The top five things people want from work right now

It’s safe to say we are still facing questions about the future of work and what people really want from their employer as the world of work changes. Even before Covid-19, there were clear trends taking us toward more remote working, more flexible working, more mobile workers and more dispersed workforces. 

Now, as we factor in candidate shortages, rises in hiring and record growth of starting pay* we take a look at the latest research and what our candidates are telling us they want from work right now so that you can hire and retain your best finance and tax professionals

1. Flexible work that’s about individual choice

We’re hearing from our finance and tax candidates that some sort of flexibility is fast becoming an accepted norm. It’s also becoming clear that many organisations are adapting their approach here to attract and retain the best.

The first question candidates used to ask us when being approached about a new role was “What’s the package?” Now it’s “what’s the working pattern for this role?”. 

In order to reach the widest pool of candidates, we recommend adding your flexible working policy on the job specification so that your job doesn’t get discounted. Clients with no flexibility to offer will find it harder to recruit but it’s by no means impossible.

2. Part of a co-created vibrant physical & digital culture 

After people’s basic needs are met, for example, money to pay the bills, benefits to ensure their health is taken care of, mentoring for career development, people want a great work community and culture. 

Before covid, 82% of leaders believed that “culture is a potential competitive advantage”, whereas only 19% believed they have the “right culture”. **

When we factor in the impact of flexible working, where we may not be experiencing the office environment so much, creating a sense of belonging and opportunities for informal collaboration via your digital infrastructure are becoming increasingly important. People want to connect with their colleagues no matter where they are and they want to have a say in how things are done. 

This is a key challenge to address when we think about the future and planning talent attraction and hiring strategy, especially in areas like digital onboarding and creating online community groups to help people get their feet under the table.

3. Feel like they belong to an open community

Generational changes are also driving the desire for greater openness. We have five generations in the workforce now from iGen/GenZ, Millennials/Gen Y, Gen x all the way through to Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. 

We see our clients embracing this through their office infrastructure and through their wider culture in order to attract and retain their best finance professionals. 

Julian Randles, CFO at Czarnikow, made these changes in response to their people’s needs:

“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 audio visual 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.”

The good news is there is real evidence to support the benefits of becoming a more open and transparent organisation, from lower absenteeism to higher revenue. In fact 41% lower absenteeism, according to Gallup’s state of the American Workforce and 765 times higher revenue according to Dan Coyle’s Culture Code.

4. Have a voice and a say in the company

Candidates we speak to are generally looking for open company cultures and we definitely see many organisations growing past the idea of a strict hierarchy. People want to feel connected to their work community and when this connection isn’t there we see people start their job search. 

People want to communicate in more modern, flexible ways that allow them to have a say. They also want to be recognised for their contribution. If you can create the opportunity for continuous feedback within your finance or tax team and across the organisation we believe you’ll stand the best chance to retain your talent. 

5. Authentic, real leaders that they can connect with 

As strict hierarchies in organisations become a thing of the past, people are looking for a different kind of leadership style. Modern leaders listen and create inclusive cultures. They are also helping to break down functional hierarchies. 

Our finance and tax candidates are telling us they want to have an influence on the running of the business and be true business partners so if you can help to break down those barriers so that finance is at the forefront of the business you will stand the best chance of retaining your best people.

*KPMG Rec Report November 2021

**Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends

Get In Touch

To get help with your recruitment process or job search, please do get in touch with Andrew Setchell today on +44 7495 483425, email andrewsetchell@srmrecruitment.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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How hybrid work can help you reach more diverse talent pools

Two people of different ethnicities working, representing a diverse talent pool.

A government-backed study for Zurich Insurance suggests that senior women are 20% more likely to apply for senior roles if they offer flexible working hours. It found there had been a lack of applications from women for senior roles, many of which had not been available on a flexible basis. Female employees reported this had made them less likely to apply. 

The volume of job searches using the “Remote” filter on LinkedIn has also increased 60% since the beginning of March, and the share of Remote Job Applications has increased nearly 2.5 times globally from March. 

Adopt a flexible working approach to attract and retain the best talent

We’re also hearing from our finance and tax candidates that some sort of flexibility is fast becoming an accepted norm. It’s also becoming clear that many firms are adapting their approach here to attract and retain the best.

In fact, the first question candidates used to ask us when being approached about a new role was “What’s the package?” Now it’s “what’s the working pattern for this role?”. In order to reach the widest pool of candidates, we recommend adding your flexible working policy on the job specification so that your job doesn’t get discounted. Clients with no flexibility to offer will find it harder to recruit but it’s by no means impossible.

