As many more of us return to the office, we take a look at how Julian Randles, the CFO of Czarnikow, is changing their office environment to meet their people’s needs post-pandemic.
Julian has 30 years’ experience as a finance professional and is currently CFO at Czarnikow.
Czarnikow has managed complex sourcing, financing and logistics in the sugar industry for over 150 years. Czarnikow has been around for 150 years and has seen world wars and four pandemics in that time, including the Spanish flu of 1918.
We talked to Julian about how Czarnikow is working differently.
“Ironically, just before COVID came around we’d just expanded our office to almost the maximum number of desks that we could. It’s an open-plan office in Central London.
I think we’ve got about 110 desks in London and 250 people worldwide.
The old setup was very much everybody had their own desk. There was a certain amount of distance between those desks and it worked very well. Obviously, the experience that we’ve had through COVID has somewhat changed our view.
Will we all embrace hybrid working?
I do think we’re heading for a more ‘hybrid’ way of working. We feel that there has been a change, although it’s hard to say if it’s a permanent change for the whole industry. None of us really know how things will settle down post-COVID. But there’s definitely a need to take into account people’s preferences in respect to how they would like to work, and the efficiency of that work going forward.
Having said that we still believe there’s a huge role for the office. It’s a crucial place for collaboration and that kind of osmosis effect that happens when people come together. So we’ve taken the opportunity to redevelop the office even though we’d just added some desks.
Our thought process was: “Let’s make the office an exciting, vibrant place to come in and let’s make it fit for purpose for the post COVID environment.” We’ll have desks of course but it will be more of a hot desk-type environment. The majority of the office will now be set aside for meeting space, for audiovisual type areas so that people can come in, have meetings, get on video conferences and so forth in order to collaborate with others around the globe.
Maintaining a collaborative and social environment for the next generation of employees
Generational differences come into this too. I think it’s easier for those with 15/20 years’ experience to do that role 100% at home but bringing through the next generation and on- boarding is a challenge as they gain a lot more from interaction and learning from the team.
I think we’ve taken on approximately 10 people since the beginning of the pandemic. At first, it was a case of ‘rabbits in headlights’ and how do we deal with the situation where we can’t actually bring people into an office and introduce ourselves. But actually, everybody has onboarded and worked from home in a seamless manner.
I think the problem is the interface on a video screen is not quite the same as being physically there. It’s those coffee bar chats you miss. That’s the biggest thing that we’re hoping to engender by having people back in our remodelled office. But other than that, I think the process has still been very successful.”
If you’d like to read more about how other companies are navigating the future of work and what job seekers want from work, please download our latest Future of Work Whitepaper.
As UK job vacancies surged past one million in a new record, the KPMG and REC, UK Permanent Placements Index* signalled a rapid and accelerated rise in permanent staff appointments across the UK. Furthermore, the rate of growth was the steepest seen since data collection began nearly 24 years ago.
So how is this affecting the accounting, finance and tax jobs market? We talked to CEO and Co-founder of SRM Recruitment, Andrew Setchell, about how you can secure the best accounting, finance and tax talent for your team amidst growing demand for candidates.
1. Be realistic
The good news is that it’s definitely possible to find and hire good people right now but hiring managers need to acknowledge that their shortlist will be a lot shorter. Rather than five to six people to consider, be prepared for three to four and sometimes there may be just one to take to a final interview. That is the reality.
2. Be ready to pay more for your chosen finance candidates
Most finance and tax professionals were treated well during the pandemic and it’s not as easy to get them to consider a move, there are fewer push factors. As a result, supply has reduced, with demand rising and we are seeing salaries going up.
When candidates used to say “I’m looking for an uplift of 10%” there would be a conversation and a negotiation. Now hiring managers are saying “It’s fine, I understand”. Attitudes are changing and we’d advise you to be prepared to widen your salary range, rather than risk delays waiting for sign-off on budgets further down the line.
