One in four businesses anticipate increasing the size of their accounting, finance and IT staff in the third quarter compared with just 5 percent that expect to decrease the total number, according to a new survey.

Human resources professionals and hiring managers in accounting, finance and IT said they expect to increase their staff numbers in the third quarter, based on the Q3 hiring forecast survey, conducted by recruiting company Clear Focus Financial Search  and Dr. Richard Curtin, director of surveys for the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Nearly half the businesses polled reported that they had unfilled staff positions, up from just one-in-three in the Q2 survey.

“This forecast reveals a significant talent pool gap, and a surge in unfilled positions, with 25 percent of hiring managers ready to add to their staffs,” said Curtin, who directed the survey.

Firms must hire to replace departing employees as well as to increase the total size of their accounting and finance and IT staffs. The vast majority of firms (65 percent) in the Q2 and Q3 2013 forecasts anticipated the overall size of their accounting and finance and IT staffs would remain unchanged, just below the 69 percent recorded in the 2012 surveys. However, 25 percent of the respondents in the Q3 2013 forecast expected to increase the overall size of their staffs, up from 21 percent in the second quarter.

Reductions in the overall staff size was anticipated by only five percent of respondents in the Q3 forecast, down from 9 percent in the second quarter and 12 percent in the closing quarter of 2012. These positive hiring plans represent a significant degree of confidence that the future demand for their products or services will increase.

Increases of 10 percent or more in the size of their finance and accounting and IT staffs were anticipated by 5 percent of all firms, substantially above the one percent who planned cutbacks of 10 percent or more.

Seventeen percent of all the firms polled reported that they will place an increased emphasis on hiring veterans. Overall, the data indicate healthy underlying job growth potential. When asked about their intentions about hiring temporary or contract employees in the Q3 2013 forecast, respondents were more likely to plan increases than declines, in sharp contrast to last quarter.

The forecast includes data from top hiring managers nationwide in the areas of accounting, finance and IT. The results indicate significant shifts in hiring outlooks for the remainder of 2013.

In the Q3 2013 forecast, 23 percent of the survey respondents said they expect to increase the pace of hiring compared with just six percent who anticipate cutbacks in their hiring. The net balance of 17 percentage points (23 percent compared to 6 percent) was well above last quarter’s plus six or even six months ago when it was barely positive at plus one.

Temporary and contract hiring are expected to Increase due to the Affordable Care Act. When asked about their intentions about hiring temporary or contract employees in the Q3 2013 forecast, respondents were more likely to plan increases than declines, which sharply contrasts last quarter.

There is renewed optimism in economic growth. Nearly half of those surveyed expect improved economic conditions in the third quarter, up from 35 percent at the start of the year. The survey data reveals hiring managers do not anticipate payroll and other taxes nor the decline in federal spending to seriously affect the economy.

The study found that experience and the ability to fit within work culture is a key trait, while creative problem-solving is a top priority for many hiring managers.  When asked to identify the top characteristic desired in prospective top talent, experience in the field and the ability to fit within the work culture were both ranked equally as important at 39 percent.

“What we’re seeing is a strong opportunity for hiring professionals for accounting and finance and IT roles,” said Clear Focus CEO Jim Wong in a statement. “Despite any initial misgivings related to higher taxes and the Affordable Care Act, there is increased opportunity for growth, but interestingly enough it’s for temporary and contract workers.”

When asked to identify the biggest gap in the skills of job seekers, nearly half of all respondents identified the ability of a candidate to solve problems in a creative fashion. Additional gaps include the gap in expertise and job requirement, which was cited by 33 percent, and the ability to stay on top of evolving trends, which was cited by 15 percent.

The study also examined the role of social media and search engines. When asked if they used Internet search engines or social media to review the qualifications and character of prospective employees, 58 percent said they do use it in their assessments. LinkedIn was cited by more than any other, mentioned by 53 percent. The dominance of that particular social network reflects the popularity of this site among finance, accounting and IT professionals, as well as its ability to provide a comprehensive view of a person’s professional life, the study noted. The next most popular, cited by 35 percent, was to do general searches using engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

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