Friday, June 29, 2007

Beware Your Office Culture's Dark Side

Showing disrespect for a co-worker's faith, national origin or (of course) gender, is something that HR types constantly preach against. Most large companies, as part of their diversity programs, even require all employees to attend carefully structured workplace sensitivity sessions on a regular basis.

In practice, though, it's not uncommon to find work groups whose brand of camaraderie sometimes includes politically incorrect, impolite or even hostile banter.

If that describes your work group, watch out! Without warning, comments that felt like routine ribbing among colleagues can come back to haunt you. They can even cost you your job, and more.

That's one lesson that emerges from a discrimination lawsuit that a government agency recently filed against Merrill Lynch. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the investment firm under the Civil Rights Act, after an Iranian Muslim who worked as an analyst there complained he'd been verbally harassed about his national origin and his religion.

We spoke with George L. Lenard, an employment lawyer who handles discrimination cases. He makes a strong case that it's smart to stay out of any workplace chatter that could be seen as disrespectful to a group -- even if it's the norm among people you work with, and turning your back will make you appear standoffish. If you go along with the crowd and are unlucky enough to get cast as the bad guy in a discrimination complaint, "There is a high likelihood that you are going to be scapegoated and pushed out of there," warns Lenard, who writes a blog about workplace issues and is also the managing partner at St. Louis law firm Harris, Dowell, Fisher & Harris.

See the full story on JobsintheMoney.

EEOC Lawsuit Spotlights Perils of Workplace Culture [JITM]

Don't Be Afraid to Request Relief

Because summer is a seasonally slow time of year in many industries, it's easy to assume that work itself should slow down a bit. Of course, the reality is often the opposite, Alexandra Levit observes. Vacation-depleted offices can mean heavier-than-usual workoads for those who remain to hold down the fort.

A recent entry in Levit's Water Cooler Wisdom blog offered useful advice on how to diplomatically seek help at the office if you find yourself overloaded. She writes:

Sit down with your boss and broach the subject by saying that you’d love his or her help in prioritizing your tasks, because you don’t want to see anything fall through the cracks. This will give everyone the perception that you’re looking out for the best interests of the organization. You can let on that you’re feeling a little discombobulated, but watch your tone. You definitely don’t want to come across as a complainer.

Before taking that step, do a reality check. A request to lighten the workload probably will be taken seriously if it's coming from a good, hardworking teammate. But as Levit says, you'll get little sympathy if you've been putting in short work days or long lunches, or have a reputation for goofing off on company time.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Speak Up. [Water Cooler Wisdom]

Thursday, June 28, 2007

HSBC N. America Taps GE Exec as New CFO

Global bank HSBC's North American unit recently named Iain Mackay as executive vice president and CFO. He starts in mid-July, taking over from an executive of the London-based parent, HSBC Holdings plc.

Mackay joins HSBC North America Holdings Inc. from GE Healthcare, where he was CFO of the largest operating business, global diagnostic imaging. He previously held senior roles at various GE units, at Schlumberger, and in public accounting firms in the U.S., U.K. and France. He is a graduate of Aberdeen University in Scotland.

HSBC says Mackay will be responsible for all aspects of financial management in the United States and Canada. He'll report to COO Brendan McDonagh, and functionally to Douglas Flint, group finance director for HSBC Holdings.

He replaces Chris Spooner, head of group financial planning and tax at parent HSBC Holdings plc, who had filled the role on an interim basis since the end of 2006 when the company's previous CFO for North America retired.

Iain Mackay Named Chief Financial Officer for HSBC - North America [Press release]

N.Y. Financial Firms Still Adding Audit, Compliance Staff

While New York's mayor and various Wall Street mouthpieces fret that tough U.S. reporting and disclosure rules will drive listings, fees, and ultimately jobs offshore, it's worth noting that one type of work is booming here as a clear consequence of those regulations: accounting and finance professionals who handle audit and compliance for financial services firms.

We’re seeing a demand for services around the country, but in the New York metro area, there’s such a large number of investment banks, and they’re specifically looking to enhance accounting and internal controls,
Joseph A. Tarantino, managing director and head of the Northeast practice for Protiviti, a risk management consultancy and internal audit provider, told JobsintheMoney.

The need is greatest for CPA-types familiar with current accounting issues specific to the finance industry, such as topical stock option accounting and revenue recognition work. Tarantino also cites a need for professionals who can help hedge funds and other alternative investment firms upgrade internal controls and reporting, now that many such firms are getting bigger, more visible, and/or on a path toward going public. Foreign banks in New York also are stepping up their hiring of compliance pros, according to executive recruiter Brian Drum of Drum Associates.

For the full story, and other regional news, visit JobsintheMoney.

N.Y./N.J.: Wall Street, Hedge Funds Seek Finance Pros [JITM]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Boards Poised to Spotlight IT Risks?

If you're in financial IT, prepare for greater attention from corporate board and C-suite types worried about what might go wrong.

This year's Public Company Audit Committee Member Survey found these corporate board overseers feel they should be devoting more agenda time to getting a handle on IT risk. And if audit committees start raising the area's profile as the study suggests they will, it's a good bet that senior management will do the same.

Only 15 percent of audit committee members taking part in the survey were "very satisfied" with their oversight of IT procedures at their company. About one in five said their IT risk oversight needed improvement.

While increasingly concerned about IT, committee members feel more comfortable with their checking on managements' handling of accounting issues and Section 404 compliance. About 80 percent said they were "very satisfied" with their oversight of management's accounting judgments and estimates -- up 10 percentage points over last year.