3. Your flexible work approach must go on the job specification
The first question candidates used to ask when being approached about a new role was “What’s the package?”. Now it’s “What’s the working pattern for this role?”. To get the widest pool of candidates, you should specify your flexible working policy on the job specification.
Clients with no flexibility to offer will find it harder to recruit but it’s by no means impossible. Whilst the debate is still ongoing regarding where the home/office balance will finally settle, we can tell you that finance professionals definitely want some sort of flexibility.
As an example, HSBC’s work from home Friday policy would have been unheard of a couple of years ago but these sorts of policies are becoming the norm. Some will go back to the office full time but it will be at least two years before we see a bigger shift.
Five days in the office is very much considered “traditional” but if that is the way your company runs, it’s not necessarily a problem. Just be aware that your shortlist will be a bit shorter. We’re here to help clients negotiate this job market and find the right people for your business.
4. Speed up the interview process to secure accounting, finance and tax professionals
The interview process needs to be quick in this market. Once you’ve got CVs you need to get the hiring process finished within two weeks. We agree – it’s tempting to “just see someone else.” But after 30 years in finance recruitment, we can tell you there are no ‘magic unicorn’ candidates out there. What we do see time and again is businesses missing out on outstanding people who would have quickly transformed their finance or tax team.
5. Use an experienced finance and tax recruiter with a proper network
In candidate-driven markets, real recruitment comes into play. You need to talk to someone who has the connections to find the people who aren’t necessarily looking. Not only that, your recruiter needs the skills to clearly promote how your role fits with the candidate’s career. That comes from experience. Everyone at SRM really knows their market.
6. Consider try before you buy
If your permanent hiring process is dragging, you should consider using a PAYE temp. This gives you the best chance to assess fit with your team. We have an established book of contract professionals ready and “on the bench” if you’re wanting greater flexibility.
7. Be prepared for candidates turning down your role
This is becoming more common in the accounting, finance and tax jobs market at the moment. Personally though, we’ve seen very few candidates turn down roles because their current company has counter offered a higher salary. An experienced recruiter knows how to vet their candidates properly and there should be no surprises.
In short, move your hiring process along, be clear about your flexible working policy and be ready to broaden your salary range.
*The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionnaires sent to a panel of around 400 UK recruitment and employment consultancies.
Get In Touch
To discuss your hiring strategy or to get more insights on the recruitment market in your industry please give me, Andrew Setchell, a call on +44 7495 483425, email email@example.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Having received a lot of feedback from candidates and hiring managers about lack of career progression during the pandemic, we commissioned a survey to take a deeper look at the trends. Co-founder, Rory MacSween, gives his insights from the market and takes us through the findings.
How has the pandemic affected career progression?
It’s unsurprising that many finance, accounting and tax professionals have felt their career progression stall during the pandemic. In fact, our recent survey showed that a third of people felt it adversely affected their development – but there were some surprising results too.
For many, expectations of progression have been lowered because of company and industry disruption. For others, health and family issues have taken focus away from careers. Up until now, we’ve seen a pragmatic attitude at play, with most professionals accepting the status quo as their peers aren’t being promoted either.
However, there’s been a dramatic shift in the jobs market in the last few weeks. Hiring managers are starting to feel their team’s frustrations with an increase in resignations. Good people are getting multiple job offers and candidates are becoming pickier.
Our survey also showed 52% said the pandemic hadn’t changed progression opportunities and 17% actually felt there were some positive career outcomes from the pandemic. Personally, I haven’t spoken to anyone who feels they’ve made good ground with their career. However, I would say that some finance and tax professionals have used the time as an opportunity for reflection on what they like and dislike about their role and this has prompted some positive conversations for future development.
What to do if your career progression has stalled
If the conversation isn’t forthcoming from your boss, then you should instigate a meeting with them before entering the job market. If there are particular aspects lacking in the role, it’s better to talk about it now, rather than after you’ve been through an external job process. Using a job offer to get what you want can be a dangerous strategy and erode trust and good will.
