As globalisation continues to drive foreign medium-sized enterprises to invest in Asia-Pacific, specifically mainland China, the demand for talented individuals in the accountancy profession remains extremely high.
Local and international accounting firms are designing programmes and holding workshops to recruit top candidates ranging from university graduates to accountants already working in the field.
The recruitment of fresh graduates is a priority for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Last September, the firm in Hong Kong received about 2,400 applications for 300 available positions. Victor Ng, partner and head of audit in Hong Kong, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, explains, "Up to 90 per cent of our staff is locally hired, usually fresh graduates from local universities. We also accept overseas applications and usually invite potential candidates for interviews."
In the past, candidates with accounting degrees were preferred, but graduates with non-accounting majors are increasingly entering the field and Mr Ng points out that Deloitte offers a conversion programme specifically designed for successful applicants.
The firm offers a variety of services to help students prepare for a promising career. These include graduate programmes, on-the-job training and in-house coaching and mentoring programmes tailored to meet different candidates' needs and strengths. The firm's Deloitte Club specifically targets first- and second-year local university students majoring in accounting. The club offers hands-on experience and training, working with real audit and fraud cases, as well as career advice from the firm's top management personnel.
Other programmes, such as a "smart training programme", are specifically designed for students who wish to continue their development and involvement in accounting while expanding their leadership and management skills in preparation for graduation and subsequent recruitment.
Deloitte considers applications using a range of job-related criteria. All candidates must undergo a series of assessment tests through Deloitte's graduate assessment centre. At the end of the process, the firm chooses candidates with the qualities and qualifications it is looking for.
Advancement in the firm typically depends on commitment and individual performance. "On a normal track, it would usually take about nine years for an associate auditor to become partner," says Mr Ng.
In their first six months of training at the firm, new recruits are assigned to a "godparent", usually a year ahead of them, to counsel them in all aspects of their work. Such mentoring includes, but is not limited to, the sharing of experience and at least two meetings a year to discuss career and personal growth issues.
Mr Ng remarks, "The counselling buddy system is actually very informal. Of course there are formal occasions too, but it's really about helping our staff to succeed and grow."
In addition to the technical and soft skills required, Mr Ng believes the most important quality for Deloitte's candidates is to be passionate about joining the profession and growing in it.
"It's a tough job. There will be long work hours and staff may even have to travel to China for projects for months at a time, but that's where our work-life balance programmes come in. Those who have a true passion for the job will reap the benefits, as they will become extremely successful," he adds.
Apart from its brand awareness and solid financial performance, one of Deloitte's most significant achievements has been the launch of its new vision to be "the standard of excellence". The firm focuses primarily on its diverse and dynamic staff to achieve this vision. "We understand that the profession requires a lot from us," says Mr Ng. "We also recognise that it can be very difficult, especially at busy times, for staff to divide their time between work requirements and personal duties." The firm has an employee assistance programme (EAP), a national programme for the China firm, which aims to improve staff's overall quality of life and enhance their well-being. This includes the provision of daily fruit baskets, dry-cleaning pickup services, ordering flowers for families, friends and loved ones.
In summary, outstanding technical and soft skills are crucial to achieving success and remaining at the top of this ever-evolving industry, Mr Ng notes.