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How to counteract the CPA requirement, when you do have other credentials?

I am perfect for a Controller position in an industry that I have vast experience in but I cannot get past the In-House Recruiter because they want a CPA. I am an ABA and a CMA. Any suggestions on how to convince this guy to look at the rest of my resume? He has a PHR designation and I thought about using the reverse approach of "What if I was looking for a recruiter for my company but was only going to consider those who were credentialed from the Society for Human Resources Management and not from the Human Resources Certification Institute which is where the PHR comes from. Another option would be to go straight to the CFO who is a CPA but does not have industry experience and has only been with the company since March. The current Controller is an inactive CPA. Any thoughts or help is greatly appreciated in advance

Answers

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Ask the recruiter why they need the designation for the job and tell them why YOU are a fit for the job even withOUT the designation. Reiterate to them that you have a good grasp of GAAP and that you are resourceful enough to research any technical accounting issues that may crop up. Most of the time, companies just blindly pastes this requirement. More like a WISHLIST and NOT an actual requirement. I would also email the CFO and sell him/her your qualifications and tell him that you are afraid that you will not be able to get past the in-house recruiter because of the designation requirement. The tone of your email to the CFO is important.

If these two fails, do NOT push it and be gracious. Send them a thank you note.

Gerard van Stijn
Title: Head of Finance
Company: Simon Lévelt B.V.
(Head of Finance, Simon Lévelt B.V.) |

I was thinking of writing a reply, but Emerson Galfo already wrote the perfect answer.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

If you have industry experience and a boat load of huge accomplishments, no CPA without those same accomplishments can stand as your competitor, unless they are shifting their management style from operational to academic orientation. Sometimes companies do this. Emerson has great advice.

Anonymous
(Managing Partner) |

I agree with Emerson. As a CFO for over 30 years, the CMA designation for a corporate position is much more valuable than a CPA. HR people don't understand what the designations mean. A Certified Public Accountant does not necessarily make a good corporate accountant. Unfortunately, if the CFO is a CPA he/she may also be prejudice and, if so, move on!

Christine Wilfer
Title: Financial Manager/Human Resource Manager
Company: XDS Holdings, Inc.
(Financial Manager/Human Resource Manager, XDS Holdings, Inc.) |

From a CMA and SPHR, you need to find out whose requirement the CPA is. Most of the time, the In-House Recruiter will have been told what the requirements for the position are and will have little discretion regarding circumvention. If you can convince the CFO that your credentials would add to the department by broadening out the experience you might have a chance. Good luck to you!

Lynn Fountain
Title: MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executiv..
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executive, Business Consultant) |

I passed the CPA 35 years ago but have spent the majority of my career in corporate America. I have found that my CPA credentials are not necessarily the basis of my value. I agree with the individual that said to ask why they need a CPA. Do they want a licensed CPA or just a certified CPA. Those are two very different things. A licensed CPA may be someone who has more recent experience in financial statement attestation and sec requirements. But that again isn't necessarily true. The CPA means you passed an exam at one time. Licensed meant you paid a fee to a licensing agency. Neither of those mean you are qualified to be a controller or a CFO. It is more related to your work experience.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

This is old hat for me. I was turned down for years for financial management positions that required a CPA because I didn't have one. I tried more than once to explain that I didn't want to be an auditor. The epitome of the misperceptions of what a CPA is - and coming from the time of the "Big Eight" who regularly pushed the concept that they were the ONLY qualified people on any financial matter for thier own self interest - was when an interviewer told me that I would not be considered any further for lack of a CPA because they, "wanted to save on audit fees by hiring a CPA so that they could do their own audit".

After that, I began to chuckle at the requirement for CFO positions. Although there is some positive to the designation for such a position, there is also a complete misunderstanding of what the designation is really for.

CPAs need to return to the independent auditor role they were originally created for. Trying to be so much more cost them dearly. Just ask AA how that worked out for them. ;-)

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Here here!!! Well said!

Lynn you are also so correct. The same holds true for a MBA, especially if it's decades old.

We as a society are way too hung up on letters after our names - it's the quantity v quality debate.