KPMG's Audit Committee Institute (ACI) and the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) sponsored the annual survey.

For more figures, read the full story on JobsintheMoney.

Audit Committees Voice Concern Over IT Risk [JITM]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Demographic Trend to Cheer About (Maybe)

Accounting industry forums are full of handwringing about threatening secular trends like outsourcing and brain drain when baby boomers leave the work force.

Rick Telberg, CEO of Bay Street Group LLC, recently focused on a happier trend that may lie in store: the birth of a massive new wave of "micro-businesses."

Citing a January 2007 report by Intuit and the Institute for the Future, Telberg writes in his CPA Trendlines blog,

If you’re a finance or accounting professional, especially in a small to medium-sized shop, you’re going to like this one. It’s got small businesses popping up by the millions, all of them in need of someone who knows accounting, finance, payroll and other aspects of business management and administration.

The Intuit-IFTF report foresees a new economy increasingly composed of micro-businesses led by a much more diverse bunch of entrepreneurs.

The predicted changes will be led by three groups: baby boomers leaving corporate careers but not retiring; the boomers' very techno-savvy grandchildren, who will be "doing big business on small computers"; and ambitious, outward-looking immigrants.

One of the report's predictions that we found fascinating is that "entrepreneurship" will be taught as a mainstream subject, not only in universities, but down to secondary schools, "and even some elementary schools." College-level teaching of entrepreneurial skills will broaden from high-growth, venture capital-type businesses, to cover small business ownership of all kinds, the report says.

How does this relate to the accounting practitioner? Telberg offers this useful hint:

We’re just going to tell you to look at these upcoming entrepreneurs and their attributes, then think of what they’re going to need and how you can satisfy those needs. And that’s how you, too, will charge into that new economy.

The Next Big Thing: Are You Ready? [CPA Trendlines]

Where the Jobs Are

Confused about where to target your job search? The firms doing the most hiring are likely to be the most prosperous among large publicly traded companies, observes James Rubin on JobsintheMoney.

He's writing about California, but the basic message of "follow the money" is valid just about anywhere. Business journals, trade association Web sites, deal news and even the stock market -- all can provide a quick read on who the hot companies are in your particular industry or geographic region.

Take UnitedHealth Group, the massive provider of healthcare plans and other related services. The company is advertising more than 50 positions for financial professionals in California, not to mention additional jobs other points West. Those jobs include a director of financial planning and analysis and finance manager at the company’s Cypress office, an accountant in San Francisco, senior financial analyst in Santa Ana, accounting assistants in Carlsbad and senior accountant in Irvine.

It’s no surprise that UnitedHealth grew revenues by a whopping 54 percent last year to $71 billion while profits rose nearly 10 percent. UnitedHealth has not been coy about building on such increases and is advertising nearly 400 jobs across the country. "We are strengthening our organization, shifting investments in technology and enhancing our service offerings to directly address unmet needs in healthcare," said Stephen J. Hemsley, UnitedHealth’s chief executive officer.

Another West Coast company currently in hiring mode is Union Bank of California. It's expanding and adding commercial and retail bankers, Rubin writes.

To Find Job Openings, Follow the Money and the News [JITM]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Decoding How the Other Half Thinks

Ever wonder how some companies manage to fill openings that pay less than the going rate? A just-published article on Electronic Recruiting Exchange offers a laundry list of tactics that job candidates would do well to be aware of. Forewarned is forearmed.

The article by Dr. John Sullivan, a California-based consultant to corporate HR and recruiting departments, is titled, "Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part I of II." That title and the first few paragraphs led us to expect something really juicy – as in, sneaky or worse.

On reading further, we found all its suggestions were completely above-board, even sensitive to the palette of human variation that exists among individual job-seekers. Still, we think candidates can derive value from this peek into what your friendly neighborhood HR officer or hiring manager might be thinking.

Sullivan's 20 bullet points boil down to three central concepts. He's telling corporate recruiters to shift the dialogue away from compensation by focusing on different aspects of the candidate, the role, and the company. When discussing candidates, for instance, he observes,

Huge segments of the population are willing to work for organizations that pay poorly, provided there are other aspects of the offer that are more compelling.

He advises low-paying employers to tell applicants straightaway "that your company seeks people who 'care about the work' and that you purposely do not hire individuals who have compensation as their primary focus." Two employers he cites as "particularly good at this approach to recruiting" are Southwest Airlines and Ernst & Young.

Sullivan plans a follow-up that will tell companies how to package offers to increase acceptance rates, and a list of "non-monetary offer components that often go under-discussed."

If you've applied to any lowball employers, or expect to be on the receiving end of an offer from any employer soon, that's something you won't want to miss.

Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part I of II []

Midwest CPA Firm Divests Benefits Practice

Virchow Krause, an accounting and consulting firm prominent in the Midwest, sold its Minnesota employee benefits practice to a unit of Wells Fargo & Co.

The transaction closed June 1, according to an announcement last week from Wells Fargo Insurance Services of Minnesota Inc.

Virchow Krause is the nation's 15th-largest accounting and consulting firm. It's headquartered in Madison, Wis., and has regional offices in Bloomington, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit.

Wells Fargo Insurance Services of Minnesota, Inc. Acquires Employee Benefits Operations From Virchow Krause Minneapolis [Press release]

Friday, June 22, 2007

Deloitte Elevates Gulf Coast Leader

Deloitte & Touche USA promoted its Gulf Coast practice chief Anne Taylor to vice chairman and regional managing partner, overseeing more than 3,500 Deloitte partners located in eight states.

