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Accounting, Finance and IT Hiring On a Cautious Pace

Although CFOs have unfilled staff positions, most are reluctant to hire. Congress adds to the negativity.

Nearly 50 percent of the 185 CFOs, controllers, finance directors, human resource professionals and other hiring managers in a new survey said they have unfilled accounting, finance and IT staff positions for Q4, compared with 33 percent that indicated such heading into Q2.

But they are not in a rush to fill them. According to the Q4 2013 Hiring Forecast conducted by Brilliant, a recruiting firm, and Richard Curtin, a professor and director of surveys at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, respondents have “cautious hiring plans.” Indeed, 67 percent anticipated the overall size of their staffs would remain unchanged, while more than 20 percent said they would either increase slightly or increase more than 10 percent over the next 12 months.

And while finance executives believe a Congressional stalemate won’t jeopardize economic growth, a slowdown is viewed as more likely and a cause for adopting the more cautious hiring plans, the report noted.

But, as Jim Wong, CEO of Brilliant, says, the hiring outlook is still somewhat positive compared with last year. The respondents  “would not have considered those unfilled positions and, technically, they couldn’t call it an unfilled position,” he says, since they had no intention of filling it 12 months ago.

But this year, even though the length of time to fill positions is long, and temporary help may be hired initially, the intent to hire longer term is there, he says. “The hiring manager is now saying, ‘I’ll bring in a temporary worker to go ahead and start doing some of this work.’”

However, finding the prospective employees with the right skills and expertise for those positions are the top challenges reported by survey respondents this quarter. Nearly 25 percent of the respondents who had unfilled positions cited a lack of skills or experience in the available pool of applications as a reason for the opening still remaining.

On the other hand, 28 percent of respondents acknowledged that there could be a potential loss of key employees over the next 12 months at their firms, a number marginally higher than the 27 percent who responded that way last quarter and much higher than the 19 percent recorded in Q1. They cite lack of career advancement at their firm and an increase in pay, health or retirement benefits as reasons for the potential to leave.

To Wong, the loss-of-key-employees statistic is important, since it shows workers have less nervousness about the job market as a whole. “When the economy is not as strong, employees tend to be very conservative and focus on the job they have. But now, even in accounting departments, you are seeing it more and more where folks are willing to leave since they feel some confidence that the marketplace is better.”

Respondents’ views of the economy back up those findings, though they are slightly less positive than last quarter. When asked about the prospects for the year ahead, 40 percent said they anticipate improved economic conditions, while 56 percent expected the same economic conditions. That compares with 48 percent and 49 percent, respectively, for Q3.

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