The Great Resignation

In the UK, a HR company’s survey found that 38 percent of respondents were planning to quit within the next year. Meanwhile, a Microsoft survey of 30,000 people around the world noted that 46 percent of people have recently thought about a “major pivot” in their career.

It’s being referred to as The Great Resignation and people are essentially looking for more control of their lives. We still want to earn money though! So, if you can offer job seekers the opportunity to work in a way that’s most productive for them, you’ll retain your best people.

The research also shows that black-identified women are overly represented in this group preferring not to go back into the office. According to Monica Torres writing in the Huffington Post, more black professionals want flexible work policies than their white, Asian and Latin American colleagues.

Why is this? The research points to microaggressions, discrimination and racism, making home a much safer place.

“Ask yourself if your working patterns and salaries are competitive as we’re about to see a new wave of resignations and proactive headhunting of your best finance talent. “

Andrew Setchell, CEO, SRM Recruitment

Improve your digital community to widen your talent pool

Regional and international talent pools are also becoming more readily available to firms – if you have good digital onboarding and a vibrant digital community to welcome people into your infrastructure, there’s no reason why you can’t recruit from further afield.

At SRM, we’ve recently conducted job searches for clients in New York, Milan, the Netherlands, Portugal and Paris. Recruiting across borders is becoming much more commonplace as is managing team members remotely.

For FDs, CFOs and senior tax practitioners our key piece of advice is to think about your talent management now. Ask yourself if your working patterns and your salaries are competitive as we’re about to see a new wave of resignations and proactive headhunting of your best finance talent. 

Get In Touch

To get help with your recruitment process or job search, please do get in touch with Andrew Setchell today on +44 7495 483425, email andrewsetchell@srmrecruitment.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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How to find the best accountants, finance and tax professionals in today’s job market

Hiring manager conducting an interview with an accountant, finance or tax professional.

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. 

“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.”

Andrew Setchell, CEO, SRM Recruitment

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 andrewsetchell@srmrecruitment.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Read the most recent KPMG and REC UK Report on Jobs

Has your career progression stalled during the pandemic? You’re not alone.

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.

30% of employees say their career progression stalled during the pandemic

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. 

Survey carried out by SRM Recruitment - how career progression has been affected during the pandemic.

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. 

More appraisal

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.

Rewards

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 rorymacsween@srmrecruitment.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Creating resilient teams: how to avoid burnout in the workplace

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

Caroline Watkin, co-founder of the remote work and communications consultancy, 300, discusses how great communications can help you reduce stress in your team and be more productive.

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 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.

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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.

Andrew Setchell, CEO of SRM was joined by Dana Muntean, client partner at Workplace from Facebook, Julian Randles, CFO of Czarnikow, as well as the co-founders of 300, the remote work and communications consultancy.

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.

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How to avoid surprise resignations

Recognising the early signs of employee dissatisfaction is becoming increasingly difficult in a remote work setting. As teams lose the human connection, the biggest danger for managers is resignations coming ‘out of the blue.’     

Experienced recruiter and co-founder of SRM, Rory MacSween, talks us through his top six tips to reduce the risk of surprise resignations.

Don’t assume people aren’t moving 

It’s tempting to believe that people aren’t moving jobs due to the pandemic but that simply isn’t the case. In most recruitment markets, the best candidates are still very focused on career development and are open to moving. 

Conduct health checks with each team member – regularly 

It’s much easier to pick up early warning signs of dissatisfaction in the office and to have candid conversations face to face. But you can pick up the signs remotely and so avoid surprise resignations if you make time, listen and ask smart questions. 

Dig deeper for honest feedback to avoid surprise resignations

Ask for honest feedback and be prepared to listen. Questions like: “how do you think we’re managing as a company” can open up the dialogue for a more meaningful conversation. In the UK, bear in mind we don’t often complain and we favour politeness over openness so don’t be afraid to ask real questions about people’s true intentions.  

Scheduling time for informal ‘coffee break’ video conversations with individual team members can also work effectively to break down the distance. 

Plan headcount in advance

There’s no point in investing and growing the team if you are replacing half of your existing team in the next three months. If you haven’t already, plan your 2021 headcount following honest conversations or risk the knock-on impact of multiple resignations.


“At one client, 50% of the tax team tendered their resignation within three months. I’ve lost count of the recent conversations where hiring managers had no inkling the resignation was coming.”  