She remains based in the firm's Houston office. The Houston practice grew 35 percent last year, spurred by a booming oil and gas industry.

Taylor is responsible for developing the firm's market presence, connecting the Deloitte team to client needs and the community, and implementing "people strategies" for the company.

She previously has served as Deloitte's chief strategy officer, head of the management solutions and services practice, and global e-business leader. She also has been a member of the company's U.S. board of directors. A civil engineer by background, Taylor began her career in consulting and joined Deloitte in 1987 when it acquired a software consulting firm where she was a principal.

Deloitte's Gulf Coast chief takes on new role [Houston Business Journal]

Posted Resumes Can Be "Phished"

Posting your resume on some widely used job boards may be riskier than you think.

Tabatha Marshall recently posted a series of reports on her blog documenting how candidate information posted on CareerBuilder and Monster is mined by phishers – con artists who scan the Web for people who then become targets of often fraudulent bulk email campaigns.

The phishers pose as employers or recruiters. Electing to make your contact info private won't necessarily keep you off their radar, since phishers also send emails through the job board system to candidates who list job titles they want to be contacted about.

Some of these phony emails ask candidates to complete an application form on another site to qualify for a fictitious job offer or interview. The information the candidate provides is then sold to third parties, who can be identity thieves. Other phishing emails may be transparent scams that ask the candidate to supply their own bank account or PayPal information right off the bat. Marshall writes:

All of the emails offer positions with common job titles; many of them appear “canned” - that is, like form letters. But some of them appear to have been machine-translated or were written by individuals whose native language is clearly not English.

In a followup posting on June 21, Marshall reported that Monster's management is on top of the problem, but CareerBuilder seems to be ignoring it.

The lesson: Hearing from an employer who saw your resume on a mass-market job board may seem an effortless way to advance your job search. But before you pursue any contacts you receive via that route, you'd best put in some effort to check whether you're dealing with a legitimate potential employer or an Internet crook.

Of course, the blog you are now reading is owned by a company whose main business is operating industry-specific job boards. Our parent, Dice Inc., has a fraud prevention group that actively monitors both employer accounts and specific job postings.

CareerBuilder and Monster: taking identity theft and financial exploitation to new heights [Tabatha Marshall]
A friendly Monster’s got your back [Tabatha Marshall]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CPAs and Risk Management

Myra Thomas talked to Michael S. Kridel, partner in Daszkal Bolton LLP in Boca Raton, Fla., talks about the risk management role for today's CPA: "We look for strong communicators, and those who are interested in being respected, but not necessarily in being liked. These are the people who will make the right decisions regardless of personal relationships."

The full interview's on JobsintheMoney.

Growing Role For CPAs in Risk Management [JITM]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Was All That Effort For Naught?

Is Sarbanes-Oxley delivering on its promise of preventing another Enron from happening? Apparently not, according to a new survey of public and private fraud examiners.

The cost to companies of heightened compliance demands has been documented ad nauseam. But doesn't stricter oversight benefit the public by lowering the incidence of corporate deception? The results of Oversight Systems' latest survey of certified fraud examiners suggest the answer is a resounding, "No!"

Only 3 percent of respondents – about 1 in 30 – said institutional fraud is less widespread than five years ago, when SOX was enacted. An overwhelming 76 percent said fraud is more common today. More than half (56 percent) said they personally observed corporate misconduct within the past year.

Oversight Systems, an Atlanta-based vendor of compliance software and systems, polled 86 certified fraud examiners for its latest report. They included internal and external auditors, law enforcement officials and others.

Compared with a similar survey two years ago, the numbers appear to be moving in the wrong direction. The proportion that found fraud more prevalent rose since 2005, while the already tiny group that saw fraud as less prevalent shrank further.

Four out of five respondents felt corporate fraud would decrease if white-collar criminals were punished as severely as violent offenders. However, when asked to pinpoint the single best preventive measure, the largest portion, 43 percent, called for "a strong tone from the top of the organization."

Ironically, the very same proportion felt that "corporate vigilance and executive interest has already started to fade."

In announcing the survey results, Oversight quoted professor Dana Hermanson of Kennesaw State University:
Culture is everything when it comes to fraud and fraud prevention. If there is a culture of never missing targets, some people will cheat to make the numbers. Their rationalization is that they are just doing what the top people want them to do. Directors and executives need to clearly communicate that ethics come before making targets.
Oversight Systems CEO Patrick Taylor is hopeful about new regulatory guidance for internal controls that is nearing approval. The SEC's recent "interpretive guidance" for Section 404 internal controls and a related new PCAOB audit rule called AS-5 embody a shift from "the checklist approach" to a risk-based approach for monitoring and auditing, Taylor says:

With the announcement of AS 5, the SEC is guiding companies towards a risk based approach to financial controls. If implemented correctly, these changes will enhance financial reporting integrity while decreasing overall compliance costs.

Oversight Systems Annual Corporate Fraud Survey [Press release]

Strategies You Hadn't Thought Of

Some people scour jobs boards, others network like there's no tomorrow. Whatever your job-search strategy, Carol Lippert Gray has five tips to help you stand out from the pack.

Five Ways to Become Job-Search Savvy [JITM]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Corbett 1st Woman to Head PWC Major Market

PricewaterhouseCoopers named Martha Corbett market managing partner of its Southern California and Phoenix offices, which include Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas. Corbett, 46, is the first woman to lead one of PWC's major markets on the west coast, and the only woman among Big Four firms now serving in that capacity. Corbett is a CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Names Martha Corbett Market Managing Partner for Southern California and Phoenix Region [PWC via Prime Newswire]

Just A Little Outsourcing Thing

I notice that Hawaiian Airlines is cutting some 140 positions, moving many of the jobs to India and the Phillipines. These include "most" of the airline's call center, IT and accounting jobs.

