Considering Candidates from ‘out of sector’
If you are restricting your sights to applicants working in your current sector you are shielding your business from a vast network of brilliant candidates with the versatility, common sense, technical accounting skills and commerciality to help your business improve.
As recession took hold naturally the businesses I work with, and the key stakeholders within them, became rightfully risk averse.
This translated into an increased level of reticence around interviewing candidates from an alternative sector. As a rule The MDs and FDs of manufacturing businesses had manufacture experience as a pre-requisite listed high on their job specification for the positions they recruited across part and fully qualified finance areas.
The rationale was simple and absolutely understandable; a candidate from the same environment with experience of the technical accounting associated, working processes & business drivers is deemed to be a less risky hire. They will have had exposure to like-minded operational managers and be expected to ‘hit the ground running’ at a rate faster than their peers form an alternative commercial sector. Often they will have encountered specific problems beforehand, are able to bring best practice examples from competitor businesses and do not face as steep a learning curve in terms of the commercial mechanisms of the business.
As the market has become increasingly buoyant and has continued to gather pace in 2017, skill shortages in practice and industry segments are beginning to appear – and the gaps are starting to widen. The competition for part and fully qualified finance professionals has become increasingly fierce. In line businesses, in many cases, have needed to assess their ‘wish-lists’ and sector experience has become more flexible as a requirement – so they are meeting candidates from outside of their usual sector networks and the results being reporting are exciting and refreshing.
I am now finding it is becoming easier for qualified accountants to step between sectors and we are receiving regular feedback around the positive results. In many cases candidates from outside of the industry are able to bring a truly fresh pair of eyes and perspective.
They are forced to get out into the business to understanding the cost base / efficiencies and are sometimes not as tempted to make assumption based on their past experiences.
The benefit can be an improved suite of commercial reports and KPIs based on business needs rather than industry standards.
There are obvious drawbacks that cynics can quickly respond: candidates may not have used your systems, and may not have like for like experience of the challenges. However many would agree that a strong Accountant with confident communication skills and a proactive approach can overcome the step from sector to sector smoothly given the opportunity and right level of support and business engagement.
My advice for what it is worth for any recruiting manager would be to approach the sector expertise with an open mind. While there are inevitably certain niche positions that almost certainly require previous industry exposure there are a great many that possibly do not. Ultimately a strong Financial Controller with a balance of technical accounting and commercial reporting skills will, by nature, be bright, versatile and capable of handling change to deliver positive results!
If you would be keen to have a confidential conversation please drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org
At The ARG we are passionate about delivering straightforward, professional and highly effective recruitment solutions within the accountancy and finance sector. We provide diligent recruitment services to businesses seeking accounting professionals on a temporary, contract or permanent basis and our high level of capability is based upon genuine expertise in our specialist area.