In the first of a new series, we’ll be examining in detail a particular area of accountancy and finance recruitment and finding out more about the current market for both candidates and employers from one of our highly experienced consultants.
We caught up with Jack Curtis, Business Manager in our Sheffield office to find out more about the part-qualified and newly qualified market in South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire and surrounding areas.
Jack joined Sharp Consultancy in 2020 having previously spent several years with a well-known national recruiter. Having graduated from the University of Lincoln with a degree in Sport Science, he was keen to pursue and career which would allow him to combine his interest in supporting individuals develop their skillset alongside his natural flair for sales – recruitment proved to be an ideal fit.
At Sharp Consultancy, each consultant has a dedicated area of focus and expertise; tell us a little about the area in which you specialise?
Currently, I specialise in the placement of part-qualified and newly qualified finance and accountancy professionals across South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire and surrounding areas. I work with businesses – both on an exclusive and contingency basis – ranging in size from SME to global PLC.
What is your assessment of the current marketplace and what are your expectations of how the coming 6 to 12 months will look?
As we approach the end of 2021, many businesses have begun to recover incredibly well from a troublesome COVID induced 2020 – some have been more fortunate to surpass and beat sales targets and forecasts! Through regular conversations with many businesses from varying sectors in the region, I expect for this extremely buoyant marketplace to continue into 2022 – admittedly perhaps not at the same growth rate, but nevertheless still incredibly positive.
Many businesses are looking ahead with much more confidence, and, as they develop their growth strategies and targets for upcoming period, it is imperative that they invest and ensure the correct staff are in place to accommodate that business growth. As a result, we would expect to see continued market growth over the next 6 to 12 months.
What are the main recruitment challenges currently being faced by businesses in the region?
The main challenges being faced centre primarily around candidate availability and this is something which is being felt across all levels of accountancy and finance, from junior positions right through to senior appointments.
Another key challenge is the adjustment to or a return to pre-COVID working patterns. Over the course of the pandemic, the majority of workers - particularly those in office-based roles - have found that the enforced home working offered a level of flexibility and agility which many candidates have become accustomed to. Many businesses are now looking at how they balance employee flexibility with a return to the office and when recruiting for roles that are specific to being in the office five days a week, this can present additional challenges during the recruitment process.
What should employers be doing to overcome these challenges?
Employers need to recognise that there is currently a shortage of candidates which has come about as a result of a number of factors. Competition is stiff and we actively work closely with hiring managers to ensure they take as flexible an approach as possible when looking to bring in new team members. How this looks will vary – from a candidate’s technical experience to their personality to study support etc – and it is vital that we work consultatively with each organisation to prioritise candidates who are the ‘right fit’ for their particular needs.
Our in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of the marketplace enables us to provide the best possible advice and feedback to our clients and, by responding positively and flexibly, it is those business that have found themselves best placed when it comes to attracting and securing the highest calibre candidates.
What particular skills are currently in demand?
Commercial skillset is certainly in demand; businesses that are performing well understand the value of having a strong commercially focussed Management Accountant or Business Partner and what that individual can add into the organisation. Mitigating risk and maximising opportunities are at the forefront of any business looking to grow in today’s market!
What should candidates be doing to take advantage of this opportunity?
To take advantage of this, candidates should be asking their current employers for an insight and further exposure into the budgeting and forecasting process alongside as much stakeholder management as possible. This will enable them to develop their skillset far beyond the technical and reporting experience they will have to date and will add a new dimension to their accounting arsenal.
What should candidates be looking for when considering a new role opportunity?
Moving jobs can be difficult at the best of times – however if you establish what are the most important things that you would want from a move at the outset, it will ensure the rest of the process is far smoother. For example, if a key motivator in looking for a new role is the limited growth opportunities at your current organisation, ensure the businesses you are interviewing with provide enough clarity and detail around the progression opportunity, business growth and mentoring and development. I can’t recommend strongly enough the need to ask as many probing questions as possible – the recruitment process is most definitely a two-way street - and don’t be afraid to be assertive and seek out examples of previous or current employees and their journey within the business.
What advice would you give to a part-qualified candidate about the next stage in their career development?
Understandably, the salary package is a very attractive point of any offer made to a candidate – especially in today’s market. That being said, any part-qualified finance professional (regardless of background) should strongly prioritise the level of exposure that they will have in the role they eventually choose to accept. Money can be an overly influential factor and, unfortunately, can often mask other limitations within that specific role or business which could potentially harm a candidate’s development and studies further down the line.
The priority for any active studier, should be attaining their full qualification including getting their practical experience signed off and ensuring that they join a business which aligns with their values and will prioritise supporting their progressing to gaining qualification.
What advice would you give to a newly qualified candidate about the next stage in their career development?
Once qualified, it is key to understand that there is no immediate need to move employers and it is paramount that you take your time to reflect on your career to date and to understand what environments and roles you have thrived in and, more importantly, have enjoyed.
The next step in your career (post qualifying) will be pivotal in how your future career shapes up – for example taking a more ‘typical’ progression route through to Finance Controller or Finance Director or moving into a more specialised department such as Commercial/Finance Business Partnering through to Commercial Manager. Whichever path you choose, it is vital that you ensure you are moving for the right reasons and going into a business or sector in which you can progress and that compliments your interests and skillset.
Finally, what advice would you give to a client about recruiting part-qualified or newly qualified candidates?
When recruiting any part-qualified or newly qualified candidates, businesses need to ensure that they are prepared to and are happy to invest in that individual. For example, if you are looking to bring on board a part-qualified candidate who is actively studying, you will need to recognise that – from a technical point of view - you are not getting the finished article and their studies will need to be prioritised. As such they will need a supportive working environment and line manager who will empower them to progress and develop alongside a role offering full exposure to accounts that will enhance their studies, as they progress through their exams.
During the interview processes it is also important to mention that technical skills can be developed and improved but personalities are limited to change; it is pivotal to onboard the most suitable candidate that reflects the culture and values of the business, and I would strongly recommend investing in the best personality fit as possible.
To find out more about career and recruitment opportunities for part-qualified and newly qualified accountancy professionals, contact Jack on 0114 261 1700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharp Consultancy specialises in the recruitment of temporary, interim and permanent finance professionals. With offices in Leeds and Sheffield our highly experienced team of consultants recruit for positions throughout Yorkshire and beyond. CONTACT US today to discuss your recruitment needs with a member of our team.