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Lindsay & Brownell has always prided itself on hiring good people — people with the skills and experience needed to be great accountants and the integrity and values to be trusted advisors. For a significant part of our firm’s history, we’ve been the local alternative to a Big Four firm. Our clients choose us when they want reputable service with a tailored experience. Our employees choose us when they want challenging work and a warm, inviting culture.

When the pandemic hit, our traditional ways of recruiting had to be re-evaluated. We used to primarily recruit in person from the five San Diego colleges with accounting programs. “There were exact times of year when we would visit to hire for certain roles and there were strict guidelines accounting students had to follow,” says Chloe Baird, Senior HR Generalist. “When things went remote with COVID, recruiting became even more overwhelming for students. As I designed our remote recruitment strategy, I wanted to keep that context in mind.”  With no choice but to do things differently during the 2020 hiring season, Baird crafted a new recruiting strategy for L&B that served students well but still put the firm at a unique advantage. Says Baird, “I wanted to be competitive but mindful, and I wanted to broaden our reach.”

Baird got all of L&B’s job openings listed on a platform called Handshake. Founded in 2013, Handshake has more than nine million student users, six hundred and fifty thousand employers and fourteen hundred university partners. As Fast Company explains, “By 2030, Gen Z will make up 30% of the workforce….Research reveals that this group is approaching networking and job seeking much more virtually than ever before—a trend that [Handshake] says has been kicked into high gear by the pandemic.”

At the same time as recruiting practices were moving virtual, L&B was considering how to proactively sustain their strong culture and ability to collaborate in an ever-changing environment. Before the pandemic, most L&B employees lived in San Diego and worked in the office full-time. Once the pandemic hit, however, the firm saw a unique opportunity to offer increased flexibility with where and how our people work.

“After things were forced to go virtual in 2020,” says Baird, who was managing the transition to remote on many fronts, “students from all over the country had the opportunity to explore a career with L&B. Even if they didn’t live in San Diego, they could still participate in our recruiting processes virtually. This opened a unique opportunity because not everyone is able to travel to San Diego for a variety of reasons, but they had the chance to be considered despite those factors.”

Baird believes that the new hiring practices have invited many more students to consider Lindsay & Brownell than in past years. “Our starting class in ‘21 and ‘22 is the most geographically diverse that we’ve ever had. This last year we had several new hires from schools in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Hawaii, Northern California– so many areas we’d never had the opportunity to recruit from before. I think that’s a huge success and really adds to our diversity.”

Take Megan Ketchum. Ketchum was hired to join the firm as a staff member in the tax department in 2020. Ketchum resided in Hawaii when hired. “Joining a San Diego firm being from Hawaii has helped me bring a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. Hawaii is a very diverse state. I once lived with a group of girls that came from the Philippines, Tonga, Mexico, Sweden, and New Zealand,” Ketchum says. “Even though we all came from different places, we learned a lot from each other, and got along great. I tried new foods, new customs, learned new music, and learned just how great it is to learn about other people.”

“Based on my experience at L&B,” Ketchum continues, “I would recommend it as a workplace to anyone because this firm highly values their employees. I’ve always felt included even working from home in a different state. I’m grateful the firm decided to advertise their opportunities on Handshake because it opened a career path that wouldn’t’ve otherwise been available to me.”

“Our new hires have different educational backgrounds, different ways of thinking, new approaches and contexts to bring to their work,” Baird says. “Having different cultural experiences brings unique perspectives to the table. For those that have moved to San Diego from somewhere distant, it changes the value people feel for San Diego. Many of our hires made a bold decision to move to San Diego from other places in the US and dive into their career in a brand-new place. There’s a different sense of gratitude that comes when you experience this city as something you opt into.”

These practices have had a significant impact on how employees feel about working at L&B. “L&B has expanded its reach across the country,” said one employee. “We used to traditionally recruit from SD schools but now we recruit from all over.”  Said another, “There is great age, race, ethnic and gender diversity across L&B. It wasn’t there at my previous company. As an outside observer to the hiring process, it looks like there have been steps taken to become aware of unconscious bias and the HR team casts a wide net to find the most qualified candidates.”

When asked if she will continue to hire via Handshake in the future, Baird says she will.  “Having more diversity within the firm allows our employees to have more empathy for clients and prospective employees.” That’s a huge plus for the firm on both a personal and business level. “We are always consciously selecting employees who will add their unique individuality to our firm’s culture,” says Baird. “We’re looking past the similar aspects on the surface level and seeking the common values and integrity that sets our firm apart.”

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