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How to recruit and retain the staff you want for your accounting firm

16 Apr 2024

Recruiting and retaining top talent is crucial for the success of your accounting firm. The competition for skilled professionals is fierce, making it essential for you to develop effective strategies to attract and keep the best candidates.

In this article we look at the challenge accounting firms are facing, as well as strategies that can help you recruit and retain the right talent for your firm.

If you are an accountant in practice or industry and would like more information about becoming a 20:20 Innovation member, why not book a free 30-minute demo with our team today.

The recruitment and retention challenges facing accounting firms

The accounting industry as a whole is facing challenges in attracting prospective candidates to consider a career in accounting practice. This is leading to a dearth of accounting candidates and makes it difficult to find the best talent.

Accountant interviewing a potential candidate

Recruiting talent

Many firms are finding that a job opening can stay unfilled for some time before being able to fill it. Experiences shared by our member firms suggest that a job ad may go completely unanswered. Even enlisting the help of a recruitment agency brings only limited success at times.

This is a big headache for the recruitment team. The right candidate can be very elusive to find and this has led firms to feel forced to consider recruiting candidates who are not really the right fit. Some firms find they hire in haste to meet short-term workloads but then repent at leisure over a poor choice.

Retaining talent

Many accounting professionals are choosing to leave accounting practices for jobs in industry. This gives rise to a serious difficulty for accounting firm recruitment and means that the pool of future leaders that firms can recruit from is dwindling.

Clearly, whether you are recruiting talent or trying to retain it, there are wide-ranging issues and these cannot be solved in a single article. However, in this comprehensive guide, we will delve into some of the strategies and tactics necessary to attract and retain the staff you want for your accounting firm.

With help on implementing effective recruitment and retention strategies, this article will equip you with the knowledge and insights needed to build a stellar team.

Recruitment Strategies for accounting practice

Here are some of the key strategies accountants like you can employ to ensure you get the right employees into your business. The right candidates will help you develop a defined company culture and brand identity.

Identify your ideal candidate

An accounting practice will often analyse and identify what your ideal client looks like. This makes it easier to streamline efforts to win these clients.

Could you adopt a similar approach in identifying what your perfect candidate looks like? What type of experience and values do they have? By getting the right candidate clearly in mind you may find it easier to target your recruitment processes to find them.

New recruit agrees to join accounting firm

Crafting Compelling Job Descriptions and Ads

The recruitment process begins with crafting job descriptions that encapsulate the firm's values, culture, and expectations.

Offering a competitive salary is important, but many potential candidates will be driven by key questions such as:

  • Will I belong here?
  • What difference will I make?
  • Can I grow and develop with this firm?

Everyone wants to feel valued in every sense.

Would your ideal candidate be able to answer these questions from reading the job description? This will be difficult to do if it only lists out job competences. So, you need to give them a glimpse into your accounting firm and help prospective candidates see why your firm is the one they want to work for.

A well-crafted job description not only attracts potential candidates but also sets the tone for the hiring process.

Job ads need to not only outline job responsibilities and qualifications but also highlight the firm's unique selling points, such as hybrid working arrangements, career progression opportunities, your benefits package and how the work environment is supportive to staff members. By selling the firm’s culture as being one of flexibility and collaboration, the firm stands a better chance of attracting the best candidates.

Leveraging Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies are not always popular with firms due to their high cost or perhaps because of bad experiences with the quality of candidates they have provided in the past.

However, partnering with recruitment agencies specialising in the accounting profession can streamline the hiring process and stretch your reach to provide access to a wider pool of candidates. The right candidates may then be easier to identify.

Accountant being interviewed by a panel

Employee Referral Program

Implementing an employee referral program can provide employees with the incentive to refer qualified candidates to you.

Employees are likely to refer individuals who they believe are already a good fit for your firm's culture and job requirements. This can result in a higher quality of candidates who have, to some degree, been pre-vetted by an existing employee.

Because the candidate already has a connection to the firm through the referring employee, this can lead to greater commitment from the new hire and increase their job satisfaction making it more likely that you will be able to retain them.

An employee referral program also taps into the personal and professional networks of your current employees. This may lead to finding people who are not actively seeking new employment but could be a great fit for your accounting practice.

Targeting Local Schools

Local schools, colleges, and universities run courses that require students to find work experience. Taking on people for work experience for short periods can give you the opportunity to see how a person works and interacts with other team members. It may lead to the identification of new talent that is the right fit for your firm.

Building relationships with local colleges and universities can help you to tap into a pipeline of talented graduates who are considering a career in accounting.

Career fairs can help you to attract potential employees. They put you in front of people who may still be choosing between career options, and can give you the opportunity to influence the right candidates to consider your firm.

Emphasising Flexible Working Arrangements

Modern life has made flexible working hours a key criteria for many people, including qualified accountants. So, offering flexible arrangements can be a key differentiator for your accounting firm.

Flexibility in work hours, hybrid working and remote work options all appeal to candidates seeking a better work-life balance and may help you to find the right person.

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Recruiting Process

One of the biggest challenges once you've found the right candidates is to streamline your recruitment process.

Female accountant shaking hands with new manager

Streamlining the Interview Process

A streamlined interview process is essential for attracting and retaining the right candidates.

Lengthy and convoluted interview processes can deter qualified candidates and lead to missed opportunities. For instance, a candidate who is currently employed and needs to find time off to attend interviews may find multiple rounds of interviews, assessments and other steps to be a burden.

Candidates who are not actively looking for a new opportunity but are open to considering them will be particularly sensitive to lengthy recruitment processes.

Interviewing and being able to get a better sense of the interviewee so as to assess their suitability for your firm and a role is a skill. So, why not engage a recruitment expert or take a course that will help you or other team members involved in interviewing to develop these skills?

