I read, with equal parts consternation and sympathy, the hiring problems the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has had recently when it comes to filling what human resources folks and bartenders like to call "par levels."

As I usually am in this space, I'll be brutally candid. Interviewing and hiring remain the least favorite part of my job. Always has been. I wouldn't go so far as to claim I'd prefer the cliched root canal procedure to any HR-related job requirements, but it would come fairly close.

There's probably nothing more disheartening than discovering within 30 seconds of interviewing a potential candidate that the person has absolutely no shot of working for you and then having to go through the motions for the remaining half hour.

Just once I would love to stand up and say, "Sorry, you're totally unqualified or (add your own reason here), so let's not waste each other's time. Have a nice day."

I'm quite certain I'm not the only one who has ever felt that way.

As a personal example of my HR frustration, I have an open editorial slot that I've been trying to fill for five months. After separating the skim milk from the cream, I had two great candidates, but each opted instead for the allure of a big-time daily newspaper and, of course, a higher salary.

Can't say I blamed them.

And while my hiring problems can't compare in scope with those of the PCAOB, I, like our 42nd president used to say, "Feel their pain."

The nation's accounting constabulary projected to have some 300 staffers in place as the curtain fell on 2004. An additional 150 were to be added in 2005, with the majority of all those new hires being experienced auditors.

Instead, the PCAOB closed out 2004 with 262 employees -- a 14 percent shortfall that has already prompted the board to cut its already-approved budget plan for the coming year by 11 percent, to $136.1 million.

As a result, the oversight body is mulling raising salaries as it tries to compete in a tight market for auditing expertise.

While I don't have the luxury of hiking salaries for open posts, the board may indeed have to. With myriad private-sector opportunities available as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley, it will take more than a sense of civic duty to attract the right people. 

Therefore, I'll make a deal with the PCAOB.

If any candidates apply for my open position who were auditors in a former life and now want to begin an editorial career, I'll do my utmost to convince them that that their country is calling and send them your way.

And if you discover an applicant who spells better than they audit, well, you know where I live.

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