What to look for in a comprehensive benefits package

JENNIFER MCDONALD, DIRECTOR OF FIRM RECRUITMENT

 What should candidates look for when assessing a comprehensive benefits package?

Candidates should assess what their individual needs are. A traditional benefits package includes several things, like health, dental and vision insurance, short and long term disability insurance, paid holidays, paid vacation and sick days. Most firms now have a 401k and other types of retirement plans.

The next level is to question the nuances of traditional benefits. Does the firm offer both vacation time and sick time, or will that be bundled together? How many paid holidays? What about a health care flexible spending account (FSA) and commuter benefits? Are there community service opportunities? What type of training does the firm offer? What kind of CPA license incentives does the firm provide? Candidates should prioritize a list of benefits that are most important to them.

What value does a benefits package have on top of a salary amount?

Many people don’t realize that your employer’s benefits really add to the total compensation you’re receiving. Benefits combined are worth about 30 percent of your total compensation.

How have you seen priorities change between entry-level professionals and mid- to senior-level professionals when assessing benefit offerings?

Entry-level professionals aren’t as concerned with health, dental and vision benefits. They’re more interested in vacation days and paid holidays. Whereas more seasoned professionals are looking at what type of insurance benefits they will receive, how their families are covered and what portion of those benefits they have to pay for out of pocket. If someone is married with children, their insurance needs are very different from somebody who might just be entering the workforce and are still under their parents’ medical insurance plan.

Over time, needs will change. If somebody is getting married or starting a family, their insurance needs fluctuate. Staff members are looking for cost-effective ways to insure their families, so they look to the yearly open enrollment period specifically, to see what plans the firm is still offering, and what might be more beneficial to their current needs. Hood & Strong provides an excellent variety of insurance options for our staff, catered to their individual needs.

What are Hood & Strong’s core firm values?

Mentorship, volunteerism and work-life balance.

Mentorship – Everybody in the firm is assigned mentors and buddies who help them through their time at the firm. These relationships are great sounding boards and are outlets for people to ask questions, get career advice and technical guidance on accounting issues, and feel like they’re part of the Hood & Strong team.

Volunteerism – Hood & Strong is a huge proponent of giving back. We provide our employees paid time off during regular work hours to volunteer for organizations of their choice. It’s a very important part of Hood & Strong’s identity and history as a firm. The firm also sponsors all-staff volunteer days throughout the year, put on by our volunteer committee. People from every department come together to help local organizations in our community. It’s a great way for the firm to come together as a team.

Work-life balance – Hood & Strong understands the importance of work-life balance. The 70-hour work week that is prevalent in the accounting profession is something that doesn’t exist at our firm. Our busy season hours are easily managed. The firm understands that our employees have lives outside of the firm, and we really honor that. We encourage people to come forward if they need flexible arrangements or have difficulty meeting the busy season hours. We work with them to come up with a solution to make their workload manageable.

What advice do you have for someone who has never held a full-time professional position?

It’s really important for somebody just entering the workforce to do their homework and research the firms they want to interview with. It’s also important for candidates to know what their careers are going to look like and understand what challenges may come up. They should look for people or mentors that they can lean on, which Hood & Strong provides, that can guide them through the profession – especially during their first year of a public accounting environment. Anything candidates can do to educate themselves is very important.

What type of professional growth opportunities does Hood & Strong provide?

We offer a wide range of technical, professional development and leadership training opportunities at all levels throughout the year. Some of this training is done in-house, some via webcast and others off-site. The firm also pays for any CPE credits that someone might need for their license renewal. We also offer 100% tuition reimbursement for a master’s in accountancy or taxation and provide incentives for passing the CPA exam and becoming licensed.

What are the strengths and advantages of a smaller firm like Hood & Strong?

By working at a smaller firm like Hood & Strong, you have exposure to a wide variety of clients and work. You have more exposure to partners and leadership, which is beneficial to people that are motivated to move up in their career.

How has Hood & Strong been able to weather the storm of the many economic challenges throughout the firm’s 100-plus-years of operations, like COVID-19?

The firm is very dedicated to our employees’ well-being and making sure that they can work wherever they may be. They’ve instituted a policy of checking in with each other daily, through video calls and conferences, so that everyone has access to all the resources they need to work effectively remotely. The firm is very big on communication and supporting people through these uncertain times. We have employee assistance programs that people can take advantage of if they are struggling. We’ve had all-hands meetings where people have a chance to see and interact with each other across all departments.

What do you look for in a candidate? (Hard and soft skills)

We really look for candidates that are motivated and want to pursue a long-term career in public accounting. Entry-level candidates need to have done their research on the firm and the type of work that we do. And of course, communication is critical. We look for people that communicate well, aren’t afraid to ask questions and have an interest in learning and growing, both professionally and personally.