Hiring Tips: How We Hired Our New Accountant

November 19, 2020


A month ago, we decided it was time to hire a new Accountant.

Now, as a professional career services firm, does our insider industry knowledge affect how we manage our own hiring processes?

Of course!

It took us just 2 weeks to hire our new Accountant, and I’m going to give you a window into our entire hiring journey.

I’ll explain why we took the exact steps we did, and what convinced us to hire our new team member, Irene, over all the other candidates we received (the vast majority of whom were highly qualified and eligible for the role).

Take a look, I’m confident you’ll discover some insights on how to better position yourself for your next job application!

Step 1: Choosing The Right Job Portal

To start off, we posted our job ad on Seek – This job board receives more Australian applicants than other portals, which was what we wanted.

Ordinarily we’re open to hiring talent from anywhere in the world, however, in this case I really wanted to hire someone local:

  1. As a Australian registered company, following Australia accounting standards, it helps to have an Accountant that’s Australia-qualified.
  2. Hiring in Australia, it’s much easier to set up a new digital banking user account. Hiring someone overseas, we’d have to mail them the online banking token and login details – far too much trouble.

When hiring for other roles (which can typically be global), we use LinkedIn – The quality of applicants on LinkedIn are excellent.

We always avoid portals like JobStreet and Monster – These job boards have far too many spammy, unqualified applicants.

Step 2: Writing The Job Ad

It’s hard for a small company like us to compete with big MNCs. We simply can’t match their compensation and career progression opportunities.

What we can compete on though is our culture – we’re people-centric, flexible, and fun!

By selling those values, and making sure they’re reflected in our job ads, we’re able to attract great candidates.

Here’s the opening paragraph of the job ad we crafted:

Hi! We’re cvexpert.com.au, an online CV writing company!

95% of our team is based here in Australia, but we’ve been fully remote since 2017. (ie. Pre-Covid. Remember those days :P)

Some of our values:
– We love having fun. Everyone here has a black-belt in picking laughter-inducing gifs for company emails.
– We put family first! Being remote means we get to spend more time with our kids. Sometimes this means projects take longer to finish. We’re ok with the trade-off 🙂

If these match your own personal values, I think we’re going to be a great fit for each other! 😀

So many job ads are stuffy and just plain boring.

By making ours different, and injecting a bit of laughter, not only do we get candidates who strongly align with our core values, we also stand out 🙂

Step 3: Too Many Applicants

Fortunately, (or unfortunately?) our job ad went viral. We got over 200 applicants in just 2 days.

If we got any more, we knew it would be impossible to properly review each applicant. We’d have to rush through them all, and that would be a disservice to everyone who applied.

And so, with 212 applicants in 2 days, we shut down the job ad. We figured that with a pool of candidates that large, surely we could find several good ones.

Thankfully, we were right! 🙂

Step 4: Compiling The Shortlist

To narrow down our pool to our first shortlist, we applied these simple criteria:

Basic, but crucial.

This brought the list down to ~150 applicants. That’s still too many to assess in any meaningful detail, so we tightened the filter further:

  • Did the applicant include a short Cover Letter or personal statement?

Of the remaining applicants, 70% failed this second filter. They’d simply applied with a generic “I’m applying for the Accountant role posted online. Attached is my CV”

I never understand applicants who don’t include a short personal statement in their application. It takes just a few minutes, and it adds so much value. It shows a recruiter you’re serious about their role, and gives you a chance to showcase why you’d be an excellent choice for it.

That left us with 45 applications, and I read every single CV and Cover Letter.

Here are the key traits I was looking for:

  • Experience in managing accounts for e-commerce businesses
  • Familiarity with cloud accounting software (Xero, Quickbooks, etc.)
  • Clear writing (clear writing is a sign of clear thinking)
  • Fun, bubbly personality (I can only get this from a Cover Letter, another reason it’s important!)

This final checklist brought our pool of candidates down to 6.

I sent each an invite, congratulating them on their successful application and asking them to book a slot in my calendar (via Calendly booking software)

Step 5: Final Interview (via Zoom)

Interviews are filled with human bias.

To minimise this, I make sure to ask the same set of questions to every single applicant.

For my potential-Accountants, my pre-prepared questions were:

  1. What do you feel are the key elements of a well-managed set of accounts?
  2. What’s your process for generating P&L statements every month?
  3. How do you deal with expenses which cannot be properly accounted for?
  4. Which is your favourite cloud accounting software, and why?
  5. What are your personal career goals over the next 2 years?

Questions 1 & 4 help me identify an applicant’s bar for excellence. The best candidates give extremely detailed answers to these questions. The stronger a candidate’s answer, the higher I rate them.

Questions 2 & 3 are more vocational. I’d like to understand a candidate’s preferred process, and see if it would fit with our current practices.

Question 5 is all about alignment. I want candidates whose ambitions match ours. If they’re too ambitious, and we don’t grow their responsibilities fast enough, they’ll leave out of boredom. On the other hand, if they’re not ambitious, and the company grows too fast, they’ll want to leave to avoid the stress.

After I’ve asked these 5 questions to each applicant, and got a feel for how they connect and present themselves personally, I can fairly compare them against one another and make my decision.

Step 6: Choosing The Hire

Of all the candidates I interviewed, one really stood out – Irene.

Not only did she have great answers to my questions, she also asked so many detailed questions of her own about our financial year opening and closing dates, subsidiaries, company debt, etc.

She then gave excellent advice on how we could adjust our practices to free up more cash flow for reinvestment (we’re always trying to reinvest funds and grow the company faster, so this was of huge interest to me).

No other candidate was as detailed as Irene, and I was blown away by her strategic mind!

As soon as the call ended, I knew she was the right hire for us. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to find someone so talented!

Nevertheless, I decided to sleep on it – It’s easy to get caught up in emotions and rush a decision. I wanted to make sure I thought it over properly, and made the right call.

The next day I reviewed my notes from each of the interviews, and came to the same conclusion – Irene was the Accountant for us!

A few quick emails later, and we’d agreed on a salary, signed the contract, and locked-in a start date!

Closing Thoughts

It’s only been a month since we hired Irene, but I’m already wondering how we ever survived without her!

She’s integrated with the team incredibly smoothly, her work is first rate, and in many ways we’re very lucky to have her.

However, is it really luck?

When you consider the approach we took, and our understanding of people, recruitment, and the labour market, ultimately, it’s just good talent acquisition 🙂

This article was authored by Harry, CEO, ResumeWriter APAC.

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