As recruiters, the most frequent question we get asked is “Any sign of improvement in the job market?”
It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer for accountancy and finance candidates because this particular specialism has experienced dramatic changes in hiring practice throughout 2016. Possibly the most dramatic in the 20 years we have provided financial resourcing services.
The decline in commodity prices and the subsequent intense focus on cost reduction directly impacted the pattern of hiring for accountancy and finance personnel.
Roles which historically commanded significant salaries with operators, such as project and JV accountants, were few and far between during 2016 but since the turn of the year jobs for these particular skills sets have increased.
Unfortunately, more junior roles, such as accounts payable, declined as a result of outsourcing but conversely, credit controllers (reflecting the cash is king mentality), tax and technical accountants are in demand with more emphasis on analysis and strategic decision making roles.
Professional qualification is an essential selection criteria with very capable qualified by experience candidates now out of work for over 18 months.
In our most recent salary guide we commented on the pattern of “Goldilocks Recruitment” with hiring managers determined to hire people who are “just right”, under the perception that there is a bountiful supply of candidates.
A combination of candidates leaving the region to secure employment and apprehensive passive candidates means that the accessible talent pool of experienced, mid-senior candidates is actually relatively small. This is creating opportunities for professionals who are ready to make the next move in their career.
Our annual salary guide was published in November, and at that time we reported on the predominant pattern of permanent recruitment. However, in the past two months the trend has completely switched to a higher rate of temporary assignments as lean finance departments seek a quick, effective solution to manage year end accounting and excessive workloads. Based on our experience during December 2016 and 2017 so far, we anticipate healthy job flow for contract roles where headcount rationalisation has been too severe. More client organisations are entering a period where evolving business plans are now being realised and strategy execution requires different skill sets which are creating new vacancies.
Salary levels have been impacted, particularly for those applying for jobs for which they are over-qualified. For others, there has been the sharp realisation that they had previously benefited from an over-heated market where total reward packages were inflated.
Often there is no rise in incremental salary for accountancy personnel who accept promotions or added responsibility. This is damaging morale and is accentuated by a lack of career progression within departments which have been significantly streamlined.
Within practice, firms are struggling to meet their need for tax and audit accountants, frequently competing for talent with the financial services sector.
Although there is increased job flow from the oil and gas sector, the past couple of years have been disheartening, with the more buoyant transport and technology sectors now appealing to candidates.
At the Executive level, the unforgiving business environment exposed a chronic skills shortage which fuelled the appetite for cross sector hiring. An outcome of the restructuring turbulence is that organisations are now taking a more cautious approach when hiring. But this is to be welcomed because it is driving a change in recruitment practice with much greater scrutiny of the process and greater deliberation over remit, role fit, experience and accomplishments.
Please visit www.thorpemolloy.com for current vacancies managed by the Accountancy and Finance team while our salary guide (at www.thorpemolloy.com/resources/) provides details of the current rates of pay for Accountancy and Finance professionals.
Suzanne Burr is Business Manager, Accountancy & Finance at Thorpe Molloy Recruitment