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What to do when you can’t find ‘the one’

Employers Professional & Managerial
trouble recruiting accountancy and finance candidates

I’ve been in the recruitment industry for a while now, and have spent my career to date focusing on recruiting accountancy and finance roles. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand the cyclical nature of candidate supply and demand. The economy, politics and natural events all have their effect on the job market and the ebb and flow of talented candidates.

The accountancy and finance space is a fascinating industry for many reasons, not least because of the way that roles in this area are having to change to keep pace with our technological world. For example, accounting software like Xero is now being used in businesses for a lot of day to day financial tasks, reducing the traditional accountant’s workload. Organisations are looking to their accountants for broader commercial advice with the average role including business advisory responsibilities. Today’s accountancy positions also require a greater understanding of technology than ever before, and strong interpersonal and relationship management skills. The demand for qualified individuals with this skill set is high, and unfortunately seems to be outstripping the supply.

I also suspect that these changes in the traditional Chartered Accountancy (CA) environment mean that it’s losing appeal for some people as a ‘safer’ career path, which could be impacting supply. I’d be interested to hear readers views on this subject.

In New Zealand, it’s also typical for us to lose junior accounting professionals to the lure of an overseas experience. Once graduates obtain their CA memberships and complete three years required experience, there continues to be a trend of moving overseas (often London) to further their work experience and take advantage of higher pay rates. Generally this tends to be within commercial business rather than public practice. While often these people do return home, there is then less motivation to move back into public practice and we see these individuals looking for commercial roles in line with their overseas experience.

I’m really seeing these effects in the following areas within Chartered Accountancy firms: Business Advisory Services (BAS), Agri/Farm, Audit and Tax. Intermediate Accountants with two to three years’ experience or Senior Accountants with four to five years in these specialisations are in extremely high demand. This seems to be particularly true in the Canterbury region where I am based and recruit, but my colleagues tell me is evident across New Zealand. It’s certainly a challenging industry to recruit in!

The reality is that at some point, every recruiter and every hiring manager will encounter a situation where it’s simply not possible to find that ideal candidate for a vacant role. Faced with this challenge, here’s my recommended approach:

Check your basics

As much as industries are changing, the most frequently used approach of attracting candidates is advertising, and this certainly can still be effective.  However, to make sure you are attracting the right people, consider both the title and content of your ad. Sometimes when businesses are trying to reflect their innovative, progressive culture they use job titles to match. For example, a petrol station attendant renamed as a ‘Fuel Acquisition Specialist.’ Unfortunately although fun, this doesn’t work with the way that people search for jobs. Lots of candidates use key word searches so keep your job titles recognisable and save the creativity for the content and interviews!

Which brings me to the adverts themselves; are you posting the same adverts that you were posting five years ago? Are they a true reflection of your company, culture and brand? Have you included a video to showcase your amazing workplace? It’s sometimes overlooked but recruitment advertising is a great opportunity to promote your employment brand. Every advert featuring your company name should be carefully put together in line with your branding strategy. Today’s talent is put off by lacklustre advertisements that give no sense of your true brand.

Get proactive

Have you moved beyond the ‘post and pray’ approach? While I believe that advertising still works, sometimes you need to take the next step and be proactive. Of course this is where your local Madison consultant is your best asset! Try searching LinkedIn and SEEK for candidates to match your role profile, and don’t rule out other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or even Twitter. This is a big part of my role as Consultant. I build networks of passive candidates and often work with them for six months or more before matching them to the perfect role.

Look internally

Do you have talent and potential within your existing team that you can develop? Your employees know your business, are clearly a good fit and good workers, and investing in their development will in turn create valued, motivated and satisfied employees. The single most common reason candidates tell me they are looking to leave their jobs is because of a lack of opportunity to progress and develop.

Change what ‘the one’ looks like

If you can’t find a candidate with the level of skill and experience required for a role, can you take someone who has the right personality, drive and soft skills and train them on the rest? Look at the ideal candidate, rewind two years and find that person instead. I’ve worked with multiple clients who have opted for this approach and had some very successful outcomes. To eliminate risk, ensure you are asking the right questions during interviews, complete thorough reference checks and put candidates through psychometric testing to get a well-rounded and accurate understanding of the candidate.

While I’d love to see an influx of talented ‘perfect match’ accountancy and finance candidates suddenly appear, the reality of the New Zealand job market is that they are in short supply – which requires me to continue to think creatively about how to source great candidates for my clients. If you too are struggling to recruit ‘the one’, whatever your industry, I hope these suggestions might help you to refresh your approach and move you closer to filling your vacancy.