author:Crisler, Michael W.

The CPA profession is in a transformational period. Impacted by the regulatory changes that have been introduced by numerous bodies and the pressures of liability exposure, small CPA firms have been forced to reevaluate the types of services they perform and their clientele. Tax services have been especially affected by new technologies that have enhanced the quality of services that can be rendered from both compliance and research perspectives.

Over the years, the challenges of attracting and retaining a quality team of professionals have intensified the day-to-day management of practices. The profession has embraced numerous projects to evaluate and enhance the undergraduate- and graduate-level tax curricula, with the goal to prepare staff for service in the field. When those students look to then enter the workforce, the competition is intense among the applicants and those doing the hiring. Many students are dismayed if they are not recruited by the larger firms. Yet, such perceptions are extremely unfortunate, particularly in the tax area. How does the profession change that mindset?

Promoting your firm to bring in a stellar candidate

First, cultivating a different mindset begins with recruitment. Small firms --much like their large firm counterparts--need to have a game plan for recruitment, one that must be in effect well before the interview process. In this phase, much information is gathered--both by the firm and by the candidate seeking employment with it.

A firm needs to consider how to differentiate itself from comparable firms. For example, a firm's marketing should, where appropriate, reinforce the following concepts:

* Staff will receive a diverse on-the-job experience;

* Staff will have the opportunity to foster relationships with clients;

* Staff will be offered adequate (and perhaps paid) time to complete the CPA Exam;

* Staff will be encouraged to participate in networking and growth opportunities, such as the AICPA, state societies, and other professional organizations; and

* The firm is committed to the latest technology practices.

The conversation continues in the candidate interview, which is a vital part of the recruitment process. With the interview, a small firm must establish that its environment will create a gateway for future growth and success. It must demonstrate that the opportunities it provides will serve as step-pingstones for the candidate to many different paths in the future. Ultimately, the...

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