5 Ways To Attract and Retain Talent in the Accounting and Finance Industry

calendar iconMay 3, 2024

Accounting and finance employment is projected to grow 4% from 2022 to 2032, with about 126,500 openings for accountants and auditors each year on average.1 But attracting and retaining talent is proving difficult for several accounting recruiters and accounting talent acquisition specialists.

Many of these openings are expected to result from the need to replace talented employees who have either switched occupations or exited the labor force (e.g., retirement).

Further adding to the issue, fewer CPA examinations are taken each year as the appeal to a career in accounting declines among college students—thus creating a CPA shortage. To keep up with increasing client needs and demands, firms are revolutionizing their operations, service offerings, and how they hire, with the goals of attracting new talent and retaining existing employees.

1. Offer Flex-Schedules

According to a 2022 survey, a whopping 99% of accountants were suffering from some level of stress. This should come as no surprise given the general nature of the profession and “busy season.” But, as more workers leave the profession, remaining employees experience even higher levels of burnout. Struggling to take on additional work responsibilities and balancing personal and family needs only adds to a vicious cycle of difficulty filling open roles.

Not only can flex-scheduling alleviate current employee stress, but when asked to list their best tips for a successful recruitment strategy, firms listed flex-scheduling near the top.2

With flex-schedule arrangements, employees can optimize in-office days, deciding which tasks and conversations are best done in person, as well as which responsibilities are most suitable for remote work. Schedules like these might also look like four-day work weeks made up of 10 hours/day or in-office days of their choosing versus mandatory three days in-office and two days remote, for instance.

By offering flex-scheduling, firms can also greatly broaden the pool of job candidates and attract the right talent for the roles they are looking to fill. For example, a firm based in one state can now look for highly qualified candidates from anywhere in the U.S. Also, take into consideration a talented professional who could be a great addition to the team but is currently in a caregiver role. Flex-scheduling benefits both the firm and the employee in this case.

2. Increase Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Implementing a diversity and inclusion (D&I) program or increasing efforts to an existing program is another way firms can tap new sources of talent and boost retention rates. While some companies remain slow to tackle D&I, improvements are being made, and those who see the value in it are:

  • Reexamining promotion and pay structures
  • Providing diversity training at all levels
  • Evaluating and improving offered benefits
  • Creating initiatives to improve diversity among firm leadership
  • Implement new recruiting policies and/or practices
  • Supporting Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Essentially, firms who value D&I establish principles that are truly aligned with the needs of a diverse workforce, taking the initiative to ask employees what they want from their employer, live their core values, and celebrate diversity and culture.

Regarding new recruiting policies and practices in the above list, Crystal Cooke, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Accounting Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) & Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), made an interesting point. She suggests that accounting firms not only seek out diverse candidates who are looking for work but also start conversations at the college and even high school level in more diversely populated areas.3

While this practice of reaching college and high school students may not solve the accounting shortage issue immediately, accounting and finance firms and their human resources teams will be setting themselves up for long-term success.

3. Focus on Soft Skills and Continuous Professional Development

As technological improvements and advances in automation (i.e., artificial intelligence, cloud computing, etc.) continue to move their way into the accounting and finance industry, primary focus has shifted to advisory services. In this service line, there is now less importance for professionals to harness “technical skills” or hard skills, and more importance for soft skills.

Hard skills, such as financial reporting and proficiency in accounting software like QuickBooks, are still necessary, but to be successful in advisory services, it will take more.

Today’s business leaders need trusted advisors who make genuine connections—who understand their issues and explain them in a way that makes sense. This is why leading firms will not only look for talent who display valuable soft skills but will also offer resources and opportunities to their employees to build these skills up. These skills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Personal effectiveness and time management
  • Leadership
  • Effective business writing and communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Public speaking and presentation

During the interview process, having better communication skills could be the key differentiator between two candidates competing for the same job, as well as two employees going for the same promotion.