Hawaiian Airline Announces Layoffs [KGMB]

N.Y. Asks: What is a CPA?

In New York, proposed legislation may reform the official definition and oversight of the CPA role. The bill is intended to update a moldy accountancy law that's been on the books for almost 60 years. It would make peer review mandatory for all CPAs in public practice, update the scope of services CPAs perform, regulate CPAs in all spheres of service (such corporate work or in a practice), expand qualifications leading to licensure and upgrade requirements for continuing professional education. Sen. Ken LaValle (R-1) is the sponsor of Bill S05240, which passed the State Senate on May 30. The Assembly is currently considering its version of the bill.

This and other regional news on JobsintheMoney.

N.Y./N.J.: Generalists Still Needed [JITM]

Monday, June 18, 2007

About Conduct

Last week I said Ryan Healy was engaged in wishful thinking when he said people shouldn't - and shouldn't have to - worry about posting possibly embarrassing photos on sites like MySpace. In today's Wall Street Journal, Carol Hymowitz writes that "today's ambitious business managers need to be aware that their personal behavior will be as closely scrutinized and judged as their work performance."hough her column focuses on senior executives more than professional staffers, it's a good look at the attitude that's perhaps more pervasive than it previously was in corporate America: Good conduct counts.

Corporate directors are far less willing than they were a few years ago to look the other way if an executive does something that threatens to embarrass a company. This is the case even if the executive is a star performer. It's also true even if the action had nothing to do directly with work and isn't tied to illegal behavior, such as sexual harassment or "creating a hostile work environment." The offense could be getting drunk or acting lewd at parties or having tangled or abusive love relationships.

"It used to be that as long as an executive performed well on the job, no one cared much about what they were doing in their free time -- or even behind closed doors in the office," says Doug Schwarz, an attorney at Bingham, McCutchen in New York. "But a sea change has occurred, with every aspect of managers' conduct being scrutinized -- and ever more closely the higher up one goes."

Personal Boundaries Shrink as Companies Punish Bad Behavior [WSJ - $]

Transition Pressures

AICPA President Barry Melancon is worried about the long-term structural health of CPA firms. According to Bill Carlino of WebCPA:

"You have 45,000 firms in this country, who are essentially led by Baby Boomers," said AICPA president and chief executive Barry Melancon, who noted that a low percentage of those firms have succession plans in place, and pointed to a recent study showing that small firms have a shockingly high turnover rate of 44 percent. "We need to do a better job if we're going to prepare CPAs."


He also said that, disturbingly, among very large firms and the Big Four, there did not exist an "over-encouragement" to take the CPA exam.

That 44 percent turnover number is worth noting. Put it in the context of a high demand for accounting staff, and a huge interest in career changing among CPAs, and you get another view of why so many jobs are staying open for so long.

Council: Staff pipeline remains the top issue [WebCPA]

No Surprise: Certifications Mean Money

The Institute of Management Accountants says accounting professionals who are certified earn significantly more than their non-certified peers. Respondents who were Certified Management Accountants, Certified Public Accountants or Certified Financial Managers reported higher average salaries in 2006 than their non-certified peers: $102,393 compared to $80,738.

Certified Accounting Professionals Earn 27 Percent More Than Non-Certified Peers, According to IMA Annual Salary Survey [IMA - PDF]

Friday, June 15, 2007

Making Yourself Visible

Most recruiters and other career management experts agree that if you expect to get ahead, you must get noticed.

On, we came across a 16-point list of shortcuts for building a credible public profile in today's mostly digital world. Its authors are Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa, co-founders of a marketing strategy firm called Atomica Creative Group. Their essay is provocatively titled, "Increasing your Credibility in 30 days: How to Brag without Bragging."

Their first recommendation is to work at improving your Web "hit list" - the first three pages of Yahoo! or Google references that come up in a search of your name. "Forget about personal and professional references for making a first impression because the Internet search gets done before that," they write.

Among their other suggestions:

- Publish articles with your name attached. Start with a "general online publication," so as to boost all-important search engine hits. Then submit an unpaid article to a trade publication. Trade associations are a promising avenue for this, according to Roosen and Nakagawa. After that, submit to a hard-copy publication.

- Post comments on trade-specific Web sites. Post under your real name, and go for quality, not quantity.

- Include on your Web site or documents the logos of respected clients, trade associations and major media that gave you coverage. (Although the authors don't say so, this may require getting permission.)

- Post your profile on social networking sites, and get listed in media and professional directories. That will both position you as an expert in your area and help you attract future media attention.

A few recommendations could be perceived as gimmicky or even borderline deceptive. For instance, they advise linking your name with "credible" people and companies, by:

- Sending testimonials to credible people who will post it on their Web site.

- Nominating companies or people for awards.

- Asking credible people and companies to provide testimonials about you.

- Sending "framed thank you letters…to opinion leaders or admired companies."

Increasing your Credibility in 30 days: How to Brag without Bragging []
Don’t Be Digitally Invisible [eFC]

Second Verse, Same as the First

Five years after passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, CPA firms and their biggest clients have largely completed the wrenching adjustment to a more demanding environment. Although new rulemaking has subsided, and even a few tentative moves toward relief from the most onerous demands are underway, recruiters, educators and industry officials say the seller's market for accounting talent will persist for at least a few more years - and possibly much longer.

