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What accountants look for in a job.

The growing demand for accountants and the declining number of college graduates majoring in accounting has presented the public accounting profession with one of its greatest challenges ever -- attracting and retaining the qualified individuals necessary to provide top quality service {Arthur Andersen & Co., et al, 1989}. The high cost of excessive turnover has caused firms to concentrate not just on hiring qualified employees, but on retaining those employees. Both recruitment and retention can be enhanced by meeting the qualitative criteria that individuals consider important.

In recent years, the recruitment and retention of women professionals has become increasingly important, as women now make up a larger portion of accounting graduates than ever before {Ried, et al, 1987}. However, little attention has been focused on the differences between job selection critiria of male and female accountants. Information on these differences, if any, could be beneficial to recruiters and employers. Recruiters, if aware of the priorities of female accounting students, could place additional emphasis on providing information on those areas. Employers could use such knowledge to reduce or alleviate job dissatisfaction among female employees.

In order to help meet these needs, this article examines the criteria considered important by female and male accountants in the pursuit of an accounting position. Considered are the differences and similarities between female and male students' about what they considered important in selecting an accounting position. In addition, attitudes of female and male professionals are compared. This article also focuses on female accountants and whether their ranking of important job criteria changes after they have been employed in a full-time accounting position.

Sample Selection and Questionnaire

Accounting students who were within 18 months of graduation were aksed to respond to a questionnaire of 39 criteria that could influence their selection of an accounting position. Students were asked to score each from one (no importance) to seven (extremely important). The criteria and their definitions are presented in alphabetical order in Table 1. A total of 154 students returned the questionnaires -- 96 females (62%) and 58 males (38%).

Accounting professionals who had received their degree less than five years ago were asked to score how important each criterion would be if they were to search for a new accounting position. Questionnaires were returned by 70 female and 70 male professionals.

Comparison of Females and Males

Analysis of Students' Responses

The average age of female student respondents was 27.4. They had an average grade point average (GPA) of 3.235. Forty-two of the femal students were married and 57 were single. The average age of male student respondents was 26.7 years. They had an average [TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

of 0.39 children and an average GPA of 3.274. Eighteen of the male students were married and 40 were single.

Table 2 contains the rankings and mean scores of the 39 criteria for female and male students. Neither group had an overall tendendy to rate criteria higher than the other as men rated nineteen of the criteria higher than women and women rated 19 of the criteria higher than men. The two groups agreed on the importance of one criteria, starting salary, with identifical average ratings.

When t-tests were used to examine the differences in the responses of female and male students, ten of the differences were statistically significant. The criteria where differences existed are (in order of importance to female students):

1. Stability

2. Sec discrimination

3. Race discrimination

4. Age discrimination

5. Religious discrimination

6. Other benefits

7. Overtime pay

8. Maternity/paternity leave

9. Familiarity with software

10. Similarity of work

Both female and male students agreed that advancement opportunities was the top criterion influencing a job selection decision. The ratings and rankings differed on most other criteria. The criterion with the second highest average for females was job stability; however, males were less concerned with job stability, ranking this eighth.

The results presented in Table 2 (next page) indicate that women were more concerned with various forms of discrimination than men. Women had higher averages on all four discrimination criteria and all of the differences were statistically significant. As expected, women were more concerned about sex discrimination (ranked eighth), while men appeared relatively complacent about it (ranked thirtieth). Race discrimination ranked forteenth for women and twenty-sixth for men. Women ranked age discrimination sixteenth, while men ranked it twenty-fifth. Lastly, religious discrimination ranked ninetteenth for women and thirty-first for men.

Males ranked "other benefits" as the tenth most important criterion in job selection while females ranked it twentieth. Overtime pay was also more important to men as they ranked it thirteenth and women ranked it twenty-second. In addition, men were more concerned about being familiar with the employers' computer software, ranking the criterion nineteenth, whereas women ranked the criterion thirtieth.

Neither group was overly concerned with maternity/paternity leave, although women expressed more interest than men (ranking this twenty-fifth; men ranked it thirty-sixth). Women were more concerned (although evidently not highly concerned) about performing work of a similar nature as they ranked the criterion thirty-seventh.

Both women and men scored family pressure and peer pressure the least important criteria; family pressure ranked thirty-eighth and peer pressure ranked thirty-ninth.

Analysis of Professionals'


The typical female accounting professional responding to the questionnaire had an average age of 31.4 years, 0.67 children and an average GPA of 3.381 at graduation. Thirty-five of the female professionals were married and 35 were single. Male professionals had an average of 29.5 years, 1.03 children and an average GPA of 3.200. Forty-three of the male professionals were married and 27 were single.

Table 3 contains the rankings and mean scores of the 39 criteria for


female and male professionals. Female professionals had the highest average on 17 criteria and male professionals had the highest average on 22 criteria. The mean responses for female and male professionals were statistically different for nine of the criteria. Those criteria are (in order of importance to female professionals):

1. Sec discrimination;

2. Office personnel;

3. Age discrimination;

4. Interviewer personality;

5. Religious discrimination;

6. Future employment opportunities;

7. Industry;

8. Maternity/Paternity leave; and

9. Family pressure.

Female and male professionals ranked the same six criteria as being the most important, although the order differed between the two groups. Both groups scored the opportunity to advance within the company as the most important criterion, as did their undergraduate counterparts. Thus, regardless of gender,


whether student or professional, the opportunity to advance within the entity is a criterion that is important to prospective employees.