What can hiring managers do?
A lot of hiring managers I’m speaking to have felt removed from their teams during the last 18 months. Without being able to take the temperature of the team and informally check in with people, those impromptu conversations that lead to more serious meetings on role development haven’t happened.
Discuss career development
As we return to the office, there’s a huge opportunity to put career development back on the agenda. Don’t delay having those conversations and I’d say it’s not all about budget either. Think about how exposure to new projects or technical skills can give people the CV growth they’re looking for and develop them in the role.
Getting back to regular appraisals is also a key retention tool – some managers have put them on the back burner so make sure they’re high on your agenda. It really boils down to having those honest conversations.
We’re also seeing a rise in things like team-wide holidays or even organisation-wide days or weeks off as a reward for working extra hours during the pandemic. Some are offering covid thank you bonuses too.
The key message I want to get across is don’t assume people aren’t moving roles. The grass isn’t always greener but there is a very active jobs market right now and job seekers can achieve the change they want.
Get In Touch
If you’re a hiring manager and need advice or help to hire finance and accounting professionals, or if you’re looking for your next role, get in touch with Rory MacSween today on +44 7960 983331, email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Andrew Setchell on the shift in the accountancy and finance jobs market post covid and how you can beat the competition for the best candidates.
The number of people placed into permanent jobs in London and the South East climbed at a considerable rate in April. We’ve seen that at SRM and that’s backed up by the Recruitment & Employment Federation’s (REC’s) latest Jobs Report in association with KPMG.
The accountancy jobs market is improving at the fastest rates we’ve ever seen and hiring managers just aren’t aware that they’ll struggle to fill roles if they don’t act now.
Let me give you an example of what happened last week when a well known UK listed property company tried to hire a management accountant. I hasten to add, we didn’t manage this recruitment process for them!
The company shortlisted five people and brought three back for a second interview. Two candidates were offered the role but neither accepted. With a £10k salary uplift on offer you’d have thought this was a great move for the two shortlisted candidates. The salary was around £55k and the shortlisted candidates were newly qualified accountants on about £45k.
The first candidate had the offer matched by their current employer and stayed put. From a recruiter perspective, that’s poor practice, one for not checking the candidate’s underlying motivation for leaving and second for not having the conversation about what they’d do if their FD matched the new salary.
The other candidate had three offers to choose from. That’s harder to counter but it shows there’s been a huge shift in the accountancy and finance jobs market. What seems to have happened during Covid is that many hiring managers have forgotten about people’s worth and are getting complacent.
The REC Jobs Report shows that the pace of hiring has accelerated significantly since March 2021 and is the joint quickest rise in 23 years of data collection.
Andrew Setchell, CEO, and Co-founder, SRM Recruitment
So what can you do to ensure you don’t get caught out by the shift in the accountancy and finance jobs market?
1. Be aware you’re just one of the offers the candidate is considering
The first step is to be aware that you’re just one of three offers your favourite candidate is considering – most likely they’ll have six roles to choose from. The assumption is you’re the only one hiring. Whilst that was the case 12 months ago, it’s certainly not now.
2. Make sure you review salaries
It’s now imperative to do regular salary reviews and be up to speed on market conditions. Workforce planning and updating your employee offer is essential.
3. Expedite your accountancy and finance hiring process
Good people are getting multiple offers so candidates are getting pickier. Give yourself the best chance by expediting the process. Reduce your shortlist so you get to the finish line faster. Remember, you only need one person for the role so a strong shortlist of three will give you the best chance to hire.
4. Sell the non-financial benefits to motivate ambitious candidates
Be very clear about why you want to hire your chosen candidate and what they bring to the business. Tell them explicitly how they will develop their commercial experience, for example, that their value will rise and they will improve their CV by x per cent.
