Recruiting talent isn't getting any easier, and competition to hire the right people is heating up. So, with busy season in full swing, firms need to find creative ways to address their staffing needs.

According to a study of employees and hiring managers conducted by Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com, 42 percent of hiring managers reported it was difficult to find qualified candidates one year ago, and 32 percent said it is even more challenging today.

Accounting firms and accounting software resellers agree. In fact one reseller recently said, "We're really struggling. We need bodies, but we have to have the right ones."

The shortage is forcing many firms to try new strategies. Here are four strategies recommended by the AICPA's White Paper, "Best Practices in Recruiting and Retaining Talented Staff."

  • College Relations. Form a relationship with a local university. Volunteer to speak to students about career choices or give a guest lecture on an emerging technical issue. This raises your firm's visibility. For example, one reseller located in Florida has partnered with the Florida International University to bring in new talent.
  • Offer Internships. According to the 2005 Experiential Education Survey, published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, college graduates who participated in an internship or cooperative education assignment are more likely to stay with their employer. In fact, 76 percent of the employers responding to the survey reported higher retention among college hires who come directly from their own internship program. One New Jersey-based accounting firm's philosophy is, "Don't start hiring when you need someone, hire before you need them." In turn, this firm has at least 20 internships available each year, and if the intern works out, it offers them a position prior to graduation.
  • Rehiring. Many firms see benefits from rehiring former employees, and pays to maintain a network of ex-staff members for re-recruiting. Rehiring is generally less costly, and the rehire knows the firm's culture and procedures.
  • Create Leaders. Develop leadership training. Make sure training includes both domain knowledge such as terminology and requirements for specific industries as well as product knowledge. If the staff is knowledgeable on the business, implementations go smoother, and there is less wasted time spent on the client having to explain the business to the firm.

No one method is the sure-fire way to combat staffing shortages, but at this point you only have employees to gain. So, get out there and get creative.

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