Hiring trends in the accounting profession

Recession. Fewer jobs for graduates. Stay in school. These are all things you have heard in the recent past, but what is the future demand for the accounting profession?

Demand for accountants

There is always a baseline demand for good accountants. Being in the middle of the worst economy in decades, this is still true! To be certain, hiring has been down in general and the accounting field has been impacted as well. Public accounting, which makes up much of the demand for new college graduates, is no exception. Many of the global, as well as local, firms have had layoffs but let’s look at that closer.

Public accounting firms provide services, such as audit and tax compliance, that do not go away in a down economy. There is always a core demand for services and talent. However, some of the discretionary services offered, including consulting, acquisitions, and strategic planning, suffered as companies cut spending to weather the economy. In addition, firms’ retention of their people has significantly improved as companies who recruit talent away from other firms have fewer hiring needs. As a result, firms’ staffing models have been thrown out of whack! At many firms, this caused layoffs and push back of some new hire start dates to get staffing levels in line with their current demand.

Conversely, the need for good financial advice and a trusted advisor has never been greater. While professions such as human resources and marketing have seen significant layoffs, accounting jobs have not been hit quite as hard. You may be able to get away without an on-staff recruiter when there is no hiring, but your company can not do without an accounting team! However, you don’t see a lot of positions open right now given the nervousness of companies and job seekers alike. When times are good, financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting opportunities tend to be created to support various areas of a company. Those areas will grow as those doing more with less start to feel the need to add to their teams.

Trends for hiring plans

Firms’ reactions to hiring plans ranged from moving ahead with historical hiring goals, to being very unsure of how many college graduates and interns to target this year. All firms appear to be very focused on filling 85-100% of their positions through their internship programs, leaving very few positions for those outside of internship programs. Some firms indicated a slight reduction in the number of internships they are going to offer in the short-term.

All firms appear interested in hiring experienced talent to keep up with current demands or start to capture market share in growth areas. There still is a shortage of strong financial talent in the experienced market and that will become more apparent as the economy recovers.

Clearly, there is still a demand for strong accounting professionals. Given an increase in accounting enrollments and a slight short-term dip in demand, the competition appears to be tighter than in recent years. You need to differentiate yourself and, without question, go after the internships at the organization you want to work for upon graduating. It used to be that an internship anywhere would help your chance for a full-time position somewhere else. Now you need the internship at the company you want to work for to ensure a chance to prove your abilities and earn that full-time spot!

If you missed that window already, it is time to network with target employers, prepare for the interview, and be involved in things that make for meaningful interview stories. The future is bright for top accounting talent. You just have to make sure you do not miss the chance to prove that you are “the best and the brightest!”