5. Use a quality, boutique recruiter
An experienced recruiter partnering directly with you will give you the best chance in this market, saving time and money. It’s worth being aware that the large recruitment firms all made large-scale redundancies during the pandemic and are now hiring recent graduates to make up for the shortfall.
At SRM we’ve actually deepened our bench strength during Covid. You will work directly with a talented recruiter with at least 10 years of specialist experience in finance and accountancy.
If more people are open to moving won’t there be more candidates to choose from?
In short, no. As more jobs come to market it’s worth bearing in mind that the supply of candidates actually hasn’t changed from 6-12 months ago. We saw an example of this recently at NBCUniversal. The candidates who lost their jobs during Covid already found new jobs between September 2020 – Jan 2021 and the rest have been looked after and retained.
Pressure on finance teams has been growing for some time
Bench strength has been missing from finance teams going right back to the financial crisis in 2008 – the pandemic has only added to the pressure. Businesses have realised you need good people to do cash flow and complete accurate forecasting. If that’s happened in your business you’re not alone – it’s happening elsewhere.
The highest demand is at the £45-70k level and organisations will struggle to fill roles. There’s a war for talent on the horizon so we are advising our clients not to wait to hire strong finance and accounting candidates.
Get In Touch
If you need help to hire finance and accounting professionals or simply want hiring advice, get in touch with me, Andrew Setchell today on +44 7495 483425, email email@example.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.
What do the latest ‘IR35’ tax legislation changes mean for hiring managers? Can you still hire finance and accounting temps? And how can you avoid being fined by HMRC?
Rob McKay, who leads our specialist interim recruitment team, explains how organisations can hire finance temps the right way, within the law.
What’s the background to the new IR35 changes?
The ‘IR35’ tax legislation came into force for the private sector on 6 April 2021 for the new tax year. IR35 is basically shorthand for the UK tax legislation that is designed to identify genuine contractors.
It closes a tax loophole, whereby the majority of contractors would offer their services via an intermediary, like a limited company. Essentially, treating themselves as a company meant contractors paid corporation tax at around 20% as opposed to higher-rated employee tax. Another big factor for HMRC was that no National Insurance was payable.
What’s changed in the IR35 legislation?
The Government has shifted the emphasis on who is liable for deciding whether a role sits inside or outside the IR35 legislation. Before the liability sat with the contractor, now the liability and potentially hefty fines sit squarely with corporations.
What does being inside or outside IR35 mean?
Being ‘inside’ IR35 means the contractor is seen by HMRC as an employee for tax purposes. Being ‘outside’ IR35 means the contractor is seen as genuinely self-employed by HMRC and can enjoy lower tax status.
What does that mean for accounting roles?
Most accounting roles will now fall within IR35. For example, if you’re a contractor signing off a set of statutory accounts, you have authority on behalf of the company and so would be classed as an employee for tax purposes. If you are managing someone, that role would also fall within IR35.
If you’re genuinely running a business with a number of clients, working on concurrent projects, this would fall outside IR35. But if you have one accounting contract role at a time, then HMRC will now see you as an employee for tax purposes.
The basic rule is if organisations are happy to accept ‘substitutions’ then this sits outside the legislation. For example, Compass provides catering services for PWC. But PWC doesn’t get to say which chef works particular shifts or which serving staff are working. But usually, for an accounting role, you’ll be interviewing specific people for specific roles.
So can I still hire a temporary employee or contractor?
Absolutely, you can still hire hourly and daily-paid temps and contractors who are not counted on your permanent headcount or payroll. The key change is to the tax status of temporary and contract workers. So even if your role falls within IR35, you can still bring that person to work for you on a shorter-term contract as long as they pay tax as an employee via PAYE.
So how can I easily hire a temp or contractor without being fined?
SRM Recruitment offers organisations a PAYE solution for hiring temps and contractors. That means we offer a fully outsourced payroll function, taking the headache out of paying tax on behalf of your contractors in a way that is fully auditable.
