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Starting a new job? Here’s what to look out for

The first few weeks and months are crucial for CPAs when starting a new role. Find out how to avoid missteps and succeed

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A group of coworkers sit at a table in an officeExperts advise CPAs to keep an open mind, remain curious and admit mistakes when they start a new job (Getty Images/Tom Werner)

When you start a new job, you have only a short amount of time to get your bearings and make a good impression. Here are some tips to keep in mind.


While it may not seem obvious, integration actually begins at the interview stage. “You can’t just leave it at the job description,” explains CPA Luc Lamy, senior account manager at Precision Recruitment, a Quebec headhunting firm specializing in finance and accounting. “If you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, you have to be sure the job is a good fit. Ask the right questions: Why is this position being filled? What are the expectations? Is there room for growth? How big is the team? What type of personality are you looking for? There’s nothing worse than promises that don’t materialize or realizing after the fact that you don’t have the right profile.”

On the employer side, Jean-Gabriel Crevier, co-founder of Le Chiffre, a Montreal firm with about 40 employees, agrees. “We always do two interviews, ideally overseen by different people, with a clear selection grid to validate our perception of the candidate.”

CPAs are in high demand because they have already gone through a selection process (including training, exams and so on), which reassures employers, regardless of the work to be done,” says Lamy. “For the same position, some employers will look for an ambitious candidate, while others will seek a more moderate profile to make sure they don’t lose the employee after six months if they can’t offer them new opportunities.”


Once in the job, you have to be open-minded, says Crevier. “At Le Chiffre, for example, we ask our employees to act like generalists. Rather than candidates that match the position perfectly, we look for people who are eager to learn, including how to use software they have never used before.”

This, he says, is a good reason to seek out CPA candidates. “They often have enough experience to pass a technical test, which allows us to assess their potential in areas like tax, compliance or payroll,” says Crevier.

Lamy confirms that there is a strong demand for CPAs who can do everything—analysis, preparation of financial statements, budgeting, forecasting, as well as strategic advice to senior management “A CPA needs to be able to analyze and advise—and quickly,” he says.


Successful integration is also determined by the ability to adapt. “A client can come to us with any problem,” explains Crevier. “You have to learn to ask questions and be willing to ask for advice if necessary. What makes all the difference is a person’s ability to connect the dots, to figure things out.”

He adds that “it’s fine to go at your own pace when you’re starting out because there’s a lot to learn. You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes and you want to avoid asking the same questions. If you’ve been diligent, thought about the stakeholders, focused your energy where it was needed and shown transparency, you shouldn’t worry. The real mistake would be not acting in accordance with the mission or values of the organization, or not admitting your mistakes.”


While continuing professional development hours are mandatory, they are also beneficial because they can help fill in gaps, says Lamy. “Staying curious is essential to progressing in your career. A financial analyst who becomes a controller looks good on a CV, but it’s a big step and to make sure you can handle it, you have to put in the extra work, time and training.” He notes the same goes for a CPA who wants to move from a smaller organization to a public company.

So, take the time, but don’t drag it out. “Accounting is still accounting,” says Lamy, “and the pace is fast. Each month is crucial in terms of results for senior management. Fortunately, CPAs are able to grasp a lot of information and learn quickly. Those who have been at auditing firms are often used to working for different clients, in different industries, in different systems. The first few months are an opportunity for CPAs to show the breadth of their skills.”


The pandemic has changed things for Crevier. “With telecommuting, integrating new employees is more of a challenge,” he says. “You can no longer ask a colleague a question by simply turning your chair. Gone are the moments of face-to-face informal exchange, which impacts the company culture. Collaboration suffers.”

For Lamy, however, a hybrid model makes sense. 

“That’s almost the first question we get from candidates—will they be able to work from home? And the answer is overwhelmingly yes, especially since the work of CPAs lends itself well to this. Some companies do an on-site integration for the first few weeks and then let the employee choose.”

In a market where the demand for financial talent is high, CPAs can expect prospective employers to be eager to make accommodations to recruit and retain them. 


Hiring remotely? Here are some questions to ask. CPA Canada also has a number of resources that can help with recruiting new employees and management, from virtual onboarding to mental health in the workplace.