Think Outside the (Geographical) Box by Hiring Remote Workers

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Before Summit CPA became a distributed company, our hiring was naturally limited to a small geographical location. The pool was small, especially when we were looking for highly qualified CPAs. When it came to recruiting, we would go to the local colleges and job fairs, but we were a small company and not as attractive as some of the bigger firms that were there at the time. The candidates we were getting were coming to us primarily because they couldn’t get a job anywhere else.

When we really started to grow, we knew we needed to bring in more senior level accountants to be able to handle the clients we were bringing in at such a rapid pace. Local accounting firms (and the accountants working in them) didn’t really have us on their radar because we weren’t picking up local clients like they were, we were picking up national clients. We were generating fewer than five resumes per week from our website and we knew we needed to take a different approach.

We met Flexjobs at a remote work conference and shortly afterward they interviewed us. Not only did we really like them but as a result of that interview, we were discovered by Forbes and they listed us as one of the top 125 distributed companies in the United States along with some of the big guys like Dell, Apple and Microsoft.

Once Flexjobs listed our open position, within a week we received 700 resumes! And they weren’t just any resumes, they had come from really quality people — highly qualified CPAs at large accounting firms. From there, we automated our process a little bit more. We were able to get more specific about our qualifications, asking important questions regarding education and salary expectations up front so we could narrow down the overwhelming list of resumes to the best candidates.

In order to manage this influx of resumes we developed an ongoing open application system so that even when we’re not actively hiring, we continue accepting incoming resumes. We let applicants know when we’re not actively hiring and tell them that we’ll reach out when we are. This way, whenever we are ready to grow our team, we have a steady pool of qualified applicants to choose from, and we continue to receive about 5–10 new resumes every day.

We also developed some structure around screening and interviewing applicants to focus on the following four tenets that we found to be most important for us and the culture of our company:

1. Core Values: The most important thing you can do when it comes to hiring new employees is to define your core values and proactively hire people who fit those values. Everyone you hire will have an impact on the culture of your company in one way or another. Have you ever heard the saying, “One bad apple can spoil the bunch”? This is absolutely true when it comes to company culture. Keep your bunch healthy by making sure everyone you hire personally embodies your company’s core values.

2. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to a person’s ability to recognize, understand and manage their emotions, as well as the ability to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. Someone with high EI is aware of how their emotions drive their own behaviors and impact others.

Emotional intelligence is proven to account for 50–60% of overall job success, demonstrating that it’s an essential skill for your team members. People with higher levels of EI have the ability to be aware of and control their own emotions. They work better with others, manage clients more efficiently, and help foster a welcoming and accepting company culture.

We believe that it is critical to screen for EI during the interview process in order to build a team that is healthy and successful.

3. Look for True Potential: There are the standard interview questions that you have to cover and then there are questions that help you get to the core of the person you are interviewing. Your goal is to gain insight into who they are ultimately striving to be and if they have the where-with-all to get there.

Here are a couple of great books that we recommend for every leader and hiring manager:

Radical Candor by Kim Malone Scott — Kim describes “rock stars” and “superstars” that every team needs in order to be cohesive and grow. Avoid hiring “no stars” who don’t have the necessary skills, emotional intelligence or work ethic to do the job.

Grit by Angela Duckworth — Grit is about having a goal that you care about so deeply that it directs everything you do. You care about it so much that keep going even when you make a mistake or you fall down or there’s an obstacle in your path. Hiring people with grit is incredibly important because these are the people who will persevere toward long-term goals.

4. Consider Collective Diversity: Diversity is important. Our society and our client base are not monolithic; neither should our staff be. When we think of diversity, we tend to think specifically about race or gender. While these are certainly important, diversity is even more broad.

Our initial feeling about a candidate can sometimes cloud our objective judgment. We tend to be drawn to personalities like our own which can result in hiring a lot of like-minded people which, over time, will result in a short-sighted team. Hiring for a diversity of backgrounds, skills, and perspectives, in addition to gender, age and nationalities, will make for a healthy, well-rounded team in the long run.

Hiring for diversity takes intentionality and an open-minded approach. We run a number of assessments during the hiring process to make sure we have a wide variety of depth and breadth to our team.

We take hiring seriously! We believe that hiring the right people is one of the biggest keys to success for any business. Changing the way we advertise open positions and our application system has resulted in us receiving a tremendously higher number of resumes than we did before. Last year we received over 2,000 resumes, a large percentage of which were from highly qualified candidates. Because we are no longer restricted to our physical location when it comes to hiring, we have the benefit of being able to pick the best of the best, regardless of their location.

To learn more about best practices for hiring in a distributed company, check out our Hiring Guide.

Summit CPA is a distributed accounting firm with a non-traditional approach to accounting. We have an amazing team of CPAs and accountants who provide professional Virtual CFO Services and 401(k) Audits for companies all over the United States — many of which are remote companies as well. We fully understand the accounting, bookkeeping, cash flow management, and business tax nuances that come with being distributed, and we love helping our clients overcome these challenges through our own experience and expertise.

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