The advantage of using a reputable PAYE solution is that organisations have complete transparency on where and how tax is paid. So it really takes any IR35 worries out of the equation completely.
We still recommend that clients go through a determination process to assess if a role is inside or outside IR35 but if there is any doubt, it’s always recommended to go ‘inside’ the IR35 legislation.
A safe, scalable solution for outsourced payroll
SRM already offers this outsourced payroll PAYE service to a range of organisations of all sizes. We have a strong balance sheet and we are able to securely run a regular payroll for our clients. The process is auditable and transparent.
“Rob has gone above & beyond by providing specific guidance on IR35 to myself & wider HR team, helping us translate what it means for our business. A trusted recruitment partner!”
Nicola Hollands – Talent Acquisition Partner at Capital Dynamics
What’s happened to umbrella companies?
We are advising organisations not to employ contractors via umbrella company status. Remember, the risk still sits with the hiring organisation, not the umbrella company.
Using a PAYE solution via an umbrella company provider can leave organisations in a less than robust position from a tax perspective. It’s worth noting that the industry is self-regulating with only 50 or so companies opting for any form of accreditation. Accreditation does not give powers to sanction or investigate.
Fines are still payable by the hiring organisation, not the umbrella company, or the umbrella company provider.
What do finance and accounting temps think about the IR35 change?
Most accountants understand why the loophole is being closed. The only push back we’ve experienced is from those in quasi IT/finance roles. Accounting and finance professionals still want to work on daily rates and enjoy the flexibility this brings so we don’t anticipate any shortage of supply. Candidates tell us they want a job first and foremost and aren’t worried about the mechanics of how they get paid.
The key facts about hiring flexible workers under IR35
In summary, you can still hire flexible workers that won’t affect your permanent headcount numbers by using a robust outsourced payroll / PAYE service.
Steer clear of contractors employed via an umbrella company or services provided by the unregulated umbrella company market.
At the start of the covid-19 pandemic, the majority of Finance Directors were still operating lean functions or were even one or two heads down. Factor in the extra pressures due to the pandemic and it’s no surprise that many teams are stressed and overwhelmed. We invited an expert panel to join us in a live webinar on Creating Resilient Teams. For those of you who missed it the first time around it’s now available to watch in full.
Our guest speakers at creating resilient teams
Stewart Robertson, co-founder of SRM Recruitment, discusses how many hiring managers struggle with surprise resignations and seeing professionals struggle to switch off as the boundary between work and home blurs.
Adele Stickland, wellness in the workplace and resilience consultant joins us and discusses how you can set your team up for success so that employees can bounce back after demanding work periods.
Tamsin Ashmore, CFO of Ultima Business Solutions and former CFO at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group shares her insights on building strong resilient teams
If you want to discuss resilience in the workplace or need help hiring the best finance or accounting staff get in touch with Stewart Robinson today on +44 (0) 1483 338066 or connect with me on Linkedin.
Alternatively, if you’re planning your headcount or want impartial advice on the current market, please do get in touch with me.
How work is changing and what it means for hiring managers
For the foreseeable future, those of us who can will be working at home. At the end of 2020 we ran a webinar to explore how dispersed workforces are changing the hiring process and our daily working lives.
In this webinar, we open up the debate on which changes are likely to be long-term or even permanent and how organisations are navigating these challenges. What does the future hold? Blended workplaces or wholly remote? You’ll also learn how companies are embracing collaboration technology built around people.
We discuss the trends so that you can successfully hire and retain the best people for your business.
Get in touch if you’re looking to hire
If you want to discuss resilience in the workplace or need help hiring the best finance or accounting staff get in touch with me, Andrew Setchell today on +44 (0 )20 3637 7808 or connect with him on Linkedin.
Alternatively, if you’re planning your headcount or want impartial advice on the current market, please do get in touch.
If your finance and accounting job search is going slower than you’d like, follow Jim Smith’s top career advice tips to get the job you want.
