Perceptions in the Recruiting Process

By Moncada, Susan M.; Sanders, Joseph C. | The CPA Journal, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Perceptions in the Recruiting Process


Moncada, Susan M., Sanders, Joseph C., The CPA Journal


Do students and faculty know what characteristics recruiters are looking for?

Public accounting firms spend significant amounts of time and money recruiting college graduates for entry-level accounting positions. Human resource directors of national firms estimate turnover costs are between $50,000 and $100,000 per exiting employee. In high turnover environments, remaining staff exhibit lower morale, increased insecurity, and greater job dissatisfaction. At present, CPA firms are experiencing a shortage of accounting seniors and managers. In fact, according to the U.S. Labor Department's most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook, the demand for CPAs is likely to be strong for the next seven years. As a result, firms need to hire entry-level accountants who will stay with the firm in the long term and be promoted to these advanced positions. Firms that are better able to achieve a match with the recruits they hire may ultimately lower their employee turnover rate and improve morale and job satisfaction. Recruiting and hiring the right candidates is clearly an essential goal of CPA firm recruiters, whereas making the wrong choice has proven to be very costly. When interviewing candidates, recruiters need to ask probing questions to uncover a candidate's true potential for success.

The purpose of our study was to determine whether the perceptions of accounting students, faculty, and CPA firm recruiters are consistent with the characteristics deemed most important when candidates are selected for both a campus and follow-up office interview. If college and university accounting programs are to adequately prepare graduates to serve as CPAs, both faculty and students need to be aware of the skills and qualities that must be possessed and demonstrated during various phases of the recruitment process. Our study identifies the attributes recruiters from across the United States feel are the most important signals of success. The conflicting viewpoints that have surfaced among recruiters, faculty, and students surveyed suggest a communication gap continues to exist.

In our study, we looked for perceptions in terms of the relative importance CPA firm recruiters place on various characteristics in the following two situations:

* When they prescreen candidates for a first or on-campus interview, and During an initial interview to select candidates for a follow-up interview. For both situations, we examined the extent to which the ratings of CPA firm recruiters, faculty, and students were in agreement.

The Survey

CPA firm recruiters, faculty, and students from across the United States participated in our study. A total of 1,200 questionnaires were mailed to CPA firm recruiters. We received 277 usable responses, for an overall response rate of 23%. Responses by firm size were as follows: 81 national, 115 regional, and 80 local firm recruiters.

Accounting faculty who had valid email addresses in the Hasselback Accounting Faculty Directory were sent a survey electronically. Also, accounting faculty from 20 schools geographically dispersed were asked to distribute student questionnaires to senior accounting majors. Usable surveys were obtained from 445 students and 182 faculty. Of the faculty respondents, 96% indicated they were involved with advising students about job interviewing. Ninety percent of the students reported they would be graduating within six months of completing our survey.

Characteristics Used to Prescreen Recruiters, faculty, and students rated the importance that they felt CPA firm recruiters placed on 19 characteristics when selecting candidates for an on-campus or first interview. The average importance ratings for the prescreening characteristics as perceived by the three groups are displayed in Table 1.

The scale used in the survey instrument ranged from a "1I indicating "greatest importance" to a "7" indicating "least importance." Therefore, a lower rating indicates the recruitment characteristic is perceived as more important. …

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