Update – Accountancy and Finance Recruitment Q1 2021 – It’s a Candidate’s Market !!

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It remains a seller’s market in the property sector currently. Broadly speaking it’s a candidate’s market in our recruitment specialism.

Demand for candidates is really high. The job market is firm and across the mid market in finance (£35,000 – £65,000 levels). We are seeing major requirement for talent & skill gaps / shortages widening. (Management accounting, financial control, FP&A, financial management, reporting, commercial and operational accounting areas).

“But how can it be when there are lots of reported redundancies and furlough challenges in the headlines?”

There have been some high-profile redundancies and finance professionals haven’t been immune to them. But in the main they have been very sector specific.

Notably ‘traditional’ retail (not ecommerce!), travel, hospitality and leisure sectors have been hit hard and fast. So, if you are a business that is open to candidates from those arenas then you likely have more chance of seeing a breadth of options.  But other businesses (even in those same trading spaces) have had super trading – B&M, Halfords, AO…….. like it or not you have instant competition.

Also, redundancies often impact management accounting, financial control and operational accounting softest. Project roles, new ERP installs – they get pulled early but ultimately businesses still need management accounts, MI, statutory accounts and financial controls so many find themselves in reasonably safe seats. 

A number of sectors have fared well and been in ‘steady away BAU’ or growth phases – distribution, logistics, manufacturing, food, ecommerce, technology, public sectors…

There just aren’t a hoard of management accountants sat in the stands / waiting to be pulled of the bench.

“Ok, well what about all the people who have been treated badly by their current employer – surely they are open to a move?”

Sadly, you are right with this assumption. We speak to finance professionals every day – Covid brought to the clear fore the very best and the very worst in employers. Some responded with pragmatism, put into place the right working infrastructure, the right support and the right degree of empathy. Others didn’t.

As a result, some of those disgruntled have been pushed so hard that they have turned to the market – you don’t want to hear it but the rub is that you have likely missed the boat. Those that were really poorly treated looked straight to the market and pent-up demand between late August and Dec saw most in this category find new positions. Recruitment in Q4 2020 in finance was frantic and extremely busy – placement numbers were unprecedented for P12 in our market.

Our discussions are finding that those that had a ‘niggle’ because of lack of support / furlough issues etc. have now found their challenges largely resolved – businesses have ‘caught up’ and put their arms tightly back around their valued teams.

“Feb and March always triggers more people coming to market”

100% true of any usual year. People assess their plans over turkey dinner, dust off a CV and start speaking to recruiters in late Jan…

But this is so far from a normal year… people don’t have firm timescales and it’s the unpredictability makes people reluctant to move jobs.

There are a few obvious factors, one key one being that people have other fish to fry at the moment.

Most of our assignments are for qualified finance professionals. A high percentage of our ‘candidates’ have children. A fair number are home schooling or have more demanding childcare commitments (because after school clubs are closed, support from grandparents is restricted etc). So put simply getting a new job and attending interviews is low on their immediate priority list. This sounds like a trivial point, but it affects LOADS of our candidate market.

Many people are generally pretty cautious “better the horned antichrist you know”…

Lots of the candidates we introduce sit in the well-trodden “passive marketplace” – they aren’t desperate for a move but are open to a challenge that fits their often-lengthy wish-list. They do a good job, are well regarded but will be open to being tempted / prised out. Right now, many of this audience are, rightly or wrongly, taking the decision to hunker down. 

It’s been a tough year, macro-economic factors are playing out, headlines are unpredictable and often unnerving… and in truth many finance professionals haven’t had a proper holiday for nearly 2 years! So psychologically many are focused on ploughing away and looking forward to jumping back on Skyscanner rather than listening avidly to new positions.

There are things you can do:

  • Recruitment is a process which you should take an “on your marks, get set, go” approach to. Get ducks lined up before you come out of the blocks… then when you do, go like the clappers until the finish line…
  • Get a clear brief, agree the budget (and make it market attractive if possible), agree timelines, stakeholder / interviewer availability… then go for it…
  • Move swiftly and decisively through the process and give clear and open feedback (particularly to the candidates you want to hire!)
  • Hire internally – now more than ever is a time to review who is ripe for promotion. Plugging your gaps with internal talent creates goodwill, positivity and keeps momentum. When folks are stockpiling it’s a good time to ‘grow your own’.
  • Agree what is an actual pre-requisite and what is a nice to have… then recruit the pre-reqs. Being fussy about the non-negotiables is perfect, but being pedantic about the wider wish list leads to slow recruitment, laboured decision making and poor results. If they need to have used SAP that’s fine but if they don’t try not to agonize over it. You will miss good people.
  • What you want is different to what you need. In a market like this if someone ticks all 10 boxes they are likely to have little appetite or impetus to take your role… why should they??
  • Be clear about the future – how will your onboarding work? If you are remote working now but looking to move to 2-3 days in the office which is it? 2 or 3? Or is it realistically 4 or 5 once normal returns?

Some of these questions are hard to answer and the challenges of lockdown make your recruitment process really tricky but the more you can map it out and the easier you make the candidate process the better your chance of finding someone, enticing them and ultimately keeping them.

Thanks as always for reading! If you are keen to discuss the market directly, looking to make a career move or have interim or permanent recruitment needs, we would welcome the chance to speak.

01246 541 927 / info@thearg.co.uk

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