Firms wishing to retain employees should also invest in continuous learning (i.e., tax and compliance regulations, accounting standards) for their employees, offering training courses and lunch and learns that award employees with continuing professional education (CPE) credits. Combining a robust learning program that provides both continuous professional and soft skill development will be essential to attracting, retaining, and differentiating accounting and finance talent.

4. Place More Emphasis on Domain and Analytical Knowledge

Taking this idea from #3 further, the best-of-the-best accountants and advisors will need a healthy blend of hard and soft skills, as well as domain and analytical knowledge.

The importance of domain knowledge in the accounting field cannot be overstated because it refers to the understanding and experience one has in a particular industry (or industries). This is crucial for professionals to have because they can better provide tailored solutions that are practical, effective, and go “beyond the numbers.” A domain expert has an in-depth understanding of industry processes, challenges, risks and opportunities, compliance risks, and regulations.

Along with domain knowledge, top talent will have strong analytical skills, being able to analyze financial data, spot trends, opportunities and inconsistencies, and provide clients with actionable insights to guide strategic business decisions. An analytical skill set encompasses not only the framework for acquiring data but also how data is shaped. Understanding how the data needs to be represented to clients is extremely important.

5. Utilize a Recruiting & Staffing Partner

Firms having difficulty attracting accounting talent or firms with limited human resource (HR) teams could benefit from utilizing a staffing and recruiting partner.

By teaming up, employers can gain access to a network of qualified talent with various expertise, skillsets and availabilities, such as permanent and interim/temporary or project-based roles.

A recruiting and staffing partner can also provide other advantages, including:

  • Hiring faster and more streamlined
  • Optimizing current HR resources at an organization
  • Providing salary insights for fair negotiations

Positions often take several weeks or even months to fill. So, working with a partner who has already done the initial legwork, such as vetting candidates and performing interviews, can be a strategic option. Leveraging a cultivated network of talent ready to assist can save both time and money.

Using an outside staffing firm can also lessen an organization’s commitment to recruiting activities. This way, HR teams can focus on other tasks like onboarding, termination, and payroll, as well as employee retention efforts.

Staffing and recruiting partners are also well acquainted with the salary expectations and requirements of specialists in the finance and accounting profession. Specifically, Cordia Resources by Cherry Bekaert has developed an Accounting & Finance Salary Guide for employers and job seekers to use during pay negotiations.

Combatting the Shortage of Accountants and Finance Professionals

Reassess Recruitment and Retention Strategies

In an ever-evolving economy where tax regulations and accounting standards get more complex, there will be a greater need for accountants and finance professionals who can solve these issues. To remain competitive and attract highly qualified candidates who meet client demands, businesses will need to reevaluate their current recruitment process and retention strategies. Company culture adjustments through flex-schedules and D&I initiatives, changes in the required skills and qualifications of certain potential candidates, and assistance from a workforce solutions partner should all be considered.

Outsource Your Accounting Function

Whether for the short- or long-term, small to mid-sized companies are increasingly turning to outsourcing solutions to handle their accounting functions, and a shortage of accountants and finance professionals is not the only contributing factor to doing so. Companies often face accounting software issues or leadership changes. These other challenges can significantly impact financial visibility, making it difficult for companies to maintain profitability, grow, and meet regulatory compliance standards. But, by outsourcing their accounting functions, companies can access a team of skilled and experienced professionals who can manage financial operations efficiently and effectively. Learn more about Cherry Bekaert’s industry-aligned outsourced accounting services or connect with one of our outsourced accounting professionals to discuss your accounting challenges.

Our Recruiting & Staffing Services team, Cordia Resources by Cherry Bekaert, can be your guide forward to hiring and retaining top talent in the fields of accounting and finance.

Questions? Contact Us


  1. “Accountants and Auditors: Occupational Outlook Handbook,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified September 6, 2023,
  2. “Are accounting firms keeping remote work positions?,” Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting, Thomas Reuters, last modified June 16, 2023,
  3. Jeff Drew, “The state of DEI: A Q&A with Crystal Cooke,” Journal of Accountancy, last modified October 1, 2023,