The rise of interim accounting & finance talent
Finance recruiting is changing and the roles of interim CFO and interim controller are on the rise. Here's why your next hire won’t be full-time.
September 15, 2022
The rise of interim accounting & finance talent
When Abby, a 34-year-old financial professional, quit her job last year, she did so without a new, full-time offer lined up. Instead, she’s embracing interim positions that match her professional interests and offer greater autonomy over her schedule.
Five years ago, Abby’s story would have been the exception. Today, she’s part of a growing trend of temporary work that’s shaking up the accounting and financial talent market – prompting employers to rethink their hiring strategies to ensure they can still access high performers who decide not to remain in full-time employment.
The pandemic has prompted employees of all ages to rethink their personal and professional priorities. A Korn Ferry survey in January 2022 found that more than a third (38%) of professionals had recently left their job or planned to do so without having another job lined up. Dubbed the “Great Resignation,” this upheaval contributes to one of the most competitive accounting and finance talent markets in over a decade. But it’s not the only factor contributing to difficulty in hiring accounting and finance professionals - we list several more below.
Between a shift in job priorities and the pandemic, half of older U.S. adults (55 and up) are now retired. Compounding Boomer retirement trends is a lack of internal talent waiting to step up. During the pandemic, some companies faced hiring freezes and layoffs. Now, these companies are finding they have few mid-level employees who are prepared to take over the senior positions that retirees are vacating.
About 135,000 openings for accountants and auditors are projected each year, on average, over the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand is expected to grow by at least 7% each year, but with more professionals retiring, the available talent pool to fill these open positions is shrinking.
In a candidate-driven market, job seekers have the luxury of being more selective about which offer they accept - salary is only one factor that candidates consider. To recruit top talent, companies must be competitive with their entire offer, including benefits packages, telecommuting and flextime opportunities, vacation policies and career advancement opportunities.
A shrinking talent pool also means more difficulty finding prospective hires with the right skill set. In-demand technical skills are in short supply, such as SEC/financial reporting compliance, internal auditing expertise, budget forecasting and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance experience.
When firms do find talent with technical skills, there’s no guarantee that other skills like strong oral and written communication or work ethic will be there too. That’s bad news for businesses seeking to hire specialized talent, including cost accountants and finance managers.
Compared with previous generations, Millennials (ages 25 to 40) have some of the shortest job tenures, averaging 2 years and 9 months in a role. Even before the pandemic, they weren’t afraid to move between employers to develop new skills and gain expertise in a variety of positions. Today, it’s not just Millennials who prefer shorter engagements. Professionals of all ages are embracing contract and interim assignments that create new opportunities for skill growth, promote diversity and foster greater career autonomy.
Rather than rushing and exhausting already tired resources like your executives and finance team to quickly find the perfect CFO, companies are opting for interim executives and contract professionals to fill vacancies. Not sure if an interim solution is right for your business? These are some scenarios when an interim hire makes strategic sense and can be beneficial for your business -we list a few below.
SHRM estimates the cost of replacing a bad hire to be at least $240,000 – and, understandably, no one wants to be responsible for making a major hiring misstep. This can lead to decision-making paralysis. With an interim CFO or controller, your company can “test out” a potential hire without making a full-time commitment. You can confirm a skillset is strong and if their personality is the right fit for the team and company culture.
When top talent departs suddenly, your accounting team can be left in a lurch. Even if it’s possible to promote internally, your business may still be facing a vacancy. Sudden departures can be unsettling, hurt morale and lead to role and responsibility confusion.
A temporary contractor serves as a crucial stopgap that keeps business running smoothly until a new full-time hire is made. Most importantly, with a contractor in place, your team has the time to find the right hire rather than feeling pressure to settle for someone who isn’t the right fit.
Contractors help lighten permanent employees’ workloads and serve as a morale booster during busy periods to help prevent full-time employees from burning out. Depending on your team’s needs, you can opt for a contract accountant with specialized skills to boost your core team’s proficiency.
When accountants work on a project or interim basis, they’re on your team only for a fixed period – so there’s no drag on payroll during a slower season.
A small talent pool means that companies must be competitive with their salary, benefits packages and hiring bonuses – pricing some businesses out. Since contractors are hired on a project-to-project or seasonal basis, this can result in significant savings. Your company won’t have to worry about benefits like health insurance, retirement contributions, or seasonal bonuses. You’ll face a reduced tax burden with contractors, too. Most importantly, you won’t have to compromise on talent. Opting for an interim hire can give your business access to top performers with specialized skills and experience at a price point that makes sense for your budget.
Effective contract recruiters act as an extension of your current in-house team or recruiters. They take time to understand your business needs and company culture so they can match the right professionals to your needs. Whether you need additional accounting staff for busy season or an interim CFO for 3-6 months, accounting & finance recruiters ensure you get the right talent at the right time – without a costly or lengthy recruitment process.