Blog: Why 2019 could be a year of no compromise for accountancy and finance candidates

Eilidh Black

By Eilidh Black, Senior Consultant – Accountancy and Finance, HRC Recruitment


There has seldom been so much demand for accountancy and finance professionals. In fact, the sector is so skills-short that, instead of finding a job to fill and then looking for potential suitors – the traditional order of business – companies are now carving out opportunities specifically for strong candidates.

Talent with the right skillsets has become a precious commodity. Not so long ago, a business could place an advert on a jobs website and expect to hear from a decent number of candidates in relatively short order. Now, by contrast, you would be lucky to get more than a handful of respondents.

You could go as far as to say that the market is broken – there is huge demand for accountancy skills; but, on the face of it, little supply to fulfil it.

Of course, there are suitably-skilled accountancy and finance professionals at most, if not all, levels in Scotland. The truth of the matter is that the majority aren’t actively seeking out new roles – they’ve merely become passive. Bluntly, they know they can wait for the right position to come to them and very few are desperately looking for a new job.

Even for inexperienced accountancy staff, demand is outstripping supply by a significant factor. Counter offers, once the preserve of senior finance staff and practice fee-earners, are now relatively commonplace for part- and non-qualified accountants.

That’s made many candidates more demanding of prospective employers: they’re less willing to compromise and we’ve even seen applicants rule out a position because of minimal issues. In some cases, we’ve seen positions turned down because an interview couldn’t be held at a time completely convenient for the candidate.

The same is true of the overall benefits package being offered to candidates for financial roles. Flexible working, in particular, has become all important – if a company can’t offer it, then it may be at a serious disadvantage.

And, while historically money has been the primary motivating factor for most accountancy and financial staff, many are now looking to other benefits, whether it’s a better work-life balance, training opportunities or help with the cost of exams.

That’s forcing companies to take a step back and look at their recruitment processes and candidate offerings. Candidates may be less willing to compromise, but businesses are increasingly having to.

To a large degree, that is manifesting itself as a reflection of candidate needs. Companies are looking to provide more flexibility where they can, even if it’s 30 minutes here and there at the end or beginning of a day. In most cases, it’s a relatively inexpensive benefit to secure the right person.

We’re also seeing more give from employers in who they will consider for a position. Even if someone hasn’t used a particular software system before, they may have worked on something similar and could easily pick up what they need to know. Most of the time, that works out for both parties.

The past 12 months have been characterised by a lack of candidates and a lot of demand. If anything, 2019 is likely to be the same again, with the problem becoming more acute. Businesses looking for accountancy talent could find candidates less willing to compromise than ever.