The strength of demand is impressively broad, spanning varied experience levels and functional specialties. When pressed to name a market segment that is cooling or is poised to cool soon, experts we spoke with were unable to think of one. And while the shortage of qualified accountants is today most evident in the middle of the career ladder, recent graduates are in demand too. In the not-too-distant future, accounting's top levels will face a similar situation.

Job-Market Forecast: Not a Cloud in Sight [JITM]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Growth for Part-Time CFOs

For mid-career accountants with an entrepreneurial bent and the right mix of experience, part-time CFO service can be a viable alternative to working for a single employer, practitioners say. "It's becoming a more prevalent trend," observes Mark Williams, principal of Summit CFO Services in Atlanta.

Most part-time CFO firms are one-man shops, vehicles for semi-retired accountants or full-time freelancers to control their own work lives. But the ranks of part-time CFO vendors also include some team practices with support staffs and a regional, or even nationwide, client base.

What does it take to earn your keep as a part-time CFO? Jon Jacobs provides guidance on that, and more, on JobsintheMoney.

The Rise of the Part-Time CFO [JITM]

Myths and Myths

Penelope Trunk lists six myths about work in her latest column in the Boston Globe. I'll probably write more about these at some point because I don't agree with them all (She says "the glass ceiling still exists" is a myth.)

But one thing she says I go along with. It's her myth #6, "Work hard and good things will come."

You'll actually be rewarded only if you're likable. People get hired for their qualifications, but they get promoted because people like working with them. So spend your days trying to figure out what people need and what people want, and how you can help them. Empathy makes you likable.

The people who don't want to have to deal with kindness will complain. But for most of us, it's a big relief to know that the workplace of the new millennium demands more kindness and respect than ever before. This is a workplace that rewards being nice rather than being a genius.

The people who will complain about this situation will feel that the niceness isn't genuine. The people who are genuinely nice will not complain.

Put yourself in the latter category and be grateful we're living in the new millennium with a new workplace. It's an opportunity for you to shine in your best light and get what you want most for your life.

I'm not sure these dynamics apply at senior and partner levels - There seem to be an awful lot of putzes out there who treat their staffs terribly but thrive because they bring in the business. But for those of us toiling away at the staff level, I think there's a lot here.

6 myths about work [Boston Globe]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

About Those Audit Fees...

Francis McKenna lists her top 10 reasons won't go down anytime soon - OK, if ever. My favorites are:

8. Performing an audit of a large global public company requires specialized skills and they are very expensive and time consuming to develop.

7. There is a significant constraint on resources who are available to competently perform this work.

Number 9's good, too: "The Big 4 are an oligopoly." Straight and to the point.

The Top Ten Reasons Audit Fees Will Not Go Down [re: The Auditors]

Reposition Yourself

If you've been sending out resumes and you feel like they're disappearing into the void, maybe you should consider a new resume format. Warren Simons, who writes frequently about resumes and how to make them effective, explains how the infrequently used "Functional" format can help you highlight your skills as opposed to your work history, which can be an effective way to get around a gap in your career or the challenges of changing careers.

The Functional Format is a future-oriented document. It emphasizes the skills and potential that you can bring to an opening, not just what you've achieved in the past. By breaking down your work history and accomplishments into two to four unique skill sets - such as Sales, Project Management, and Business Development - you can target an opening by showcasing strengths that the rigid "Work History" section of a chronological resume might hide.

If you're changing careers or have a gap in employment, the Functional Resume is likely a better option than the standard chronological resume. Although some HR departments may view the uncommon format as an aberration, Functional formats can be extremely successful. If you've been applying for multiple positions and have had little success or no response, it might be worth analyzing your resume to determine if you're using a format that paints you in the best light.

His article on JobsintheMoney includes samples of each format and a good explanation of how to use both.

Fundamentals of the Functional Resume [JITM]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wishful Thinking

Ryan Healy engages in a bit of wishful thinking in a post on Brazen Careerist. (He's a guest commentator there, but also publishes his own blog, Employee Evolution, which has the tag line "The Voice of Millennials at Work.") He says, basically, that worries about posting embarrassing photos on sites like MySpace or Facebook are overblown:

Social networking sites are blurring the lines between personal and professional life. There is no reason these lines should not be blurred. Most young people lead very healthy social lives, and because of these websites much of our social lives are online. When you live your personal/social life online there is no escaping who you are and what you do. It may be scary to people not accustomed to the openness of the Internet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a refreshing. Why should I pretend to be one person for eight hours a day and someone else entirely for the rest?

I agree with Ryan more often than not. But, Boomer that I am, I found this particular essay a bit naïve. I mean it would be nice if we didn't have to worry about how we present ourselves to the world - in or out of work - but at the end of the day, we do. It's not an issue that's limited to the Web. We have to think about how we're perceived by people we talk to at meetings, by phone, by video conference and by instant message. I don't think people should pretend to be someone they're not, but you have to be aware that your fascination with mud wrestling may not be as funny to some people in your office as it is to you.

It’s absurd to pretend that everyone at work is a saint. It’s just not true. What’s the big deal if our bosses know what we did on Saturday night or what we did in college for that matter?

It depends on who your boss is, for one thing. And it depends on what you did. There are people out there - and I don't think they're all even in their 40s - who are going to judge you by how you portray yourself. When you decide to post photos of yourself on MySpace, you're saying you're proud of them. Would you frame a photograph of yourself passed out on New Jersey Transit and put it on your desk? Maybe that's the kind of test we should apply to what we put on MySpace.

