Advice for Firms looking to Hire Young Talent

By J. James O’Malley, Andersen Alumnus and Managing Director and Executive Search Practice Leader at Felix Global

I am often asked to explain why professional service firms; more specifically Accounting/Tax/ Advisory and Consulting firms still struggling to recruit young talent in 2021? And my answer is typically the following:

Firms are having a difficult time to recruit young talent because

(1) young talent has more options.

(2) The traditional employment value proposition of most firms is not appealing to young people (work your tail off and in 10-12 years you can be a partner, no thank you not interested….).

(3) Culturally, young people need frequent feedback, lots of training, praise, want to work with tools and technology etc. and traditional firms are not set up to provide this.

So, the next logical question that comes is How do we fix it? What do we believe to be the #1 factor firms can improve to better their recruiting efforts?

We think firms need to take the same approach they do with recruiting talent as they do their clients. It needs to be a priority. I have never had a partner tell me “I can’t do this client meeting because I have to conduct this interview”, but I have had partners - literally hundreds - cancel interviews with candidates for a client meeting or call. Why does one come before or is more valued that the other when frankly they should be equal!

Internships is a great way to get ahead of this problem as it allows firms to be more proactive. We are all for building a pipeline of candidates before the need to hire them occurs and that is what an internship program does. I think the future of campus recruiting will shift and firms will spend more time cultivating and curating their interns and less time on the event driven fall recruiting events that so many firms are investing so much time and energy and expense on. We have seen this become even more apparent during the Pandemic since we had to essentially shut down all on-campus interviewing and with the trend of even more e-learning in the future and less students attending classes on-campus, this shift is here to stay.

So, you might ask yourself what extent should firms cater to young talent? Where is the line between offering too much or too little? We think it is less about “catering” to young talent then it is adapting to and customizing what it is you’re offering young talent. In much the same way that you are providing a methodology and solution to your clients but “tailored” in a way that fits their individual needs. Culture is a good example. All firms talk about it, but it has a different meaning for a young recruit than it does for a 20-year partner.

About J. James O’Malley

O’Malley leads Felix Global’s Executive Search Practice and brings with him 30 years of talent acquisition solutions. In 2018, he co-founded a retained search firm focused on recruitment in the private equity, professional services and financial services sectors. Previously, he was a partner and executive search practice leader at TalentRISE, a recruitment solutions firm in Chicago. Prior to that, he was senior vice president in the human resource function of Fifth Third Bancorp. O’Malley has also worked for several professional service firms, including Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Huron Consulting and Lante. He can be reached at