Rory MacSween, Director, SRM Recruitment

Ask a specialist recruiter about market conditions 

If you’re unsure about the demand for certain skillsets within your team, or how difficult it might be to replace specialist talent, talk to a recruiter who knows the market well. Be prepared and aware of how long you may have to wait to fill roles – don’t assume it’s a buyer’s market.

If you were in my shoes what would you do differently? 

Despite your best intentions, you receive a surprise resignation. Now’s the time to act to prevent this impacting the rest of the team. Diarise some time to talk through the reasons behind the resignation and ask what you could have done differently as a manager. Be prepared to act on the feedback and talk to the rest of the team quickly to allay any fears that they’ll be left with an onerous workload.

Get in touch if you’re looking to hire

If you’ve received a surprise resignation and are looking to hire the very best talent in tax, finance or accounting get in touch with me, Rory MacSween 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.

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Will Short joins SRM to focus on Tax Director & Partner search

will-short-srm-recruitment

We’re delighted to welcome Will Short, a senior tax specialist, to the SRM family. We spoke to Will about why he recruits global tax leaders, the roles he can help you with and why he joined SRM Recruitment.

will-short-srm-recruitment
Will Short will be focusing on Tax Partner and Tax Director roles


You’re focusing on Tax Director roles and Tax Partner roles – tell us more

“The thing that really appeals to me is working with the most senior figures in the tax community and building long-lasting relationships. This is my niche and I’ll be focusing predominantly on tax leadership roles, at Partner and Director level in the UK, US, Europe and Asia. 


What drives you to help your senior tax candidates and organisations?


Knowing I’m helping to make an impact on an organisation is key. By bringing in the right person who will lead and grow a team, deliver growth strategies or real change within a business is what drives me. I’ll be working closely with the Big 4 accounting firms as well as mid-tier and strong independent tax practices.

What led you to specialise in senior tax roles?

I started my career as a client relationship manager at Towergate Insurance working with estate agencies and large property developers. Whilst I loved the people side of things I knew I wanted a more sales-focused role. 

I’d considered recruitment as a way to bring my skillsets together and I knew I wanted to move from Colchester to London. So when the opportunity to move into recruitment came up I jumped at the chance. I chose to focus on partner-level tax searches as I enjoy working with senior leaders and haven’t looked back.

I helped build a successful Tax Partner Search team in my first recruitment role before being headhunted by a competitor. In my new role, I focused on building my skillset from purely UK focused search to global search: delivering on large international growth programmes for the biggest professional service firms, working on team moves and key global and international leadership roles, as well as utilising my strong network in the UK, delivering on UK-focused tax searches.

What prompted the move to SRM?

Moving to SRM was an opportunity to bring together my UK and global experience in specialist tax search and to really have the freedom to build something of my own.

What appealed to you about SRM Recruitment?

I’d also heard good things about Rory MacSween (Co-Founder of SRM Recruitment who leads the tax recruitment team) he’s been recruiting tax roles for 13 years and is well known in the industry. The strong brand and reputation appealed.  

I like the overall approach the other Directors have too. They are a genuine group of people, which can sometimes be hard to find in sales-driven environments. Their level of experience also appealed as I knew I‘d be supported and have the freedom to grow.

Tell us a bit about you and your approach


I am honest and take a consultative approach and look to deliver the best results for both clients and candidates. I’d say I’m very personable, I enjoy spending time getting to know my clients and candidates personally as well as professionally.  I’m very family orientated and I like football – I support Chelsea but don’t let that put you off!”

Get in touch if you’re looking to hire Tax Partners and Tax Director roles

If you need help to source your next tax leader or want an honest conversation about your career, get in touch with Will Short today on +44 7931 984 295 or connect with him on Linkedin. 

Tax roles Will covers:

◽️ Tax Director roles
◽️ Tax Partner roles
◽️ Associate Partner roles
◽️ Associate Director roles
◽️ Executive Director tax roles

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How contract hires can save your finance team’s sanity

overworked-and-stressed-woman-at-computer

Most finance functions have been operating with lean or reduced headcount since the 2008 financial crisis. 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 demand for specialist finance contractors has remained consistent. 

Rob McKay, director of interim recruitment at SRM takes a look at why organisations are using contractors to bolster lean teams and how to ensure you hire the best finance contract professionals:  

Recognise the extra workload finance teams are facing

Finance holds the keys to the business and in a crisis, everyone needs to know where the cash is sitting. When we factor in extra demands for advice on government financial assistance to concerns about business stability and fluctuating demand, organisations have never required so much support from their accountants and finance specialists.