I urge everyone: Let’s leave all of our pictures up on whatever social networking sites we use. What we do on the weekends is just as much apart of our lives as our day jobs. Don’t be afraid of your boss seeing a risqué photo of you and don’t be afraid to talk a little business at the bar. The sooner we get past this personal and professional juggling act, the sooner we can see real change in the workplace.

I suppose Ryan might to trying to make a point about employers loosening up. It's not easy to change a culture, after all. But as you re-live that fetish party, at least do it with your eyes open. Your boss, your clients may see those photos and never say a word - but if they've seen the photos, they've made a judgment about you and about how much trust they're going to give you.

Twentysomething: Raunchy old photos will be part of the revolution [Brazen Careerist]

Growth in Fidiciary Accounting

Investment advisors and others who help people manager their money are under pretty powerful microcopes these days, and that's creating opportunities for CPAs, writes Myra Thomas.

Today investment stewards such as attorneys, investment advisors, pension plan trustees and financial planners face increased exposure related to their fiduciary duties. For CPAs - many of whom are already attuned to fiduciary responsibilities as a part of their forensic or auditing work - serving as a consultant to these professionals is another way to ensure long-range career success. As more accounting firms move beyond the standard tax and auditing function, such consulting is also a way attract in new business, points out Jeffrey DuFour, managing director of the Tillit Group, a Princeton, N.J., company that provides independent consulting services to investment fiduciaries.


"The work fits in very well with what most forensic accountants do," DeFour says. "It's their sweet spot, especially if they are doing any litigation work, since it's really all about prudence, process and documentation. In auditing, these are people who already understand internal controls. It's really all about taking existing skills and applying that to the requirements for fiduciaries." DuFour adds that many of the things CPAs already understand, in terms of financial reporting requirements, sync up with the fiduciary investment standards.

'Fiduciary Accounting' a Growing Niche [JITM]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hours vs. Efficiency

Attorneys at the law firm Heller Ehrman are floating the idea of eliminating the idea of billable hours as a way to keep women engaged in their careers. Given the way accounting firms bill, their conclusions could apply to our world as well. reports:

Studying how other professions have tackled the issue, the group laid out steps to eliminate obstacles -- like the inflexibility of the hours-heavy grind and the low percentage of female leaders -- that it says discourage women as well as an entire younger generation of lawyers from making a career at a big law firm.

Perhaps the most radical suggestion made by the opt-in project is to get rid of the billable hour. Lawyers should be measured by their productivity and efficiency instead, the group said.

"It's a huge issue for woman and that's because we still live in a world where woman still have more responsibility for raising children," said (HE Partner Patricia) Gillette. "It may cut into the hours you can bill, and yet it may not cut into your productivity."


The group points toward an innovative program at accounting giant Deloitte called Mass Career Customization, which allows its employees to adjust the pace of their career to deal with personal obligations without throwing them off the upward track.

"The opt-in project" is the name of the study group headed by Gillette. Heller Ehrman is considering its recommendations.

All in Favor of Axing the Billable Hour … []

Mandatory Fun

For all of you who aren't planning on a vacation this summer, be aware: A small but growing number of American businesses are starting to make an issue of your lack of rest. MSNBC leads off its report with a story from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Philadelphia office - it's about an HR manager, but still.

If your productivity declines, you won’t get raises or promotions, and you could end up losing your job. This becomes even more critical when your job involves creative or critical thought, experts says.

A good rest may even bring career advancement.

“Your vacation just might be the key to identifying the new product or strategy you’ve been struggling with for months,” says Noah Blumenthal, a consultant and author of You’re Addicted to You: Why It’s So Hard to Change and What You Can Do About It.

And, no, long weekends don't count. The article has some tips for planning your vacation so that you can actually relax and not worry about what's going on in the office while you're away.

Take that vacation — it could help your career [MSNBC]

The Living is What?

Not a lot of time off being taken this summer, at least by JobsintheMoney's users. Last week, our poll asked whether you were taking time off this summer. The answers:

  • A week: 16 percent
  • Two weeks: 28 percent
  • Three weeks: 12 percent
  • None: 44 percent

So what's everyone doing instead - besides working? Maybe this week's poll will give us a hint. The question is about how long you've been looking for a job. (Assuming you are looking for a job.) Take the poll on JITM's front page.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Resumes Versus Test Results

We often hear that HR departments obsess so much over the mythical "perfect match" that they consider only resumes showing prior responsibilities that are identical to a job posting's description. Though an applicant's past experience can't always predict future results, it's understandable that a realistic business person would want to know that anyone they offer a job has proven themselves in a similar role over a reasonable length of time. Resumes fulfill that self-evident need.

This doesn't sit well with Joseph Murphy, a Cleveland-based HR consultant and promoter of "objective candidate evaluation methods."

In a recent article on , Murphy contends that employers pay far too much attention to resumes, which he says are "often full of outright lies." Instead, he urges them to place more emphasis on "assessments" - tests, such as an online "Virtual Job Tryout" developed by Shaker Consulting Group - of which he's a principal and a vice president.

Employment tests often are proctored, applicants receive no outside assistance and usually are subject to a time limit. In contrast, Murphy points out, with resumes candidates routinely get professional help, may invest an unlimited amount of time, and game the screening process by carefully choosing keywords that will be noticed by employers' search engines.

He writes:

An assessment is a standardized request for information from the candidate. The request is exactly the same for each candidate: fair, consistent, and reliable. You get what you ask for.

