Benchmark Search Hiring Insights – September 2023

It’s been an empty-office summer for a lot of companies. In San Francisco, offices generally reported about 45% attendance. In San Jose, it was under 39%. In LA and New York, something like 50% — and in Austin, which fared best by this metric, still only 59%.

Keep in mind that before the pandemic, office attendance was habitually about 90% nationwide. Despite all the back-to-the-office mandates and headlines, something has shifted.

I have noticed the shift in anecdotal ways as well. More job seekers come to me specifically intent on finding remote or hybrid work. More hiring managers list these options up front in a job description, when it’s available.

Summer is over, but will everyone come back from and fill in the empty seats? We’ll see!

Other news in this month’s newsletter includes the metrics on pay transparency and why you should nix the quirky questions from your interviews. Read on.

Unemployment Update

In the latest employment summary based on the August jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is evident that the U.S. job market experienced notable developments. During this period, U.S. employers exhibited a positive trend by adding 187,000 jobs to the workforce, demonstrating their commitment to economic growth and stability.

The national unemployment rate rose from 3.5% in July to 3.8% in August. This uptick in the unemployment rate is particularly noteworthy as it marks the highest level recorded since February 2022. The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers also experienced a slight increase during August, moving from 2.0% to 2.2%.

Delving into the industries contributing to job growth in August, the healthcare sector notably contributed by adding a substantial 71,000 jobs, indicating its continued importance within the U.S. economy. The leisure and hospitality industry also demonstrated resilience by contributing an additional 40,000 jobs. Moreover, the construction and manufacturing sectors saw a notable increase in employment, with the addition of 38,000 jobs, further strengthening the nation’s industrial landscape. Additionally, the professional and business services sector added 19,000 jobs, underlining its continued contribution to the workforce.

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Candidate Spotlight


  • Active CPA
  • Public Combo
  • Bachelor of Arts in Accounting & Finance 


  • BBA and MSA in Accounting, University of Texas
  • Big 4 Combo, CPA
  • 15 years, Reporting, GL, and Operations 

Assistant Controller

  • Public combo, CPA
  • Full cycle accounting, preparing financial reporting packages
  • Real Estate 

Senior Manager, Reporting

  • BS in Accounting, MS in Management from Texas A&M
  • Big 4 Combo, CPA
  • 10+ years experience, mostly reporting

Senior Tax Manager

  • Public Combo, LLM, JD
  • 10 years of experience
  • Partnership experience
  • Public Combo Lead Auditor
  • CPA
  • Master of Science in Accounting and Bachelor of Science in Accounting & Finance
  • 9+ years

Big4 Audit Manager

  • Public/Combo
  • CPA
  • Healthcare 

Audit Manager

  • 10+ years of public accounting experience
  • CPA
  • Manufacturing, distribution, telecommunication 


Senior Audit Associate

  • 2+ years of public accounting experience
  • Strong technical background
  • Transportation, consumer goods, telecommunication 

 Senior Auditor

  • Active CPA
  • B.S.  in Accounting
  • 5+ years of Audit experience 

Senior Auditor

  • M.S. Accounting and MBA Finance Concentration
  • Public Combo- Big 4
  • Active CPA and working on CIA
  • 10+ years 
Unemployment Update

As pay transparency laws have taken effect around the country, one question a lot of hiring managers have is:

Does pay transparency reduce turnover?

The answer, according to Payscale, a compensation software company, is a resounding YES. The company has found that pay transparency reduces “intent to quit” by 30% and says more and more people are keen to find out how pay rates are determined by their employers — or prospective employers. 

However, there is one big BUT that Payscale found in its research: Pay transparency increases job-seeking behavior in Gen Z workers. Meaning, young folks with jobs might be more inclined to look for new work based on transparency around pay. This is true not just for their own roles, but in terms of the pay executives at their organizations earn. (Read more on SHRM)

I tend to work with people further up the chain, but I pay close attention to what’s going on throughout the ranks. Knowing what lies ahead, financially, can be a big career path determinant for most folks.

Nix the Quirky Questions from Your Interviews

“A new study finds that asking job applicants what they would do in a zombie apocalypse risks turning off top talent”

Best headline I read all month, on the Wall Street Journal

WSJ argues that asking job interviewees oddball questions is a bad idea. Citing Don Zhang, an associate professor of industrial and organizational psychology at Louisiana State University, WSJ says that job applicants find oddball questions fun and likeable — but not very useful and sometimes inappropriate or downright invasive. 

For applicants with less of a sense of humor — or, say, neurodiverse folks — these kinds of questions can even be a turnoff:

“What should your headstone read?”
“What kind of animal are you?”
“Which Disney hero do you most identify with?”

You get the idea.

As a recruiter, I sometimes wonder if these oddball interview questions arise from the boredom of interviewers.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s newsletter and will reach out again in October!