Don’t get frustrated
Hiring managers and recruiters are receiving unprecedented levels of applications. Inevitably, many finance professionals and accountants are getting frustrated at the lack of contact through the job hunting process. Be prepared for bumps in the road – the process may suddenly go quiet, hiring managers can do u-turns. That’s not your fault.
Firstly, let go of the frustration and focus on your unique strengths. Take the positives out of any process that has not quite happened. If you were shortlisted for this interview, it means you have skills that are wanted by hiring managers. You’ll get the next one!
Don’t apply for everything
More than ever, hiring managers are looking for candidates with industry-specific skill sets. For example, if the role is in retail and you don’t have outstanding Hyperion skills, you’re probably wasting your time applying for that role. It may sound counterintuitive but narrowing your focus will help you land the job you want.
Also, don’t feel the need to apply for ‘junior’ roles beneath your experience level. Even though you have all the skills needed, think of the hiring manager and their level. They’re probably more junior than you and may therefore potentially feel threatened by your senior experience – so the role won’t be the right match for either of you.
Don’t be afraid to network to get the finance and accounting job you want
If you’ve been made redundant or are simply burnt out, don’t let misplaced embarrassment hold you back. Reach out to people you’ve worked with in the past, your friends/family network, as well as good recruiters. Tell them briefly what you’re looking for and clearly ask for introductions/recommendations and most importantly – follow up.
Qualify the recruiters you decide to work with
Ask questions to ascertain if the recruiter understands what you do and how well they know the finance and accounting job market. Then engage with recruiters who will give you the most credibility with hiring managers – go with your gut. A good recruiter should take the time to listen to what you want and give you honest advice on the market and what they’re seeing.
I’d also recommend asking how many other recruitment consultancies are working on roles you’re interested in and find out how many other people are going for an interview. If the recruiter is the ‘sole agent’ you’ll stand a much better chance. Ask what the likely turnaround time is too so you can better manage your expectations. In essence, I would recommend qualifying your recruiter, you’ll soon know who has your best interests at heart. Keep in touch with these recruiters.
Beware of unscrupulous agents
Recruitment agents will often pick up leads from talking to candidates. If it’s not someone you speak to regularly, be careful about sharing who you are interviewing with. There are some recruiters who will simply send their current candidates for the role you’re interviewing for, lessening your chance of success.
Ask a good recruiter to proactively market you to their client base
It’s still the case that many jobs are not advertised. A lot of opportunities arise from putting the right CV in front of a hiring manager based on personal knowledge of the client and job seeker.
This bespoke approach is something SRM specialises in and I’ve recently been proactively partnering with strong candidates from across industries, targeting specific organisations. This is very well received and my aim is to create opportunities and build long term relationships.
Seek advice from a recruiter who cares about people
We can’t place everyone we speak to but we can give you real advice on how to enhance your Linkedin profile, how to set up job searches on Indeed.com or improve your CV. If we can’t help you, we’ll most likely be able to put you in touch with someone who can. Importantly, if we say we’ll call you back we will.
This week we’re delighted to welcome Richard Boyd to the SRM finance team. We talk to Richard about getting back to real recruitment, the roles he can help you with and his top piece of advice for hiring managers.
Tell us about your career and what prompted your move
“I worked at two of the world’s largest recruitment consultancies for 16 years, progressing to a Director-level role. Just before joining SRM, I led a team of fifteen focused on qualified finance recruitment. My remit grew to include executive search and specialist finance roles such as tax and treasury.
Getting back to real recruitment
Whilst I loved the role and had a great team, inevitably, mentoring and leading others became my focus. Over time I missed actual recruitment and spending time with clients! I like being out there with both clients and candidates and didn’t want to be as internally focused anymore.
I genuinely believe there is massive scope here at SRM to grow the size of our team and our footprint on the London finance market, so the scale of the opportunity and growth potential was key to the move.
