Hiring Accountants – CA or CPA and the “mini me” syndrome

As a Manager/HR Manager/Recruitment Manager we’re often tasked with hiring positions in which we haven’t previously had experience ourselves, and one of the trickiest areas to do this is in accounting. There’s so much involved, and so many levels of accounting responsibility. To add to this, you have CA and CPA qualifications.

So, what’s the difference and why does your hiring manager request that you only seek applications from candidates with CA qualifications and not CPA (or vice versa)?

I am asked this question often and while yes, there are slight variances in terms of the study between CA and CPA, when it comes down to the ability of these candidates, whether they’re CA or CPA is a bit like comparing pink icing with blue icing. Different colours but same taste!

Sounds straight-forward doesn’t it? But there’s a twist!

I was recently managing the recruitment of two Financial Accountant roles for two different businesses, both in manufacturing. Interestingly, one client requested that we source a CA for the position, and the other client felt a CPA candidate would be best suited. But why?? Both were very similar roles and environments and yet each client had a different view on what qualification would be best suited.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this, so why is it, when hiring Management or Financial Accountants in a commercial environment, some CFO’s/Finance Manager’s prefer CPA’s and others prefer CA’s?

Could it possibly be that we like to hire ourselves? (Mini me’s!!) It makes sense. We identify with our own qualifications, and we know what it took to complete that qualification.  We’re also naturally attracted to others who have had similar experiences to us, and we like talking with others who talk the same language as us.

So.. what does this mean? In my experience, CFO’s/Finance Managers/Financial Controllers will more-often than not hire Accountants who hold the same qualification as their own.

YES! CA’s hire CA’s and CPA’s hire CPA’s.

Managers who started their career in professional accounting firms in audit or business advisory generally hire a CA from the profession. Whereas those who started their career in the commercial sector as an assistant accountant or accounts clerk, and worked their way up to a financial management role, often hire an accountant with similar career experience and more than likely they will be CPA.

So, while either a CA or CPA qualified candidate is likely to have the skill and ability to fulfil the requirements of a particular role, this could help to explain why the hiring manager has a preference for one over the other. Not because one qualification is superior to the other, more so because the hiring manager is seeking to hire what they know, like and trust.

It’s not going to be the case 100% of the time, but with 20+ years of experience recruiting accountants, it doesn’t take long for me to work out exactly what my client is (really) looking for!


Written by Joanne Blackman