Female professionals, like female students, were more concerned with various forms of discrimination than male professionals. Sex discrimination ranked eighth for females and ranked thirty-first by males. Age discrimination ranked sixteenth for females and thirty-third for males. However, unlike female and male students, the difference in the ages of the female (31.4 years) and male (29.5 years) professionals was statistically different. Religious discrimination ranked nineteenth for female and thirtieth for male professionals. Race discrimination ranked twentieth and twenty-eighth for female and male professionals, respectively. Except for race discrimination, all differences were statistically significant.

The work experience gained by female professionals may have influenced the importance placed on such criteria as office personnel and the personality of the interviewer. The personalities of office personnel ranked tenth for female professionals and fifteenth for male professionals, while the personality of the interviewer ranked seventeenth for female professionals and twenty-ninth for male professionals. It appears female professionals place a greater emphasis on the people they will be working. Therefore, the people that they meet during the interview process can positively or negatively affect their feelings about the entity.

Male professionals appear to be more concerned about advancement of their careers. Males rated the opportunity to be hired by a client or competitor (future employment opportunity) as the ninth most important criterion, while female professionals ranked the criterion twenty-second. This difference may indicate that females are more likely to stay with a firm for a longer period. In addition, the opportunity to be involved with a particular industry ranked fourteenth for male professionals and thirtieth for female professionals, with a statistically significant difference between the means of the two groups. Thus, male professionals are more oriented toward working in a particular industry or with clients in a particular industry.

Both groups ranked the same six criteria as being of little importance. In all likelihood, none of these factors would significantly effect a prospective employee's job selection decision.

Comparison of Female

Students and Female


Table 4 (next page) contains the rankings of the 39 criteria for the female students and professionals. The students had a higher average on 31 of the 39 criteria. The differences were statistically significant for 11 of the criteria. The criteria with significant differences (in order of importance to female students) were:

1. Retirement benefits;

2. Healthcare benefits;

3. Flextime;

4. Race discrimination;

5. Intra-office transferability;

6. Other benefits;

7. Maternity/paternity leave;

8. Familiarity with software;

9. "Big Six" firm;

10. Family pressure; and

11. Peer pressure.

Students and professionals ranked the opportunity to advance within the firm and the opportunity to work for the firm for a long period of time as the two most important criteria. Both groups are obviously interested in working for a firm in which they can progress through the firm over a period of time. Neither group would be expected to change jobs in the short-run if they perceive themselves as "climbing the corporate ladder."

Three of the criteria ("Big Six" firm, family pressure and peer pressure) were amont the four lowest rated criteria for both students and professionals. These criteria are unlikely to significantly influence a prospective employee's decision to accept or decline a job offer.

Both groups ranked sex discrimination as an important criterion (ranked eighth by both groups). Female students were more concerned with race discrimination than the professionals, ranking race discrimination fourteenth. Female professionals ranked race discrimination twentieth. Both groups ranked age and religious discrimination sixteenth and nineteenth, respectively. Students were more concerned with maternty/paternity leave, ranking it twenty-fifth while professionals ranked it thirty-fourth. This difference may be attributed to the larger percentage of professionals that had started, and perhaps completed, their families. Only 20.8% of the students had children, while 37.7% of the professionals had children.


The results of this survey indicate that there are several similarities and several differences in the importance that female and male accountants attach to various job selection criteria when searching for an accounting position. Female students and professionals ranked the opportunity


to advance within the firm as the most important criterion and the opportunity for long-term employment with the firm as the second important criterion. While male students and professionals ranked the opportunity to advance as the most important criterion, male students ranked job stability eighth and male professionals ranked it fourth, indicating that males were less concerned about the long-term employment opportunities with the firm.

Females were more concerned with the firm's perceived attitude concerning sex, race, age and religious discrimination. Female students and professionals consistently ranked the discrimination criteria higher than their male counterparts.

All four groups (female and male students, female and male professionals) ranked the same four criteria as the least important. The fact that the firm is a "Big Six" firm had little impact on the job selection decision. None of the groups were concerned with having to perform only similar work assignments; they were more interested in the opportunity to experience a wide variety of work assignments. Lastly, none of the groups were concerned with pressure from family or friends to accept a position with a particular firm.

The statistically significant differences between females' and males' ratings of the criteria may indicate a subtle distinction between the priorities of female and male accountants. The females appeared to be more concerned with criteria that could be associated with the "quality of life" in their work environment. Thus, such criteria as perceived discrimination (of all types), maternity/paternity leave and the personalities of the people in the office were consistently ranked higher by females. Males tended to be more oriented toward career advancement and rated criteria such as future employment opportunities and the particular type of industry higher than females.

By addressing the individual needs of the interviewee, the interviewer can better respond to the "unasked" questions. Providing the information needed by the interviewee can produce a better "fit" that will hopefully result in fewer surprises in the future and lower rates of turnover.


[1] Arthur Andersen & Co., Arthur Young, Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, Ernst & Whinney, Peat Marwick Main, Price Waterhouse and Touche Ross. Perspectives on Education: Capabilities for Success in the Accounting Profession.

[2] Ried, Glenda E., Brenda T. Acker and Elise G. Jancura, "An Historical Perspective on Women in Accounting." Journal of Accountancy.

Paulette R. Tandy is an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She holds a PhD in accounting from Texas A&M University.

Tommy Moores is an associate professor of accounting from Louisiana State University. His articles have appeared in numerous academic and practitioner journals.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:research on criteria for job selection of accounting students
Author:Tandy, Paulette R.; Moores, Tommy
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Auditing employee benefit plans.
Next Article:Estimated tax changes: projections for 1992-1996.

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