An experienced team of recruiters
Joining an experienced team at SRM was key, especially working with a close-knit group of people who I knew viewed recruitment similarly to me – from a values, respect and way of working point of view.
I knew Stewart Robertson from school and he actually introduced me to my first role in recruitment. I worked for Andrew Setchell in Southampton and then London and worked with Rory MacSween during my time in tax recruitment – during some pretty tough times after the financial crisis!
The benefits of a boutique recruitment firm
Working with a trusted advisor is even more important right now. What I’m seeing in the market is that people want to make a real connection and build a lasting, personal relationship. That’s something that a boutique firm excels at. I’m excited to be at SRM where we’re really focused on delivering a bespoke service based on your needs.
Tell us about the roles you’ll be working on
I’m primarily focused on permanent qualified finance roles in London and growing this business to better support our clients. I’ll also be focused on helping our clients with FD, CFO and Search level positions.
What do hiring managers and job seekers like about working with you?
I’d like to think I’m pretty straightforward. I’m definitely candid and my network appreciates that. I work hard for my clients and candidates and am passionate about finding people the right role.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m married and have a lovely five-year-old daughter so that keeps me pretty busy. Sporting wise; my main passion is road cycling, both watching and doing. I’m also a rugby and football fan. Hailing from the Westcountry I’m a big Plymouth Argyle fan (for my sins)! I’ve always had a really keen interest in American politics too.
What’s your top piece of advice for hiring managers right now?
Essentially: 1. be realistic 2. have a plan and 3. take advice
1. Focus on the key skills that will have the biggest impact on business objectives and you’ll find the right person more quickly. In a client-led market, we often think we’ll find the perfect person who can do everything perfectly but knowing exactly what you need and identifying core skills is a much more effective hiring strategy.
2. Have a clear plan for remote interviews and onboarding, work out your process and what you’re comfortable with. An efficient process is still really important to hire the best people.
3. Talk to your network or a trusted recruitment partner if you’re not sure whether your requirements are realistic or what sort of person will achieve the business transformation you’re looking for.”
Get in touch if you’re looking to hire finance roles or for help with your next career move
Are you digitally ready for today’s video interviews? Hiring managers are looking for digitally savvy candidates who come across well on video. We take a look at how to prepare for video interviews, the latest etiquette and how to adapt to the video medium so you get the job you want.
Get the essentials right
Make sure you’re in a quiet room with a good wifi connection and great lighting. We often see candidates overlooking these essentials but they really make a difference to how you’re perceived by hiring managers.
Check your wifi speed
You need to ensure your wifi is up to the task in hand. You can check the quality of your wifi connection by running a test here at Speedtest.net.
Lighting is critical
Front-facing natural light is best, so if you can, sit in front of a window. It evenly accentuates and brightens your skin and features, giving you a clear, flattering, professional appearance. Avoid being ‘backlit’ at all costs, so no sitting with a window or other strong light source directly behind you. Too dark or too light are both no-nos.
Hiring managers are looking for digitally savvy hires, regardless of the job role, and poor lighting is a dead giveaway that you haven’t prepared or that you’re not set up for effective remote working.
Sunlight Be aware of where the sun falls at different times of the day and ensure it’s not streaming into your face or laptop and distorting your image during the video interview. Hiring managers are unable to create a connection with you if they can’t see your face properly and it will definitely leave a poor impression. In fact, we recently had a candidate spend their whole interview with bright sun shining in their face and they were not shortlisted as a result, despite being a strong contender.
Ensure you have more than one light source Don’t just rely on overhead lighting. Use a desk lamp or multiple lamps, especially in darker rooms, so your face can be seen clearly. It’s tiring for the interviewer if they’re straining to see your facial expressions. Find extra lamps from around the house and set them up especially for your interview.
Avoid low angles on your video interview
Keep the camera eye-level or higher. You want to make sure your computer’s at least a little bit elevated so that you don’t have the double-chin effect or give the hiring manager a view up your nostrils! You also want to ensure you’re not giving the appearance of looking down at the interviewer.
