How You Can Avoid Hiring Other People’s Mistakes

The recruiters are coming!  The recruiters are coming – filling your inbox with resumes that mostly go as follows:


Objective: To contribute increased profitability to a tech savvy firm using my experience to advance to increasing levels of responsibility while providing excellent client service.

Qualifications: Prepared complex returns for high net worth individuals and corporations.  Streamlined internal processes and increased firm profitability.


Employer #1: 1 tax season

Employer #2: 2 tax seasons

Employer #3: 1 tax season


I’ve seen a dozen of these resumes from recruiters since tax season ended.  Then the recruiters drum up urgency by telling me, “Joe Blow has a final interview with Douchebag & Moron. Don’t you want a chance before Joe makes a final decision?  He said he’d really like to work for a firm like yours.”

No thank you.  Good old D&M can have Joe.  Here’s what I see – a guy with four years of employment and  one year’s experience.  Yes, I can add.  His experience adds up to one year, when you read between the lines.

Joe has made it past one tax season per employer exactly once.  He’s around long enough for his employer to realize he’s not worth his salary.  He’s more likely to be one and done than a high school basketball All American going to Kentucky.  You’ll pay a recruiter $10K to $20K for the world’s most expensive temp.

Unfortunately, the majority of people entering public accounting, and more specifically tax preparation, fail.  What we do isn’t easy.  It takes a special combination of genius and whack job to be a great tax preparer – and enjoy doing it.  When we seek to hire, we are fishing in a shallow pond, maybe even just an aquarium.  There are a lot more guppies than sharks.

You can learn from other firm’s bad experiences by saying no to Joe Blow.  Are there unfortunate Joe Blow’s out there, who have jumped from firm to firm, who are diamonds in the rough?  Certainly.  But your odds of finding one are about the same as finding the Hope Diamond in a West Virginia coal mine – possible, not likely.

You can avoid other people’s mistakes by looking for potential hires with at least five years with one employer.  So you say there aren’t many of those?  Correct.  But what’s the point of hiring a one and done?  You pay them to produce next to nothing.

Push back on recruiters, who provide an unending stream of Joe Blow’s.  Or, hire based on personal referrals and networking.  This means you are always looking for good potential employees.  You need an employee funnel the way you need a sales funnel.  Meet potential employees at CPE conferences.  You’ll rarely find short timers, whose firms pay to send them to conferences.

We hired a great tax manager from a recruiter, who thought very little of her.  We had hired a manager level person from the recruiter.  That person stayed just past the guarantee period, and then left for the job he had really wanted.  After calling the recruiter a few choice words, he gave us the resume of a lady, that I know he didn’t think he could place.  So he lost no money pushing her on us for free.

What we saw in her resume was ten years at one firm, and not a very good firm at that.  She had persevered for ten years in an eventually failing firm.  She wasn’t a really knowledgeable preparer, but that was from a lack of training, not ability.  She was the reason I survived that tax season.  Within a year, we began training her to prepare business returns, something she had always wanted to learn, but never had the opportunity.  Now she is a manager for us and reviews tax returns.

If this isn’t obvious already, a primary factor in your hiring decision should be numbers of years with one employer.  Number of years in the business is nearly worthless.  We all know plenty of preparers with twenty years of experience and two years of knowledge.


Thanks for reading!

Frank Stitely, CPA, CVA

Clarity Practice Management



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