Assessing Cultural Fit

Cultural fit is paramount in the recruiting process, especially in accounting firms where teamwork and collaboration are essential.

Interviews therefore should not just revolve around the technical capability and experience of the candidate. The right candidate will have values that fit with the firm's values and this will contribute to a harmonious work environment.

At the interview you could use questions that assess how a person has demonstrated that they behave in a way that fits with your firm's culture. For instance, you might ask: "Can you provide an example of a time when you went above and beyond to help a colleague?" or "How do you handle conflicts in a team setting?"

Paying attention to non-verbal cues during the interview can be helpful too. Body language, tone of voice, and a person's overall demeanour can all give you clues as to whether or not they are the right person.

Two accountants discuss potential job candidates

Offering Competitive Salaries

There is no way to avoid the fact that to attract the best candidates, you must offer competitive salaries and benefits packages.

While the right candidates are unlikely to be solely motivated by their salary amount, a competitive compensation structure demonstrates that you value your employees' contributions.

Providing Development Opportunities

Career progression is a key driver of employee satisfaction and retention. Therefore, an accounting practice has to show that they invest in their employees' professional development to be able to attract top candidates.

Training programs, mentorship initiatives, and opportunities for advancement are all ways that an accounting practice can demonstrate a commitment to developing accounting talent in team members.

Retention Strategies for accountants

Once you've got the right employees in your accounting business, you need to keep them! Retention is key to maintaining a positive status quo. Here's how:

Creating a Positive Work Environment

Something that is essential for employee morale and retention is a positive work environment. In a small firm, the environment will hinge on the approach of the accounting firm owner. In larger firms, managers and other leaders will have a big impact on team members and can influence the work environment in a positive way.

This kind of environment promotes the well-being, satisfaction, and productivity of your team members. Of course, there are many components to a positive environment, but promoting open communication, recognising achievements and fostering a sense of belonging among employees are three key areas to consider.

Open communication is important because if employees can feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of retaliation or judgment this will build trust and mutual respect between management and staff.

Celebrating milestones, giving praise, and acknowledging publicly or privately the efforts of team members all help to make your firm a place where employees feel a sense of belonging that makes them want to stay.

Implementing an Employee Wellness Program

An employee wellness program can address various aspects of your employees' physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They promote work-life balance and contribute to your employees' job satisfaction.

Could you consider offering health benefits, fitness initiatives, or mental health resources? Can you encourage social interaction through a firm day out, group fitness classes, or enabling team members to participate in a charity event?

New employees are more likely to stick around if they quickly feel they have friends and are well looked after at the office.

The size of your accounting practice may limit how much you can do, but your efforts demonstrate your firm's commitment to your employee's well-being and this can translate into staff feeling motivated to stay in their jobs for the long term.

Offering Performance Bonuses

Performance bonuses can give your employees additional incentive to excel in their roles and contribute to the firm's success.

However, some care needs to be taken. Bonuses may inadvertently encourage employees to prioritise individual performance over collaboration and teamwork. This could lead to competition and putting personal goals above the broader objectives of the accountancy practice. Bonuses therefore should reward collaboration and teamwork as well as individual performance.

The criteria used to determine bonuses can also be perceived as subjective or unfair by employees. Alternatively, they may feel that the amount of the bonus is not commensurate with the effort needed to earn it. This leads to dissatisfaction and demotivation, the opposite of the intended effect!

Therefore, bonus structures need to be clear, consistent, and avoid favouring certain individuals or teams over another. A well-structured bonus scheme that recognises and rewards outstanding performance fosters a culture of excellence and encourages employee retention.

Fostering Employee Engagement

Employee engagement means that your team members have an emotional commitment to and involvement in their work, the accounting firm and its goals. Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their work, feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment, and are willing to go above and beyond to contribute to the success of the firm. Importantly, they are more likely to stay with the firm long-term.

How can you make your employees feel engaged? Talk to them about the firm's goals, and any changes or developments. Make sure that all team members understand how their work contributes to the firm's overall objectives. Avoid micro-managing staff and instead give them the authority to work on their own initiative and make decisions, as appropriate, over their work.

Encouraging Feedback and Communication

A person who feels heard generally feels more valued, and an employee who feels valued will want to stay with your firm.

Create channels for open feedback and communication so that your employees feel that they can voice their opinions and concerns without being judged or criticised as a result. Actively listening to employees' feedback demonstrates that you value their input, and contributes to a culture of transparency and trust that makes people want to stick around.

Accountants review job description prior to interview

Promoting Work-Life Balance

Striking a balance between work and personal life is essential for employee well-being.

Firms can promote work-life balance by offering flexible working arrangements, paid time off, and support for the personal obligations that team members have.

Investing in Career Development

Professional growth is something that most qualified accountants are looking for. The best accountants will demand it. Investing in an employee's career development demonstrates that you are committed to their long-term success and promotes loyalty.

Are you providing access to training, mentorship, and career advancement opportunities to your staff? If so, you will be helping them to grow and excel within the firm, turning your new hires into the talent needed to take your firm on to continued success.


The accounting profession continues to see new challenges, but with the right team members your accounting firm will flourish. However, recruiting and retaining top talent is a continuous journey that requires strategic planning and investment.

By implementing effective recruitment strategies and streamlining the recruitment process you will be able to attract the right candidates.

Due to the ongoing talent drain, retaining staff is a top issue for accounting firms. So, you need to prioritise employee retention initiatives. By fostering a positive work environment, offering development opportunities, and promoting work-life balance, your accounting firm can position itself as an employer of choice and ensure its long-term success and sustainability.

If you would like more information about joining 20:20 Innovation why not book a free 30-minute demo with our team today or call us on +44 (0) 121 314 2020.

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