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CFOs report difficulty finding accounting and finance talent 

By Ken Tysiac 
June 03 2012

Staffing levels in corporate accounting and finance are expected to remain stable in the third quarter, according to a recent survey of CFOs.

But the same executives increasingly are reporting difficulty finding qualified professionals.

Sixty-nine per cent of US CFOs surveyed for the staffing services firm Robert Half’s Professional Employment Report forecast for the third quarter of 2012 said it is challenging to find skilled accounting and finance professionals today.

That’s an increase of seven percentage points over the previous quarter. In the survey forecasting the second quarter of 2011, with the economy beginning to emerge from the recession, just 37% of executives reported difficulty finding skilled accounting and finance professionals.

“It’s actually amazing, the increase in CFOs who are really talking about how hard it is to find the right talent,” said Ryan Sutton, senior vice president for the New England district for Robert Half.

After a busy end to 2011 and start to 2012 in terms of expected hires and cuts, CFOs overwhelmingly reported for the second straight quarter that they expect their staffing levels to remain unchanged. For the second consecutive quarter, more than 90% of executives surveyed do not expect to add or reduce accounting and finance staff.

It’s not clear from the survey whether the increased difficulty in recruiting qualified professionals has caused a drop-off in hiring and a stabilising of staffs. The economy also may be a factor, as the overall US unemployment rate has essentially remained unchanged (between 8.1% and 8.3%) for the first five months of this year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data released Friday showed a civilian noninstitutional population unemployment rate of 8.2%, up from 8.1% the previous month.

Ninety-three per cent of those surveyed said they expect no changes in accounting and finance personnel in the third quarter of 2012. In the previous quarter, 91% did not anticipate changes in staffing levels in accounting and finance.

The third-quarter forecast shows that 4% of CFOs expect cuts in accounting and finance staffing, and 3% plan increases.

Those numbers in the last two quarters are widely divergent from the previous two quarters. The report for the first quarter of 2012 showed that 20% of executives expected to increase accounting and finance staff and 11% planned decreases. The previous report, for the final quarter of 2011, showed that 12% of executives planned increases and 7% expected decreases in accounting and finance staffing.

On-the-job training provides one possible answer for executives who are struggling to find qualified staff, Sutton said. He said employers who can’t recruit staff accountants with Oracle experience, for example, might need to hire them based on their other skills and help them develop their business-systems skills.

“Obviously, we all would like to pick up the free agents who can come in and hit the ground running,” Sutton said. “If you’re not able to do that, whether it’s finding the skills, or finding the skills at the price point you want, at some point you need to drop back and really come up with a development programme that allows you to pay the right wages that are in your guidelines as an organisation.”

Accounting and finance professionals who are struggling to find a job can improve their prospects by sharpening the skills that employers want, Sutton said.

“You have to update the skills, specifically those business-systems skills,” he said. “That really is the one thing that differentiates the top candidates from the medium candidates, is the business-systems savvy.”

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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2 Comments


Comments
JohnSamore III

ADRIENSHIEL is 100% correct. Any trained professional (CPA) has the basic skillsets to work in the finance and accounting environment. A good professional is one that can adapt and quickly learn the particular industry and software of that particular company. Being that this is a buyer''s market (employer), they think they can demand the perfect candidate. What they fail to realize is that those in a particular industry with a stable job are not going to make a move in this economy. CFO and their respective "Talent Managers" need to start thinking outside the box and looking for compentent professionals that may have been displaced by an industry not excelling at the moment.

Another hiring problem is that those responsible for hiring have gotten lazy with the use of technology. If one submits a resume and all of the key words listed in the job description are not in the resume, a very highly qualified candidate is going to be overlooked.

In my opinion, companies and staffing firms need to start thinking outside of the box for candidates because it is the professionals with varying experience that are going to bring fresh ideas and best practices to all aspects of the business.

Jun 15, 2012 1:13 PM
Comments
AdrianShiel

From recent experience of looking for work it seems to me that there is not necessarily a shortage of candidates but a shortage of candidates who meet ever more detailed ''requirements''.  This tightening of requirements is possibly driven by a cut in budgets for training and also an in-ability of organisations to train people.

The best people for a role are not always those that did a certain task for the last 5 years on a Tuesday afternoon at 15:00.  To keep the business functions fresh I believe you need to often recruit from outside the existing knowledge pool.  Someone who is trained to do exactly what you want might not offer the fresh in sight that comes with someone from a different (although highly skilled) background.

Jun 15, 2012 2:59 AM
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