Lynn Fountain
Title: MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executiv..
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executive, Business Consultant) |

It's funny you mention the credential thing. I wrote a blog on Linked in about a month ago about the same issue. It gotten quite a bit attention.

https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140620035647-17085014-credential-credibility-overload?trk=mp-reader-card&_mSplash=1

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

This was my response in LinkedIn:

"Lynn you are dead on with the certification craze. Passing a test, getting a degree (see Earl Parsons comment) does not and will not provide proof that you can apply, in a real world setting, the skills the alphabet soup after your name claim you possess.

Neither for that matter does your job history, because as they say when selling financial instruments, "prior performance does not guarantee future performance"; however it is a much better indicator.

Work history, its type and possible quality can show your ability to think on your feet, application of academic theory where the grey area is clear but the black and white is blurred.

Years ago I was installing new Novell Networks almost daily in a variety of different and divergent ecosystems. Not only was I installing them, configuring them, I was also managing them, because these systems were very robust. I became the goto person for many many businesses (and other IT businesses). I decided to get "certified". I couldn't pass the first test because I had no clue what they were asking; it wasn't needed information, it was all academic. I didn't have the desire to learn unnecessary information to get a certification that didn't prove anything except I passed a test. Those who passed the test had no "leg up" on installing or maintaining the systems. In fact they made the same bush league mistakes that I and zillions of other neophytes made.

We need to drop the term searches and look at people."

Jason M. Jones LPA
Title: Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant
Company: Franklin County Treasurer
(Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant, Franklin County Treasurer) |

Thanks to Wayne, I also saw the article Lynn referenced and like Wayne, I also commented, although unlike Wayne, I will only post the Cliffs Notes version of my comment here:

"I agree with everything Lynn said, which was exactly why I became an LPA after I amassed 10 years experience in public accounting: To validate that experience by holding myself accountable to a state board in maintaining professional and ethical standards. I don't expect to "wow" employers or land any jobs or big clients, then again, I got the LPA for myself, not for anyone else."

If a prospective employer or client are worth their salt, your experience, wisdom, confidence, and most importantly, impact should say more about your competence than what having a CPA title ever could.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Your last sentence is euridite; personified.

J.G. Collins
Title: Managing Director
Company: The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy
(Managing Director, The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy) |

In the general context of this discussion, with respect to CPA's, I could not agree more with Lynne Fountain's comments. I much prefer dealing with the guys who are up-to-date, who publish or speak regularly, and who know their subject matter intimately.

Generally, in my experience,if you have a complex issue. you always want to insist on talking directly to the "tech" guy in any medium or large CPA firm. The partner who handles your day-to-day account activities is basically a salesman; he is there to keep you happy and impressed. But your issue is far more likely to be jumbled -- either in the question or in the reply -- if it goes through the account partner than if you deal with the tech directly. (The billing will be higher, too.)

You'll get some resistance talking to the tech because the tech is very likely someone who is not so personally impressive and who may not present the "image" the firm likes to hold out to clients. (CPA firms can be a lot like high school: the guys your high school liked to show off as their "representative" students mostly all sat at the jock table and were the captain of the football team, etc. . But if you want the right answer to your calculus homework, you're not going to ask the guys at the jock table; you're going to ask the nerds in the math club.)

If the partner resists letting you talk directly to his firm's tech, tell him you insist on speaking directly to the tech or you'll take the question to another firm.

As to your particular situation, I would seek out a professional or social relationship with someone who knows the CFO and have them put in a good word for you or perhaps even set up a lunch with the three of you. Failing that, write an article on the industry and ensure that the CFO gets a copy.

Beware, though: HR directors tend to be the least flexible and least understanding of financial roles. Regrettably, at larger companies, you almost always need to pass their gateway to get in the door.

Good luck!

Chris Holtzer
Title: Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis
Company: Sargento
(Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis, Sargento) |

I agree with what everyone is saying about the CPA credential not being the end all, be all. But, many of the people making the hiring decision will not be finance/accounting professionals. The CFO should certainly understand, but the CEO, HR, and other key players are likely not to understand. To most laymen (not F/A professionals ;) the CPA says you are qualified to be responsible for accounting practices. That is a key role of a controller, and thus they over look that a candidate is qualified without taking the test.