Understand the extra stress finance teams are facing 

On top of an increased workload, Adele Stickland, wellness in the workplace and resilience consultant says that morale in 2020 is low, for two key reasons:

◻️ People are tired of the pandemic and eager to get back to normal

◻️ Chaos of the pandemic has created an abnormal level of fatigue

As a result, many finance professionals are facing burn out. Action is needed to prevent resignations that may further destabilise the team. 

Work out where the pressure is internally

Next, understand exactly where the pressure is, why it’s there and what do you need to do to relieve it.

What’s the real reason you’re hiring?

Once you’ve figured out where the problems lie, it’s imperative to discuss the key reason you are hiring. What’s the one core job that needs to be done? This usually revolves around fixing a problem. The clearer you can be the more successful the hire. 

Use temps wisely to take the stress away from your permanent team 

Right now, organisations are hiring temporary finance staff to take on traditional accounting roles rather than forward-thinking commercial positions – management accountants, financial accountants and financial controllers are in particular demand.

This is a good strategy. It gives incumbent teams more interesting, future-focused work and at the same time alleviates stress as a good temp is a safe pair of hands to cover core accounting work.

Consider the cost of leaving finance teams to struggle as the pandemic evolves. Ensure workloads are still achievable and clear goals are in place to support the most important work. If they’re not, hire quickly or risk losing good people.

Rob McKay, Director of Interim Recruitment at SRM

It’s a myth that the economic outlook is dampening demand for finance professionals

Hospitality and retail are struggling and it goes without saying that these are testing times. However, most business closures and large scale redundancies are due to systemic business problems pre covid. 

Whilst there are more available candidates – we have heard of some organisations receiving hundreds of applications – it’s a myth that there are lots of people with the right skills for your temp role.

A specialist finance temp recruiter will know the talent pool of career temps well, the skill sets available and will have the ability to send you five good people to consider – saving you and the team time.

Interview within 24 hours of receiving your shortlist

In any market, good people and good finance temps are hard to come by – there’s a high turnover and you can’t assume there will be 15 strong people waiting for your role. 

So if you need a temp move quickly. An efficient interview process is critical. Aim to get all the interviews done in one session, there’s nothing more frustrating than losing out to a competitor with a more effective hiring process. If you wait, your shortlisted candidates won’t be around in a week’s time. 

Extending the contract – don’t lose out

As soon as you realise you may need to extend the contract talk to your temp. If you don’t discuss where the project is moving or leave it until a week before the contract ends, the temp will already be interviewing or have another role in place. Be open and honest on timeframes. In return, your temp will be honest about interviewing for roles.

Get in touch if you’re looking to hire contractors

If you need help to source the best career contractors in finance and accountancy get in touch with me, Rob McKay, director of interim recruitment today on +44 (0) 20 3637 7808 or connect with me on Linkedin.

Why organisations hire finance temps – the summary

◽️ Take the pressure off permanent employees 
◽️ Finance temps can hit the ground running and focus on a task or project
◽️ To access specialist skills needed to complete a project quickly
◽️ Fix a problem 
◽️ Cover traditional accounting work so the team can focus on more engaging work
◽️ When permanent headcount restrictions are in place
◽️ Maternity cover 
◽️ Long term sickness cover

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Seven ways to tackle unconscious bias in finance and tax recruitment

Unconscious bias is the biggest barrier to diversity in the workplace. Has the increased use of remote working tools inadvertently helped businesses to tackle bias in the recruitment process or has the rise of video had the opposite effect? 

We talked to Rory MacSween, co-founder of  SRM, and diversity specialist, Emma Waltham, to answer this question and discuss the seven steps hiring managers can take to counter bias in tax and finance recruitment. 

What is unconscious bias?

We all form opinions of people based on first impressions. Those snap judgements are influenced by our background, formative experiences and those around us. It’s the hidden influences, if you like, that can often lead us to unwittingly ‘hire in our own image’.

1. Recognise that everyone has preconceptions 

The first piece of advice for hiring managers is to recognise unconscious bias as a concept. So be aware and adopt an open mindset when recruiting. As recruiters, we’re encouraged by our clients to source as much information on candidates as possible – that’s our job. The way we present that information to hiring managers is incredibly important and needs to be carefully considered to counter bias.

2. Focus on skills

A good recruiter needs to consider all the variables when matching candidates to a hiring managers mandate. Whilst focusing on culture and team fit can be important, it’s more likely to encourage unconscious bias. Consider focusing on skills and abilities before any other aspect of the candidate’s profile.

Putting in technical assessments for candidates at the first stage is gradually becoming more common – before the client even sees a CV. This allows the client to decide which candidate CV’s to review based on their technical competency – resulting in more diverse short lists.

