How to retain, train
and recruit the right people.

‘Why can’t I ever find anyone as good as me?’ is a question I hear regularly from practitioners struggling to find the right people. Based on past and recent experience of the pitfalls of recruitment stories shared with me the following practical points are worth sharing with you to help your practice grow and become more successful.

  • Don’t expect to find anyone as good as you! You don’t need to. Not everyone wants to become a partner.
  • Recruitment is an expensive process in terms of recruitment fees, interview and induction time. See it as an investment and plan to get it right.
  • Remember the candidate is also interviewing you- not the other way around- but don’t fall into the trap of talking too much about yourself and the firm. It’s equally important to listen.
  • Exceptional candidates are hard to find and have plenty of choice so, what makes your firm special as a place someone wants to join?
  • Document a detailed ‘role and responsibilities’ job profile for any position you want to fill. Share this in advance with recruitment agencies, existing staff and potential candidates.
  • Consider using social media to find new recruits but do it with professionalism and within accepted guidelines.
  • Ask your existing team if they know of anyone and keep your team informed of what your recruitment needs and policies are ongoing.
  • The most successful practices have an ongoing recruitment policy where they have close relationships with agencies who know their practice and continually look at CVs even when there isn’t a position to fill. I have seen many practices recruit when they find a person too good not to have on board even when there isn’t an actual vacancy. They make the investment and work is always generated to make the role fit the person.
  • If you wait until you have a vacancy then this often leads to rushed decisions and recruiting people who you know aren’t ideal for your practice. Firefighting always causes more problems in the long term- best to wait for the right person, it will save you money.
  • Have a system for recruitment to include interview, offer, reference checks and induction processes. Just because you are a small firm without an HR department doesn’t mean you can’t do this. I have seen sole practitioners with better systems than many larger organisations and this is what makes them successful and more profitable.
  • Ensure you have standardised questions to go through with a candidate at an interview. Technical ability is a given (many firms now ask a candidate to do a half day working second interview to test this). Your question checklist should focus more on getting the candidate talking about themselves; their aspirations and success stories on working with clients in the past and getting on with people.
  • A standard interview checklist also ensures that your ‘mood’ is consistent and how you present yourself to a candidate isn’t affected by the time of day or client problems that are on your mind! It is also essential if you have more than one person who may take interviews within your firm.
  • Getting another member of staff involved in the recruitment and interview process is powerful. Candidates are impressed by this and the transparency of allowing an existing employee talk about the firm and what it is really like. Also, if an existing team member is involved in the recruitment decision then they will be on board with helping that person settle in and succeed.
  • Have a template for a well set out and detailed offer letter. Be very clear on benefits and study leave terms as well as targets and the review/feedback process going forward.
  • The induction process is critical. Create the wrong impression at the start and you will find many good recruits decide they will leave in the first year.
  • I have seen firms have people start on day one without a desk, phone, and computer being set up in preparation and then the partner is in client meetings all day and not everyone knows who the new person is or what their role is. Sometimes it takes days before the partner even bothers to talk to the new recruit and there is no feedback given on work they do in the first month. Then the partner is amazed when the new person decides to leave in the first three months!
  • Regular feedback, training plans and career development reviews are essential in any firm and especially so for new recruits. This is what makes people want to stay.
  • It is the ‘small stuff’ than can often make the world of difference to a new recruit. Things that you do for your team as standard but are highly valued and will set you apart from other firms.
    These ‘benefits’ are not very costly and include;
    • Rewards ( time off or bonus system) for hitting monthly billing target
    • Team events
    • Team surveys and feedback questionnaires
    • Not working on their birthday
    • Christmas shopping day
    • Finish early if monthly target hit
    • Sharing business plan with team regularly
    • Lunch delivery service
    • Fruit/snack bowls provided
    • Weekly team meetings
    • Employee of the month awards
    • Team happiness survey systems
    • 360 reviews for all staff- including partners and managers
    • Personalised training plans for everyone
    • Feedback systems on every job


Your people are your main asset responsible for delivering excellent client service and generating your profit. Treat your team as you would treat a client. The investment in the systems and time you spend will yield a return and enhance your reputation and business goals. Don’t leave it to chance!

May 2015 Copyright - Finola McManus Practice Perfect

Helping accountancy firms to become more successful


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