Best Practices for Attracting Newly Qualified Accountants

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If you’ve tried to hire Newly Qualified Accountants in the last 12 months, you will likely be aware of how challenging the market has been. Due to the current job market being very candidate-driven, high-calibre newly qualified CIMA/ACA/ACCA candidates are in exceptionally short supply but remain in high demand. They often have multiple offers on the table at once. This has meant we have seen not only salary inflation, where there were a few examples of newly qualified individuals being offered over £60,000 base salaries, but also a large amount of “above market average” counteroffers by candidates’ current employers in an attempt to retain talent.

Below we will look at how businesses can give themselves the best chance of attracting Newly Qualified candidates and how they can stand out from their competition. There are multiple factors involved, which we have broken down for ease:

Salary and Package

A taboo which we believe should be discussed and led by the business at the beginning of any interview process. Candidates will appreciate transparency on the opportunity they’re applying for. The base salary will always be a significant factor in a candidate’s decision to accept or decline an offer. We have seen multiple instances of candidates who have engaged with businesses directly and do not know the salary of the role they’re interviewing for until the final stages of the process. At this stage, some candidates realise that the salary on offer is below their expectations, which results in time wasted for both parties. To avoid this and keep candidates engaged throughout, it is best to be transparent about the base salary and broader package for the role from the start.

It is also critical to consider the size of your business and the benefits package you can offer candidates. In general, larger organisations can offer more comprehensive and diverse benefits packages when compared with SMEs. Therefore, SMEs should consider raising base salaries above the market average – £2,000pa extra can significantly influence a candidate’s decision, especially in the current economic climate.

“The Sell”

For many years, clients have held the cards when it comes to interview processes. It is ordinarily the candidate’s job to show the client why they’re the right person for the opportunity. However, in today’s market, candidates are often in multiple processes at once; it is now the client’s job to sell to the candidate and showcase why they are the right business to join and what differentiates them from other companies within the same sector. We can’t stress enough how important this is in the current market. It will look different for each organisation but broadly should involve detail about the social and cultural agenda of the business, the benefits of working there, and positive personal experiences in addition to what the role will entail.

Career Development

Unless you’re open to contracting, a candidate will rarely consider an opportunity with the intention of staying in that role for 12-36 months before looking for their next external move. Looking for external opportunities can almost feel like a full-time job with the amount of time and effort that goes into searching for relevant vacancies, applying for the roles, interview preparation and time taken out of your working day to interview. It’s therefore paramount to be transparent with candidates about the genuine progression opportunities within the business and hold them responsible for their progression when they join. Promising guaranteed progression at the interview phase can be a dangerous move. If the outlook of the business changes in the future, or the successful candidate doesn’t quite perform to expectations in the timeline agreed for progression, you’ll find yourself in a situation where the candidate will lose trust in you and will no doubt start searching for a new role once again.

Hybrid working

The outlook on hybrid working has changed considerably post-pandemic. The industry standard has settled at around 2-3 days a week in the office, whilst the other 2-3 days can be spent working from home. Hybrid models work for organisations of all shapes and sizes, with no loss in productivity. Therefore, flexibility in how and where employees work should be a top consideration for businesses looking to attract newly qualified finance professionals in this candidate short market.

Businesses that require their employees to be in the office for 4-5 days a week will find that they drastically reduce the pool of candidates they want to attract due to their competition offering more flexibility and, as such, trust in how their employees work. Some businesses are going a step further, with no set hours of when and where you work as long as the work is completed to the expected standard. One particular version of this that has proven to work well is having ‘core business hours’ of 10-4, where employees will need to be available for meetings and calls. Individual work can then be completed around these times.

Another working model rising in popularity is the four-day workweek. Some businesses are leading this independently, and the UK government are also piloting a 6-month trial where over 3,000 employees across 60 different companies will be transitioning to a four-day workweek with no impact on their full-time salary. This is an approach that is currently unrivalled. Although it is not feasible for every employee in every business, we are confident that disruptive business models like this will continue to arise.

Company culture

Workplace culture is a key factor for many candidates when looking to join a new company. There is an evident shortage of suitable candidates. To make your business stand out, it is essential to show how your business can support newly qualified talent and offer routes to progression in addition to a great workplace culture. Many newly qualified candidates are young professionals who, more often than not, enjoy the social aspect of working life. Modern and open workspaces with breakout areas can be a great way to get employees socialising and keep them engaged. Many businesses also arrange informal after-work drinks at the end of the week, which will be an excellent angle for companies to sell candidates on. Companies that fail to showcase a positive company culture will find it challenging to source high-calibre professionals with all the required skills.