A resume is an unpredictable submission of information (some fact, some fiction) by the candidate: biased, inconsistent, and unreliable. You get what they want to share.

What's wrong with this picture?

We've got nothing against honesty, reliability or objectivity. But throughout his lengthy article, Murphy avoids any mention of the resume's central purpose: to codify a candidate’s experience and track record. Instead, he seems to be pretending that a resume should be viewed primarily as a sample of the candidate’s work. Otherwise, why would he equate receiving outside help with "misrepresentation?"

Sure, resumes aren't objective, and sure, some candidates lie. But that just means HR and hiring managers need to earn their pay by making sure that resumes get fact-checked and references are called.

Are Your Resumes Valid? []
Psychological Testing: A Primer for Job Applicants [eFC]

Glass Across the Pond

Women accountants in Scotland come up against the same glass ceiling as their American counterparts, reports the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, according to GAAP Accounting and Finance.

This is the case despite increased amounts of women joining the profession over the last few years, the ICAS stated.

A "macho" culture is still pervasive in many firms, where working long hours is admired, making it hard for women to forge a practical work-life balance.

Last year a mere 13 per cent of partners in ICAS firms were women.

ICAS: Glass ceiling still firmly in place [GAAP Web]

Need for Internal Auditors

Glenn Summers, director of internal audit studies at Louisiana State University, calls the job market for internal auditors "the largest job market we've seen in 22 years," according to an item on SmartPros. "The demand for internal auditors is now so high that many companies are extending early job offers to college juniors in the hope of securing them early for employment."

Internal Auditor Jobs on the Rise, Says IIA [SmartPros]

Don't Shoot

During the dance that goes on between a candidate and employer, you've got many chances to shoot yourself in the foot. In no particular order, here are 10 ways to pull the trigger.

Ten Ways to Show You Don’t Want That Job [JITM]

E&Y Cultivates High Schoolers

Ernst & Young is reaching into high school classes to change perceptions of accountants: The firm's working with the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management on program for minority students in Arizona high schools to increase awareness of the field's realities.

Ernst & Young grooms future accountants [Arizona Republic]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's All About Culture

California firms have figured out that how they treat workers - even those who aren't peak performers - can have a real impact on their recruiting efforts.

Take Hood & Strong LLP, a growing boutique of about 100 employees with offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco. The firm has succeeded partly by assigning projects to small, responsive teams that provide strong client service. When a team member lags, a project manager addresses the problem quickly in a one-on-one meeting. If the issue continues or is serious enough, a senior partner speaks with the employee.

Hood & Strong Partner George Paulsen says a respectful but direct approach is best. Frank discussions have not only helped a number of staffers change their ways, but has set a positive tone throughout the firm, he says. Even if people don’t agree with a specific criticism, they appreciate candor. "The person knows what's going on and has time to make a correction," Paulsen explains, adding that a more circumspect approach creates the kind of uncertainty that may prevent someone from making progress.

James Rubin's story is on JobsintheMoney.

Firms Showcase Concern for Staff Success [JITM]

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Audit Intrigue Comes to New York Stage

An auditor finds discrepancies in the statements of a major client that point to fraud. When he alerts his team, each acts to protect himself or herself from the emerging scandal. By the end, the initially idealistic whistleblower has made a triumphal about-face, leapfrogging his Machiavellian colleagues and leaving them in the dust.

A real-life snippet from the Enron saga? No. It's the plot of Professional Skepticism, an award-winning play that's set for a two-week off-Broadway run beginning June 28 after successful productions in Boston and South Carolina.

"Professional Skepticism" was first produced in 2000, well before the exposures of fraud at Enron, WorldCom and other Fortune 500 companies transformed CPA work into a glamour profession (well, sort of). Its author is a real-life CPA named James Rasheed. The 40-year-old has a Master's degree in playwriting and has produced a number of other works, but continues to work as a bank auditor.

Along with the ageless themes of betrayal, sexual intrigue, and a good bit of humor, reviews from its Boston-area run indicate that Professional Skepticism offers up something less often found in works of popular culture: genuine insight into the problems auditors face, in a way that's accessible to the general public.

The Boston Globe wrote:

Rasheed sets forth the basic issues of a corporate audit with such clarity and succinctness that even the mathematically challenged can understand them.

The play's title itself is a technical phrase well-known to auditors. It refers to a suspicious attitude that auditors are supposed to adopt when there is a high risk of material misstatements or other risks that cast doubt on the validity of audit evidence.

The Zootopia Theatre Company production of "Professional Skepticism" is scheduled to run June 28 to July 15 at New York's Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex.

Three Out of Big 4 Lauded by Working Mother

Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers were among Working Mother magazine's 2007 list of Best Companies for Multicultural Women. To compile the list, the magazine reviews companies' workforce profiles (including the number of women of color, women in top positions, top earners), its culture, external programs (such as diversity activities) and work/life programs. This year, the magazine gave the most weight to questions involving the representation, recruitment and retention of women of color.

2007 Best Companies for Multicultural Women [Working Mother]

Consulting Opportunities for Senior CPAs

Experienced CPAs sometimes hit a ceiling when they get to the controller level because their soft talents aren't as strong as their technical skills. Ron Blair, managing director of recruitment firm the Century Group, in El Segundo, Calif., says such folks still can take advantage of a wealth of consulting opportunities. High-level technical skills are in such demand they're usually able to find as much contract work as they need, he told Jon Jacobs:

Much of the demand for contract work comes from private equity firms who want to upgrade the financial management and controls at companies they've acquired. Mid-size or smaller firms acquired in a private equity deal "may not be able to carry the freight of having that new CFO on board five days a week, at $200,000 to $500,000 a year," says Blair. Instead, they may instead choose to bring in a former Fortune 500 CFO as a one- or two-day-a-week consultant.