So, what I am saying, is it may not matter if you are the right person for the job. Do your best to sell yourself, but be prepared for the all too common reality of credential ignorance to play a part in your ability to fill some roles. There are many good suggestions here, but none of them will change the attitude of an uninformed hiring team.

Good Luck!

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

Most likely that the HR person pre-interviews based on a set of requirements coming from the accounting/finance leaders. If the company prefers candidates holding the CPA license over someone with experience, continued professional education, and/or various certifications/licenses, then, I would not recommend to work for such company. This company will never appreciate your work and your value.

Jason M. Jones LPA
Title: Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant
Company: Franklin County Treasurer
(Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant, Franklin County Treasurer) |

Anonymous, if you are still following this thread, I have a question:

Your post said that you are an ABA, does that stand for Accredited Business Accountant? If so, please send me a private message with your information (will be kept in confidence), because I have some additional information I want to give you that might get you the results that you seek. Thanks.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

I can see both sides of the argument here. If you can do the job, you can do the job and that would be good, but if they want a CPA, it wouldn't be fair to the people who have the CPA and would be turned down because you who didn't have one made it. And that's what its all about, the fairness. I have a CPA and if I applied to the job and got passed over for someone who didn't have it, what does that tell me? That my six years of hard work isn't any good? Not fair to me. I worked for it.
Make it easier, just go get the CPA and level the playing field.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

I can see both sides of the argument here. If you can do the job, you can do the job and that would be good, but if they want a CPA, it wouldn't be fair to the people who have the CPA and would be turned down because you who didn't have one made it. And that's what its all about, the fairness. I have a CPA and if I applied to the job and got passed over for someone who didn't have it, what does that tell me? That my six years of hard work isn't any good? Not fair to me. I worked for it.

That said, now if you had the magic 80% or more of the total job requirements, you could make an argument that the CMA would help. But in general, make things easier and fair for everyone and just get the CPA. Then nobody can complain they lost to a lesser qualified person, especially one who may be a long time unemployed person and whom would therefore be more deserving of the job..

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

"Then nobody can complain they lost to a LESSER QUALIFIED person, "

.... that really encapsulates the point of view that people without the designation have an issue with. And the point of view people with the designation have. Is the CPA designation a "real" qualification/requirement and are people without it really "less" qualified to do the job?

With tons of information available on the internet, technical issues are more and more easier to research than ever before. Sites/forums like this, IRS and GAAP related websites, accounting blogs are easier to find.

I offer this forum as proof where even people with the CPA designation asks questions and waters down the CPA designation "qualification" argument.

The CPA designation is more and more becoming NOT a distinctive or competitive advantage factor but rather resourcefulness and drive to learn and contribute.

Anonymous
(N/A) |

Not fair to you. Almost sounds like some kind of a affirmative action quota. Sorry can't hire the more qualified person, have the hire the other person because they are a CPA. I have all of the requirements and more not just the CPA and do have a CMA. If the IMA did a better job of promoting the CMA this would not be an issue. It is that most HR people are ignorant of what the CMA is.
Also can’t hire a person who is employed but have to hire the guy who is unemployed. Socialist Oregon passed such a law. It is unenforceable because how do you prove it. Sounds like someone has issues.
I also bet you are one of those who thinks we should have a high minimum wage also

Topic Expert
Vernon Reizman
Title: CFO
Company: RCM Industries, Inc.
(CFO, RCM Industries, Inc.) |

Sometimes it is the lender driving this requirement and not the company. It provides them with (rightly or wrongly) added comfort.

David Rau
Title: CFO
Company: Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW
(CFO, Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW) |

There is probably another reason other than the CPA credential that is not being stated. It is very difficult to overcome perceptions. It seems like the more you do, the deeper they dig in. Good luck.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I suggest your approach of going around the HR person. I have known some very good Controllers that did not have CPA, CMA, or MBA, and one that did not have a college degree. I would bet the CFO at the company you are targeting has seen the same.

Laura Morton
Title: President
Company: 10 solns
(President, 10 solns) |

All of the comments are spot on and something that the haves and have-not's debate constantly. I fight this battle constantly when it comes to CPA vs. EA (Enrolled Agent) in the preparation of taxes. Like one said - the term CPA was drilled into peoples minds that you had to have a CPA yet many CPA's do not work in the area of tax and would not know the first thing about preparing a tax return.

