Magazine article The CPA Journal

Targeted Recruiting and Retention

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Targeted Recruiting and Retention

Article excerpt

What Matters Most to Employees

Since the AICPA began surveying accounting firms in 1997, firms have consistently reported that finding qualified staff is a top priority (PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, AICPA, 1997-2007). Hiring across accounting firms increased from 2009 to 2011, with 90% of firms forecasting stable or higher levels of hiring in the near future (PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, AICPA, 2011). In fact, employment opportunities for accountants and auditors will increase 16% over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012/2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The importance of recruiting has been addressed in numerous articles (e.g., George Violette and Douglas Chene, "Campus Recruiting: What Local and Regional Accounting Firms Look for in New Hires," The CPA Journal, December 2008, pp. 66-68; John A. Elfrink and Gregg S. Woodruff, "Recruiting the Best and the Brightest: The Role of Accounting Societies," The CPA Journal, Februaiy 2008, pp. 68-71; Anita Davis, "Understanding the Best and the Brightest," Journal of Accountancy, November 2006, pp. 41-47).

To assist accounting firms in their recruit- ing and retention efforts, this discussion pre- sents the results of a survey designed to determine why some accountants seek careers with Big Four firms, whereas oth- ers seek careers with non-Big Four firms. In total, 185 accounting students (34 grad- uate, 151 undergraduate) from a large pub- lic university in the Southwest were sur- veyed about what matters most to them with respect to future employment and what they believe are the best aspects of Big Four and non-Big Four firms.

Furthermore, 262 accounting profes- sionals, representing various firm sizes from a variety of states, were surveyed about what they believe to be the most important characteristics of a firm. This group consisted of 48 Big Four employ- ees, 88 regional practitioners, and 87 local practitioners from a wide range of states in the South and Midwest.

Advantages of Big Four and Non-Big Four Firms

According to the accounting profes- sionals surveyed, the top five advantages of working for Big Four firms include the prestige associated with the firm, the abil- ity to work with large clients, networking and future job opportunities, compensation packages, and better resources and train- ing. The students identified the same top five advantages of Big Four firms, albeit in a slightly different order. The general consensus between students and practi- tioners about the top five advantages sug- gests that Big Four firms are effectively communicating with potential recruits. Exhibit 1 presents the survey results for Big Four firms (including response rates).

Exhibit 2 illustrates the top advantages of working for non-Big Four firms, accord- ing to students and practitioners. Both students and practitioners agreed that the top advantage of working for non-Big Four firms is a more comfortable working envi- ronment; they also agreed that they would work fewer hours at non-Big Four firms. (Student information in Exhibits 1 and 2 were based on free-response questions answered by all graduate students.)

Yet, several differences exist between student and practitioner respondents. For example, only the students identified less stress and competition, smaller offices, and lower turnover as advantages of working for non-Big Four firms. Likewise, only the practitioners identified less travel, closer client relationships, and more diverse work experiences as advantages of working for non-Big Four firms. Recruiters at non-Big Four firms might benefit from informing students of these lesser-known advan- tages (e.g., the potential to travel less, to gain a broader range of experience, to develop closer client relationships).

What Matters to Potential Employees

The student respondents were asked to rank the importance of the following six job characteristics: salary and compensa- tion, work-life balance, firm atmosphere (i. …

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