"We see this a lot in California, both in Silicon Valley and Southern California," Blair says. For many mid-career professionals, project assignments can open the door to a permanent position. They also demonstrate the job-seeker isn't letting his skills atrophy.

CPA Shortages Impact Work at Senior Levels [JITM]

Moss Leads HR at RSM McGladrey

RSM McGladrey named Kimpa Moss as its Chief Human Resources Officer. She's based in the firm's Bloomington, Minn., office. She'd been vice president of integrated client services, responsible for accounting, tax and business consulting, industry leadership, key accounts and integration of emerging business services. She joined the firm in 1986 as a tax specialist, and was promoted to partner in 1998. She also served on the firm's women's advisory council for five years.

RSM McGladrey taps Kimpa Moss to lead human resources team [Press Release]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Not-So-Great Offer

What do you do when you receive the job offer you'd hoped for - at 25 percent less than you'd figured? Writes Jon Jacobs:

In such situations, every candidate needs a game plan. Those who end up with their ideal package are the ones who took care to make the right moves long before a job offer arrived, says career coach Win Sheffield.

It's a mistake to wait until you have an offer before consciously trying to influence its contents, Sheffield says. Through proper foresight and advance action during the interview process, a candidate can begin molding an eventual offer long before the employer makes it. If you succeed at this, you won't need to negotiate nearly as much when the offer finally arrives.

His full story's on JobsintheMoney.

Shape an Offer Through Shadow Negotiating [JITM]

Poll Results

Last week, our poll on JobsintheMoney asked users how they felt about their job. The answers:

  • I love it: 19.4%
  • It's a living: 22.6%
  • I want to move: 32.3%
  • I'm changing careers: 25.8%

So, more than half - about 58 percent - either want to change jobs or change careers. I'm curious about whether that surprises anyone. Drop me a line or post a comment and let me know.

Monday, June 04, 2007

IRS Seeks Revenue Officers in NY Area

The IRS says it has openings for Revenue Officers in six offices in the New York metropolitan area.

Qualifications include a bachelor's degree and/or work experience that could include: reviewing individuals' or businesses' financial conditions and debt-paying ability; valuing assets; collecting delinquent payments; running a small business or administering a budget; or providing tax counseling for individuals.

The application deadline is June 21.

Revenue officers are responsible for collecting delinquent taxes. Specific duties include research, interviewing taxpayers, investigating and analyzing financial information for assigned cases, and working out payment plans with delinquent taxpayers.

Information on applying for federal government jobs

Friday, June 01, 2007

Changing Landscape

Today's Wall Street Journal published a thoughtful op-ed piece by Kenneth Wilcox, the CEO of SVB Financial Group, who suggests that regulation by the FASB, PCAOB and the SEC has become so complex and so rigid that rules are both difficult to keep up with and interpret even after you've digested them. (And who, really, gets to do much of that?) While his essay was really about the potential impact of regulation on the economy, I was struck by this:

It turns out, however, that only a diminishing portion of this increase is due to Sarbox. More and more of it is due to the significantly increased amount of time that audits are taking, and the much larger number of people that they involve. Trying to tease out exactly why they are taking longer and why more people are involved is difficult. When I ask, I get a host of different but related answers. The auditors are operating with droves of often newly hired and therefore inexperienced people. They appear to have lost any sense of the time-honored accounting concept of "materiality." They appear to have very little decision-making power. Decisions, which increasingly need to be sent to superiors in far-away locations, take much longer than just a few years ago.

Nobody appears to want to exercise judgment, either with respect to the applicability of a given Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) pronouncement, or to its application. Rules are applied, whether the original framers were targeting the situation at hand or not. And testing takes forever. In situations where just a few years ago just a few tests might have sufficed, today several times as many may be required. Finally, everybody seems to be operating from a position of fear, of rejection or remonstrance.

Two paragraphs that sum up very nicely the pressures faced by many an auditor, slogging away...

Dealing with Sarbox [WSJ]

Opportunities in London

British banks have exhausted the their supply of senior risk specialists and are seeking accountants from overseas to fill open risk positions, writes Phil Smith from London:

"There is a lack of experienced candidates in the market. The turnover at this level is less, so the supply of risk candidates is minimal compared with demand," says Gail Connolly of the London recruitment firm PSD. "We are now sourcing from areas such as the U.S., Europe and Asia.”

According to Deloitte, the number of institutions with a chief risk officer, a position traditionally filled by qualified accountants, is at a record high. Some 84 percent of the firms in London's City now have a CRO in place, while another eight percent say they have plans to bring one on-board in the near future.

His full story is on JobsintheMoney.

UK Seeks Accountants for Risk Jobs [JITM]

Women and Minorities

A great article in CFO about the differing impact of diversity program on women, as opposed to minorities.

At lower levels within the finance department, the disparity between women and minorities is even more dramatic. CFO estimates that 16 percent of Fortune 500 controllers are women, while only 4 percent are minorities. The numbers are similar for treasurers, with 16 percent women and 6 percent minorities. Sixty percent of respondents to a recent survey of CFO readers estimate that their finance departments have more female employees than the rest of the company; in contrast, about half surveyed say their department lags the company as a whole in terms of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American staff.

Gap Analysis [CFO]