Talent At Work: Recruitment and Career Blog

How to Identify Accountants with High Potential

Posted on June 2nd, by Henry Goldbeck in Finance, Interviewing Advice. Comments Off on How to Identify Accountants with High Potential

HR managers are often tasked with identifying “high potential” employees or “HiPos,” either for management positions or to take on important tasks.

But what is a high potential employee and what are the best ways to identify them?

Before answering that question, companies should identify their own needs and goals, and how their in-house talent can help them reach those milestones. Once that is known, it will be easier to identify what will satisfy the company’s plans for growth or expansion.

According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a best practices insight and technology company, HiPos have three main characteristics:


  • Aspiration
  • Engagement
  • Ability

Aspiration usually means employees with a desire to take on responsibilities, challenges and more senior roles. Engagement refers to an employee’s commitment, discretionary effort and intent to stay. Finally, ability is generally thought of as innate characteristics and learned skills.

Besides simple observation, accounting firms can also employ things like annual reviews, behavioural observation psychometric and cognitive tests. Supervisors and managers are well suited to take on these reviews to identify candidates and help paint a more comprehensive picture of an employee’s role.

Once identified, companies must feed these accounting employees with stimulating work, assignments and an overall work environment that is motivating. Of course, different types of employees will have different traits that a company can draw upon. Those suited for management, for example, may have more leadership skills and the ability to mobilize a staff behind a project.

There is a possibility of incorrectly identifying HiPos, as well. The Harvard Business Review says that more than 40 percent of HiPo programs do not belong there. Also, about 12 percent of people in their company’s HiPo programs were in the bottom quartile of leadership effectiveness and 42 percent were below average. The lesson is to identify properly. Don’t confuse technical expertise with someone who honours commitments and takes initiative. While these traits are great to have, they may be ineffective in an accounting, leadership role.

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Henry E. Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting Inc, is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and founded Goldbeck Recruiting in 1997. Since then, Henry has built the company's reputation as a leading headhunter and recruitment agency in sales, marketing, operations, engineering, and executive level positions across a variety of industries.

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