Choose your background carefully
As we’ve all discovered, when you dial into a call, people won’t just be looking at you – they’ll naturally be nosey. Be aware of your background and distractions behind you. You want people to focus on you, so a plain background is often best, but a thoughtfully set up background, using plants, for example, can work well and say something about you.
Distance and position from your camera
Try to position yourself so the camera is seeing you from the chest or waist up, instead of your face taking up the whole frame. Seeing more of you is more natural for the interviewer, more akin to a face-to-face meeting in real life. This helps the hiring manager read your body language – building rapport is still very important in digital interviews.
Always use a PC or a laptop and not a smartphone to give a more stable view, and to allow you to make notes.
Camera on or camera off?
It will definitely put you at a disadvantage if you don’t turn on your camera at the start of the video interview. The immediate question that springs to the hiring manager’s mind is: “what is the candidate hiding”? This ties in with being seen as digitally ready and coming across as an effective remote worker.
Remember, the hiring manager wants to know you really want this job. Demonstrating that you’ve prepared well, with good lighting and a suitable background demonstrates your commitment.
Stewart Robertson, Co-founder, SRM Recruitment
What to wear for a video interview
What to wear often depends on the particular company or industry sector you’re applying for but as a rule, it’s always better to overdress than underdress for a video interview. Always go ‘one above’, for example, it might be usual to just wear T-shirts at a media company so a smart shirt or top will be seen as making an effort at a video interview. Our clients definitely notice and appreciate when candidates go the extra mile.
Smart business casual is the accepted norm in most cases. If you’re in doubt, ask your recruitment consultant what the client usually wears and take their lead.
Break the ice at the start of the video interview
Start with a smile and a positive demeanour to help the hiring manager warm to you. Both parties want to break the ice, so small talk is still essential. Asking each other: “how are you” and “how’s your day going” gets things off to the right start.
Slow down and speak clearly
When we’re nervous we tend to speak more quickly. So slow down and focus on getting your messages across clearly. This is even more critical on a video call where we may miss subtle body language cues. When you finish your point, it’s ok to stop. Don’t be tempted to start talking again to fill the silence. Just wait for the interviewer’s next question to avoid talking over each other.
Present like we met you down the hallway
If we bump into someone at the office, or in a social setting, we’ll be emotional and vibrant. Then we get in front of a video camera and we stiffen up and do our best impression of a robot!
Remember that a video interview is just a conversation, so focus on breathing, try to relax and crucially, be conscious of using all your muscles in your back and neck to come across well. Most of us need to project a little more energy and animation to come across well on video.
Don’t eat or drink and keep a notebook to hand
Of course, it’s fine to have a glass of water but don’t eat your breakfast or drink your protein shake! It’s also fine to have some notes to hand to help prompt you and have questions ready for the interviewer. It’s harder to actively listen on a video call, so focus on this and pick up on what the interviewer is saying, rather than just thinking of your next answer.
What are the most common platforms for a video interview?
There are some specialist video interview platforms but the three most common are BlueJeans, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Ask what platform will be used so you can practice with a friend if it’s a tool that’s unfamiliar. Make sure you know how to turn your camera on and unmute yourself without panicking! Errors here can give the impression that you may not be very digitally savvy.
If restrictions allow, finish a remote process with a face to face interview
We’ve seen candidates start new roles without meeting anyone but if your new boss offers a face to face interview in a covid-secure environment you’re comfortable with, we’d recommend you take the opportunity. It will tell you more and give you the advantage over other candidates.
Get in touch to discuss your next career move
If you’re looking for further advice on your next career move in finance or accounting get in touch with me, Stewart Robertson today on +44 (0) 20 3637 7808 or connect with me on Linkedin. Alternatively, if you’re planning your headcount or want impartial advice on the current market, please do get in touch with me.