[IMGCAP(1)]Recruiting season is approaching once again for public accounting firms, which brings another round of questions that firms need to answer.

Some of the usual inquiries relate to how many people do we need and what departments are understaffed. However, in a tightening labor market, there must be an increased focus on a new generation and the need to find new ways to attract and cater to students and recruits.

To be successful today, firms cannot simply do what was done last year. The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude is not going to go very far in the hypercompetitive recruiting world of today. With an environment that has become dominated by 24/7 attention to social media, outlets such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have become not only the norm in recruiting, but the expectation, the standard and the requirement.

It’s a brand new world for many service-based industries, not only in their recruiting efforts, but in their daily business operations as well. It does not take long for the conversation to get to staffing discussions, both in terms of recruiting and retention, no matter what industry you are in.

On an annual basis, public accounting firms are recruiting new staff to fill their ranks. Presenting a unified approach on a firm level is now more important than ever. Incoming classes want to know that they have growth opportunities and flexible work arrangements. It is becoming evident that lifestyle is as important to those starting their careers as much as salary. Hard work is always going to be expected, both by the employer and the employee, but today’s generation would like to know that their career track from day one is going somewhere.

This all comes back to recruiting, both internally and externally. In many firms, the professionals participate a great deal in the recruiting process. To be successful, there needs to be a willingness on behalf of the professional to be involved. Simply sending professional staff to the school that was once called home is a good start, but it is only a start.

After that, there needs to be training on soft skills and firm culture to educate the business professional turned recruiter. This individual will be in front of the candidates/students representing, many times, all that the candidate has ever known about the firm, thus the need for presenting a unified approach.

After the initial meeting, of course, comes the reconnaissance that each candidate has access to. There are always brochures and materials passed out at recruiting events and career fairs, but typically they pale in comparison to what information is available about your firm online. Your firm’s Web site is going to be the starting point for a candidate to learn about your culture, benefits and all the details about the work you do.

It’s important that what is being communicated to the candidate is consistent online. This is a generation that has grown up with social media at their fingertips their entire lives so they are extremely savvy in accessing information. After scouring the firm’s Web site, it won’t take long for further research on the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter. A quick Google search of the recruiter’s name and a LinkedIn profile will be found and connected to.

All of these things make us ask questions that we have never had to before. Is our page updated? Is the information current? How many “Likes” do we have? How many followers do we have? Is my profile professional looking? What kind of qualifications and recommendations do I have?

Things sure have come a long way from simply asking, “How many interns do we need for this upcoming busy season?”

It is definitely a new world of recruiting, and while it has taken only a few years to change the landscape of recruiting in general, take note that it is not going back to the old way anytime soon. Eventually candidates will ask, “How did you take that job when you weren’t able to find anything out about the firm or the people before you started there?” Firms that have a unified approach that is modern and apparent to their entire workforce will have a head start on the competition.

William S. Schramm, CPA, is a senior manager with Maloney + Novotny LLC who focuses on working with the Cleveland-based firm’s Commercial and Industrial Group. He works with a variety of accounting services including audits, reviews, compilations, corporate and individual taxation, and agreed-upon procedures projects.