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From Where We Sit

There is no trade-off

John Endel S. Mata John Endel S. Mata

ABOUT 12 years ago, I took my Certified Public Accountant Licensure Examination (CPALE). The results came out only after a few days. Soon afterward, I immediately faced the decision of choosing the type of accounting practice I would pursue.

Last Saturday, October 12, was the last day of the most recent CPALE. In a matter of days, we will have a new batch of CPAs joining the four possible accounting sectors: public, commerce and industry, academe, and government.

I did not have a difficult time in finally deciding on venturing into public practice, but I understand it could be quite challenging for some young accountants. Whichever accounting sector our new batch of CPAs will pursue, the recruitment among professional services firms and organizations has always been very competitive. In simple statistics, there is only a 25-percent chance (i.e., one out of four accounting sectors) that a rookie CPA will choose to pursue a particular sector.

Candidates typically ask themselves: “Am I fit for the organization I aspire to become part of? Does the organization have enough mechanisms to make me fit within it?” The 25-percent chance becomes slimmer, because of the number of organizations in each accounting practice that a candidate would endeavor to join and the attributes that each organization requires of a candidate.

On the other hand, an organization was able to hire the right number of people and, yet, many did not last long enough? Or, because of the stiff competition in hiring talent, the organization may have been left a bit unsatisfied with the selection of new hires, but they turned out to be superstar performers within the company after a few years?

At the end of the day, business owners and senior management expect their recruitment process to contribute to a performance-driven corporate culture. Several studies have shown that an effective recruitment process significantly contributes to employee engagement, improves job performances and productivity, and more importantly, reduces employee attrition. Ineffective recruitment can be very costly. Imagine a recently hired employee who is given a hiring bonus, but immediately leaves an organization; or when an organization that has significantly invested in training and development is left with a fewer number of staff because of an employee exodus in less than a year?

Organizations recruit candidates based on “fit,” or a forward-looking characteristic that is called “train-to-fit.” Identifying a candidate’s fit is based on the selection process, while the train-to-fit factor is anchored on the socialization process. The selection process occurs during the recruitment stage, while the socialization process happens during the individual and organizational development stages. Clearly, the socialization process has a longer cycle. However, I believe it should be a combination of both. It should not be one over the other; there should be no trade-off.

If I may use a Philippine Financial Reporting Standards 15 revenue recognition analogy, I would say that selection focuses on credentials such as analytical abilities and soft skills, personality and experience, and academic achievements, among others, which are essentially “point in time” factors. On the other hand, socialization considers an organization’s “over time” effort including, but not limited to, employee engagement and development. Knowing that there is rigid competition in recruitment, the selection of a superstar candidate does not happen all the time. More often than not, organizations also get sleepers or steadies, as they also fit, in one way or another, with the corporate culture. We should not consider this mediocrity because, with the right and over time conditioning, we could unlock their superstar potential.

In our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, attrition happens because finding the right talent based on fit during the selection process is not enough. An employee who is deemed fit upon onboarding may be disgruntled over time if the socialization process that reinforces them to stay with and perform in an organization is not properly handled. It also goes in the opposite direction, when training employees to fit within the organization is unsuccessful because the selection during recruitment was poor. In both circumstances, organizational leadership and peers play a critical role.

The recruitment process is not a sheer numbers game wherein the more candidates you have, the better the results. A smaller pool of candidates does not also necessarily mean that organizations are doomed from getting and keeping the right talent. If we can marry the selection and socialization processes effectively, we could veer away from the looming threats of employee attrition and ultimately save turnover costs for our organizations.

As the release of the CPALE results approaches, we congratulate the examinees. We are very much excited to welcome them to the accounting practice!

Endel Mata is a partner in the Audit and Assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you. Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our website at


As published in The Manila Times, dated 16 October 2019