I have been self-employed for the last 20+ years, running a public accounting firm that services the needs of small business in the areas of payroll, tax and accounting. Most people think I am a CPA and I don't hurry to correct them. When the recession hit and my husband lost his job I contemplated going back to corporate America for all the reasons people have corporate jobs - stability, benefits - even working with a recruiter, I was not going to get anywhere. I did not have a degree in accounting, I did not have a CPA, at that point I didn't have a Bachelors degree, I was self-employed and oh-yes, I was on the high end of 40. Was I qualified yes, but the lack of letters and degree hurt.

Like one said - letters indicate that you passed a test at one point and a college degree indicates that you made it through 4 years of school; neither of which qualify you for a job. I did finish my Bachelors in case I needed it, have gone on to pursue a Masters in Taxation (in progress) and look to how I can expand my opportunities of helping other people with the letters that I have. So my alphabet soup will soon be - MST, EA, ATA, ATP. That will just have to do for the next 15 years and then I retire!

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Why not give them what they want and become a CPA? Recall the adage "...the customer is always right...".

As others have pointed out, many ideal candidates are not CPAs and many CPAs would make poor candidates. But, think about it from the customers perspective.

First, it's possible to get (literally) dozens, or even hundreds of resumes for a position. Requiring CPA certification makes it possible to quickly reduce the number. It may not be "fair", but it is practical.

Second, they (especially HR or a CEO without a finance background) are not likely to have the ability to competently assess of your qualifications. Their options then are to A) trust what you say (and who ever would admit their shortfalls in an interview), B) hire a local CPA to do a technical interview (which is costly and complicates scheduling) or C) limit consideration to those who are CPAs.

Third, others outside the firm (e.g., bankers, board members, etc.) will likely view the CPA credential positively. (Again, this may not be relevant, but it is reality.)

So, rather than continually fight the uphill battle, I found it much easier to become a CPA. The key is that you don't necessarily need to become a CPA in your own state.

If you already know accounting well, it is relatively simple to enroll in one of the accredited on-line institutions and blast through any required coursework. You then sit for the exam and pass all four parts. The trickiest part is the experience requirements. While your state may have more stringent requirements (e.g., some require actual audit experience), many require only experience working under a CPA (which most of us have done at some point in our careers).

I've never had a question come up about where I was licensed. If it did, it would be in the final reference check stage where they have already decided on you. And, all they would find is that you indeed were a licensed CPA...

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

'Recall the adage "...the customer is always right...". '

That phrase is attributed to Harry Gordon Selfridge. It is also very dated. It probably worked well with his wealthy customers and high margins. But, it can destroy a company with customers of a different social class. Particularly today.

There is much to say for choosing your customers wisely. Particularly in a service business such as many of us are in.

The customer is not always right. Here is one supportive story:

http://positivesharing.com/2008/03/top-5-reasons-why-the-customer-is-always-right-is-wrong/

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Anonymous -

Great story link, and one who has been in consulting for many years firmly believes that not all customers are worth having, regardless of how much revenue you could loose (and you might even possibly increase the bottom line based on opportunity costs associated with managing that difficult client).

One can tell volumes about a company from their first interaction; whether its a job spec that is onerous, making customers jump through hoops, bad service and/or products.

This is also true of individuals (because I am never difficult and a pussycat, this doesn't apply to me - LOL), as has been the subject of many different posts (what do we do with a difficult employee) here on Proformative.

Bottom line is you have to do what's right for you and hope that in the end equilibrium will prevail.

h s
Title: group controller
Company: na
(group controller, na) |

I think it is important to be respectful of everyone's point of view even if you don't agree with it, especially when they have taken the time to contribute to your discussion.

Anonymous
(N/A) |

To the original poster: If you are as great a controller as you say that you are, I guess I would question why you are still looking for work. The thing about hiring employers in free enterprise, they get to choose what criteria they want to fill a job, so long as there is no discrimination involved. Move on or go get your CPA. Their loss.

