Accountancy firms have had to rethink their recruitment process in the face of the pandemic. Julie Mott, managing director at recruitment consultants, Howett Thorpe, sets out tips for identifying the right accountancy candidates
It is fair to say the past year has shaken the recruitment industry to its core. Accelerated by Covid-19, changes that were expected to take years have happened in a matter of months.
With many forced to work from home for the majority of last year, workers have proven that for many industries, business can carry on as usual no matter where teams are based. The workplace has changed dramatically, and now, many organisations are adopting an increasingly hybrid approach to the workplace.
In the accountancy market, despite the employer’s belief that there are plenty of candidates available, this is not necessarily in line with what many recruitment agencies have experienced over the past year.
It would appear many candidates have decided to stay put in their current roles due to the new, more flexible way of working. Alternatively, some candidates are fearful of moving due to concerns over financial security with their next employer.
So, given this shift and the current challenges, what does financial and accountancy recruitment look like going forward? The short answer is digital - very digital, indeed.
In it for the long haul
Thanks to the pandemic, the traditional hiring process has been flipped on its head, with many recruiters (and clients and candidates) scrambling to adapt to a fully remote experience. But remote work has become the new norm for many, meaning virtual recruiting is not going anywhere.
The past year has seen many companies take a haphazard approach to recruitment, attempting to hastily fill talent gaps in a panic. However, digital hiring solutions such as online assessments and video interviewing should not be seen as a short-term patch for the Covid-19 era. Instead, they should form part of a long-term hiring strategy.
Virtual recruitment requires just as much care and attention as traditional hiring options, and retention should always be a top priority. The cost of a bad hire is monumental, so it is essential to get recruitment right the first time.
With hybrid working on the rise, many firms are now also casting the net wider when recruiting new hires. As a result, recruiters must adopt hiring technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to enhance the recruitment process and improve efficiency when sifting through a larger candidate pool.
For instance, algorithms and AI can automate the CV screening process to ensure all candidates are replied to and even schedule interviews. Candidates expect a smoother experience when applying online, and in 2021, there are no excuses for clunky application processes or not getting back to candidates.
However, despite advances in technology, it is vital to keep recruitment personal. Attention to candidates makes for a lasting workforce, which is why an effective hiring process should still include people at both ends. Rather than replacing human connection, intelligent automation should supplement the recruitment process by filtering through data quickly, transparently and without error.
Although the recruitment world has changed dramatically over the past year, the hiring process itself still follows the same steps — albeit with some adjustments to ensure the calibre of hires when recruiting virtually.
Social media and online job sites have long played a crucial role in sourcing candidates and will be instrumental in remote recruiting, opening up an entirely new world of finance and accounting candidates to consider. For senior positions which may not be advertised due to sensitivity, recruiters can also use social media platforms like LinkedIn to headhunt talent, combining their connections and expertise to source the best candidates for the role.
Given that new hires are now less likely than ever to engage with recruiters face-to-face before onboarding, post-2020 recruitment must also be able to assess and select talent effectively from a distance. As a result, there is a growing demand for online psychometric and aptitude assessments as recruitment tools.
When recruiting remotely, it is also important to translate the organisation’s culture and values into tests or surveys to determine whether a candidate is a good ‘fit’ and will stay with the company.
Even with advancements in technology, this screening process can take a long time and requires close attention to detail to ensure only the best candidates with the relevant qualifications and skills for the role are put forward to the client.
With remote hiring becoming the norm, we can expect to see in-person job interviews become a later stage of the recruitment process when both the recruiter and the candidate are sure the role is a good fit.
It is, therefore, vital for recruiters to maximise new assessment tools available to facilitate virtual recruitment. Unlike email or telephone interviews, video interviews give the recruiter a more comprehensive perspective of potential candidates. With video conferencing now widely accepted, the interaction can still be personalised and used to establish a connection. However, it is crucial to stay professional here. Candidates are trying to make significant decisions based on interviewing via Teams or similar platforms, so they should be able to expect the same level of professionalism as an in-person interview.
As there is no travel involved with digital interviews, they are also easier to schedule and can be recorded and shared among relevant stakeholders (with the candidate’s permission) to enhance the selection process.
Plus, everyone’s time is precious. From a candidate’s perspective, it is much easier to find the time for a virtual interview, meaning they can accommodate availability sooner than in person. With the traditional recruitment process, many hybrid candidates would discount themselves due to availability and having to come up with a plausible reason as to why they were not present at work. With virtual recruitment, this is no longer a problem.
Adapting to the new way of working
The accountancy candidate market is as tough as it has always been, with popular skillsets continuing to be in high demand. Many companies also continue to approach shortlisting candidates with ‘rose-tinted glasses’, meaning they will often miss out on a gem. As such, educating employers on the compromise of predefined experience and qualifications remains an issue.
Yet, when done right, remote recruiting and modern hiring technologies can not only save time, free up resources and lower hiring costs, but they can also provide opportunities to broaden the pool of candidates and cut the ‘hiring bias’ from the shortlisting process.
However, to ensure the quality of new hires, it is essential to take the time to adapt the traditional hiring process to the new, more digital way of working. And in order to retain these recruits, equal efforts should be put into post-hire talent acquisition as the pre-hire recruitment process.
About the author
Julie Mott is managing director at recruitment consultants, Howett Thorpe