“Certainly, one positive effect we’ve seen from the Covid lockdown is a willingness to do first-round telephone-based interviews. Removing that initial face to face meeting is helping to remove some of the unconscious bias from the decision-making process.”

Rory MacSween, Director, Tax, SRM Recruitment

3. Make the hiring process ‘blind’

– Remove names on CVs
– Remove education
– Remove location-based information that could indicate ethnic background

Names
We’ve seen examples of clients requesting names be removed from CVs. So they’re looking at candidate 1, 2 and 3 and so on. It’s one very simple thing you can do to remove unconscious decision making based on gender or ethnicity and make more skillset based interview decisions. 

Subconsciously, or not, we are less likely to hire someone with a different-sounding name. Ethnic minorities need to send 60% more CVs to get the same number of call-backs as this study from the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College shows. 

Education
In the tax and accountancy worlds, education is important. Whether you went to a state school v a particular private school or whether you have a degree or are educated by experience. Many of us have strong feelings on this one and would deny this is a bias! 

It’s really not common to take institution names off CVs for example. But things are changing. If we think back, we used to routinely put our date of birth and marital status on CVs in the UK. 

It was resisted at the time but seems completely normal to us now.

We think we’ll see more moves to anonymise information on CVs.

It stands to reason that someone from a poorer background, for example, just won’t have had access to the same educational opportunities. Yet we often insist that candidates must have gone to a particular institution which then unwittingly rules out a more diverse short list. 

So, you could miss out on outstanding candidates who don’t fit the ‘norm’ but have exactly the right skills.

Focusing on transferable skills rather than CV gaps allows employers to tap into talent pools of experienced women who often have hard to source qualifications and expertise.

4. Phone interview people in the first round 

Video calls are a great way to build rapport but I think there’s a danger we may start to over-rely on this in the new world to the detriment of diversity. A lot of hiring managers are ‘seeing’ people earlier in the recruitment process than they ever would have done before. For example, some recruitment firms are now relying on ‘video based CVs’ where the candidate introduces themselves over a prerecorded video.  

Our advice is that phone interviews do help focus on skills, not appearance.

Of course, even hearing a candidate’s voice can form strong impressions.

“Change is happening. We are starting to see organisations who won’t consider a shortlist without a 50-50 gender split.”

Rory MacSween, Director, Tax, SRM Recruitment

5. Go back to your graduate / newly qualified intake 

Those working in finance and tax, especially at the senior levels, say that it’s a predominantly white, middle class and male environment. According to the UK Government’s Gender Equality Monitor, just 12% of FTSE 100 Finance Directors are women and only 15% are CFOs. The 2020 Parker Review showed that across the FTSE 350, 7.5% were directors of colour. 

As we don’t always have the most diverse talent pool to draw from, it’s important to give minority voices the best chance in the recruitment process.

Going back a step it’s also about actively sourcing broader intakes at entry-level. We need to consider the talent pools from schools feeding the accounting firms, who then feed into industry. 


“There are nearly half a million women with professional and managerial qualifications who aren’t currently working but who would like to return to work. They too often face bias when they try to return because hiring managers are wary of applicants when their work experience isn’t current or they have an employment gap. 

Focusing on transferable skills rather than the gap means hiring managers will tap into this valuable talent pool of experienced women, who often have hard-to-source qualifications and expertise.”

Emma Waltham, Careers After Maternity Expert www.emmawaltham.com/organisations

6. Work in partnership with a good recruiter 

A good recruiter should be actively consulting and shaping the hiring managers wish list, educating you on the talent pool and helping you consider alternative options. 

In the past, we have had clients with requirements as specific as “we only want a Phd from Oxford.”  We’d encourage hiring managers to widen their thinking so they do find the best possible candidates, not just the typical profile or indeed hiring in their own likeness. 

For example by looking at international talent pools.

7. Consider international talent 

As more finance and tax work is offshored or near shored and more centres of excellence grow outside the UK there is a diverse pool of candidates with UK relevant experience to draw from. 

These candidates may never have visited the UK but they understand our regimes and businesses. Considering someone who’s trained overseas can give those outstanding academic credentials and technical skills that clients are looking for. 

Of course, these days it’s a little harder to sponsor people but it’s all possible.

Get in touch if you’re looking to hire

If you’re looking to hire the very best talent in finance and accounting and across the tax market get in touch with me, Rory MacSween today on +44 (0) 20 3637 7808 or connect with me on Linkedin. We are real recruiters who actively headhunt the best talent, rather than rely on the same set of candidates from a database.

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