Anonymous
(N/A) |

I am currently employed and just looking for the next better gig. The person doing the whining was the unemployed CPA who thought the unemployed should get preferential treatment for being unemployed and who also thought CPA's should get preferential treatment because they had spent time getting the designation. Again showing his ignorance at implying that because it took him six years to get his CPA ( a long time in my opinion) that somehow a CMA is not as valid. You do have to pass two (use to be four) exams and do CPE to maintain the credential. You do not get a CMA by mailing in twenty five cereal box-tops

Scott L
Title: N/A
Company: N/A
(N/A, N/A) |

As both a hiring manager and corporate controller, I fit into both categories discussed above. Does having a CPA designation mean that you will be a good controller? Of course not. There are numerous factors that go into being a good controller: leadership, sound judgment and the ability organize large groups for the execution of a common goal.

To discredit the CPA designation simply because one views themselves as a "great fit" given their industry experience is also faulty reasoning. A CPA license is much more than simply "passing a test". At least in most states it takes 150 hours of college credit (vs. approximately 120), completion of several other factors and, oh yes, taking and passing what a lot of people consider to be one of, if not the most challenging uniform exams.

When I look for controllers to hire, what does the CPA designation mean? It means that, at some point in their lives, a candidate has dedicated themselves to a difficult process and achieved success. This is similar to getting a college degree. Does being a 3.5 GPA student ensure you are going to be great in the workforce? Of course not. But it does formally document the fact that you committed yourself to a goal and accomplished it. To me, this is but one good leading indicator of a persons work ethic and intellectual horsepower.

I have never disqualified anyone for not having a CPA. However, the hurdle to get over for non-CPAs in a high level role within accounting is a large one.

To the original poster, good luck. On a personal level, I would recommend you go get it because I think you have a lot to offer and having your CPA (in my honest opinion) would open up a lot of doors to you. In the meantime, your time is better spent not criticizing others that have responded to you on an open forum. Best of luck in your job hunting.

Winners find a way. Losers make excuses about the hand they're dealt. ~ John Wooden.

J.G. Collins
Title: Managing Director
Company: The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy
(Managing Director, The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy) |

The problem with thousands of CPAs -- actually, more often than not --is that they don't seek out the professional resources that are now available to most anyone. They answer off the "top of their head", thinking that the CPA they earned 20 years prior makes them some oracle of financial information.

In the words of Donald Rumsfeld (who was an exceptionally gifted manager, irrespective of how you view his politics) "we have known unknowns and unknown unknowns". Many CPA's refuse to address the former adequately, but the real catastrophes come when they fail to recognize the latter exist.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

However, not to bash CPA's or any specific group of people, the same case can be made for an licensed professional or for that matter anyone in a position of power/control.

How else do I, as a [fill-in] maintain my "authority" but thorough the use of perceived expertise. Doctors do it, Lawyers do it, your plumber or electrician does it, your boss does it.

What is unique is when an individual (any) says "I believe this fact to be correct, but I need to research it to be absolutely sure" or "In my opinion this should be correct, but others may disagree".

Jason M. Jones LPA
Title: Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant
Company: Franklin County Treasurer
(Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant, Franklin County Treasurer) |

Well said, J.G. Collins. Several years ago, I (independently) coined a phrase similar to Rumsfeld's, which is: "Unconscious incompetence is a dangerous weapon, whereas conscious incompetence is a powerful realization."

J.G. Collins
Title: Managing Director
Company: The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy
(Managing Director, The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy) |

Jason M. Jones, LPA, I will be quoting you!

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

The only thing I would add would be to emphasize what you have accomplished and how those accomplishments use your technical accounting skills. All of these examples of performance will refute the CPA requirement. Do you manage audits? This is but one example, but if you do this, you are using skills that a CPA would be subject to. Good luck!

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Uh yeah!! They have less studying and testing. They have proven less, so they are less qualified. If CPA's weren't put out in front here, then why have it if the work doesn't help you.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

And I do with the caveat that that social safety net programs are dismantled. But yeah, we need a higher living wage that supports people.
But getting back to the original point, Don't think its socialist. Its all about the fairness. If someone has a CPA and another person doesn't, or if someone has been unemployed longer, legal and health issues aside, they are the ones more deserving of the hire. They put in more work to get the CPA, or in the case of the unemployed person, they have suffered longer. I am NOT talking about those sitting around playing X-Box all day. I am talking about the people who bust their tail and STILL can't find work. They need to be at the front of the line. Effort counts. If not, why work at all?

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