Article contributed by Simon Moser
Written on 24 May 2017

Accountancy Firms- How To Recruit In a Candidate Driven Market

Advice For Clients In Public Practice

Despite Brexit and the uncertainty that still surrounds the impact it is going to have, the General Election and similarly the implications for UK Plc and business as a whole, the accountancy profession continues to flourish, not only firms that have established themselves in the “Top 100” but the plethora of boutique and regional practices and the many start-ups that have appeared in recent times. Needless to say, as all these firms either expand further or seek to develop a presence, their ability to meet their aspirations and realise their plans is going to be determined by the ability to recruit staff…easy to say but not so easy to do… It is accepted that within the larger firms, there is always going to be a steady turnover of staff once individuals have qualified as the lure of moving into industry or financial services, and the higher financial rewards, proves too strong to resist. If I had a pound for each time I hear one of the team in London say they have a client looking to recruit an Audit Senior, I don’t think I’d be here writing this article as I would be far too busy lounging around on my private yacht! For smaller firms, an issue with which they have to contend is the lack of a “brand” name, they are less likely to be known and arguably have to work harder to attract candidates; the greater variety of work and higher level of client exposure are examples of differentiating factors that are used to help recruit people. So, with all this in mind, what do clients have to do or be aware of to ensure that the best candidates are hired and these candidates make a clear and informed decision regarding their next move?  

1.       Differentiation- needless to say, in a candidate driven marketplace, employers will be competing within the same talent pool. Are you able to offer a greater variety of work? Is there more flexibility in working hours/working from home, etc? Is there anything you can do or provide that other firms aren’t, something to give that competitive advantage?  

2.       Branding-with the emergence of job boards and LinkedIn, utilising these can be a powerful way of attracting candidates, even those that may not be actively seeking a new opportunity but who nevertheless peruse the job boards and may well be inspired to respond to a non-generic job advert.  

3.       The Lateral Approach- rather than recruit the archetypal individual, because “we’ve always recruited this type of person”, consideration should be given to hiring people that possess the requisite skills and experience but who perhaps come from outside a traditional sector or background.  

4.       Decision Making- ensure that this is prompt and that there is no procrastination or needless delays. In a market where high calibre candidates are at a premium, it is important to adopt a mind-set of hiring as soon as you meet a suitable individual, and not waiting until you’ve met four or five people. Time, and waiting around too long will result in losing a person that you want but didn’t offer fast enough.  

5.       Fees- nobody wants to pay an agency more than they need to and in these days of Preferred Supplier Lists (PSL) and Recruitment Process Outsourcing, the larger firms have formal arrangements in place with agencies which usually results in an agreed, reduced level of fees being paid as a condition of being accepted and securing a place on the PSL. At the other end of the scale, smaller firms try and impose a fee structure which isn’t very competitive and, quite often, means that an agency will walk away as it isn’t worth their while and cost effective to work on the assignment. One of the more enlightening meeting I had was with a practice that has plans in place to double over a five year period, and where the Managing Partner recognised that if he was to attract the best people he would have to be prepared to pay accordingly. He knew that an agency will be more inclined and motivated to send him candidates if he didn’t insist upon a discount on fees, particularly when there is a dearth of high calibre individuals. It isn’t a coincidence that, to date, the firm has enjoyed a high level of success with its recruitment strategy due to the combination of being on an upward growth path and its willingness to pay for finding good people.  

In summary, in a candidate shortage market it is important for clients to adopt a proactive approach and not just assume that they will be able to hire the candidate of their choice with the minimum of effort. Many positions do remain unfilled for a considerable period of time, in some cases it’s because there is a genuine shortage of available candidates but, when there are people actively looking, a lack of commitment and lethargy in promoting the firm and selling it to individuals invariably leads to a disappointing outcome, and the search to hire becomes an ongoing exercise with no positive ending in sight.

Walker Andersen - It's all about time