Hiring Your Number One


I am an avid Star Trek fan and I have always dreamed of saying “make it so number 1.” If you do not get that reference, I promise the rest of the article will still be worth reading. Whether you are hiring your first employee or your 100th team member; there are some commonalities in preparing. The first is always the hardest because the risk of making a bad hire is concentrated in one human and not spread out over a team. So how do you make sure you hire the right person? The answer is not to clone yourself.

Start with questioning yourself (or your team).
What could you delegate? What is taking a lot of your time and is not critical for you to do? If someone else could do 80% of the work or do it 80% as well as you, then you should delegate it. Tax accountants typically struggle with effective delegation because they want to control everything. When you expand your team, it is the best time to define roles that would support you in focusing on the more value-added tasks.

Who does this person need to be?
If you decide you need someone to answer the phones, they might like that job more if they were extraverted, or at least enjoyed phone communication. I always take each individual task that I would expect the new person to do and describe it in a way that resonates with the underlying human. Then, I actually write the job descriptions starting with a description of the person we actually need. It has yielded much better hiring!

I also believe that diversity of thought is incredibly important to a high performing team. There has been plenty of research showing the benefit of having different types of people from different backgrounds and race. These diverse teams tend to innovate faster, challenge their co-workers to step up, and perform better. When you are writing the description, be very careful not to write a description of yourself. Also, have someone else read it to eliminate any unknown biases.

What are the base level requirements?
Yes, you need to figure out what training, education, or experience this person should have. During this entire process, you should be creating an avatar of the perfect candidate!

What would make you excited but isn’t really a requirement?
Would you be thrilled to work with someone that loves dogs? Or would your company culture lend itself more to someone who loves sports? Go sportsballs! It makes it a lot more fun for the candidates to read job postings that include character. I always list these things in a section titled “bonus points if you also…”. We do put things in there that align with our culture, but we also put things in there that would help with work efficiency, e.g. Bonus points if you have worked with Slack.

What are you going to pay them?
I am always an advocate for paying people commensurate to the value they are providing the company. However, for many entry-level jobs that is very difficult to measure. It becomes quite easy when you’re dealing with client facing roles! It is always good to check what people are paid in comparable positions in their location.

Where are you going to post?
Here is the experience I have had with the following platforms:

  • LinkedIn Jobs – stellar platform with the ability to send video question requests and sort candidates. You do have to pay for your job ad to be seen by anyone though.
  • Indeed – you get a ton of applicants! So, get your green visor because you are going to be sorting for a while.
  • Facebook – if you like hiring friends, this is a perfect place to post!
  • Upwork – a nontraditional place to look for talent, but I have heard it is great for virtual assistants and bookkeepers.
  • Monster – if you’re looking for talent that feels comfortable with 1998 technology, this is a great place to go.

I know busy season has many firms identifying the need for additional help. Do not rush into hiring someone! Plan correctly and take your time with finding the right person.

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Liz Mason is a serial entrepreneur, a giant nerd, and an involved accounting vanguard. She is the Founder of High Rock Accounting, Rebel Rock Accounting, TheDepartment.Tax, and a few other related brands. Liz speaks on a national stage, guests stars on podcasts, and writes frequently. To further her passion for the advancement of the accounting profession, Liz currently serves as a Xero National Ambassador and as the Content Strategist for Tax Practice News. Liz started her career in tax at Grant Thornton (at 20) and automated a portion of her job landing her in the national tax practice. She spent a decade in large public accounting firms working on highly technical tax consulting before branching off on her own. Liz utilizes her creativity and passion at her company to uproot traditional practices and replace them with innovative concepts. She finds joy in efficient technology and her core belief is that everyone and everything can continuously improve (she says "be better" too often). When Liz isn't planning world domination in accounting, she is a die-hard skier, down for any adventure, plays the ukulele, reads everything, and has a good sense of humor. If you're looking for her, you can find her traveling the world and enjoying new food and cultures with her young son. Follow Liz and High Rock Accounting on Twitter at @LizzyNorMa and @HighRockCPAs.