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For the past five or six years, the recruitment market has been client driven.



With good opportunities for candidates on the sparse side, hiring companies had the pick of the talent pool with lower rates an added bonus. ‘If I lose them, I lose them’ has been the prevalent attitude, as clients can afford to take their time and negotiate hard; if someone doesn’t work out, there will be a string of others waiting in line for their chance.

But, the tide has now turned, and candidates are firmly in the driving seat. Today, there are more jobs available than there are candidates to fill them.

Commercially minded clients are now realising that long recruitment processes and low rates are likely to result in the loss of quality candidates to competing firms. And that means direct and indirect costs to the business will ultimately increase.

A shrinking talent pool

In 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, hiring took a hit. The big accountancy, legal and professional services players, who traditionally scooped up thousands of grads, cut their intakes dramatically, and even in some cases paid grads to take a year out. They are only just getting back to ‘normal’ levels of hiring, but the damage has been done. Lower numbers of newly qualified accountants are entering the market, and this has undoubtedly driven up the price for clients.

Conversely, candidates are in a great position! Rather than having to work hard to find good opportunities, recruiters are bombarding them with options, and they can afford to be selective. And whilst they may have had a sluggish few years, their earning potential is on the rise as clients need to offer competitive rates in order to secure those with the best qualifications and experience.

What can be done to increase the supply of quality, qualified finance professionals?

Well, this is an area where recruitment consultancies can prove great value. They can speed up time to hire through superior network knowledge, streamlined recruitment processes and strong team work. In a recent Boston Hale example, speed and efficiency proved to be the difference between a client hiring their preferred candidate, or losing out. A face to face interview in the morning resulted in an offer on the day the candidate was due to leave the country. With the client and candidate both willing to act quickly, the process was completed, with our help, within 24 hours.

A good recruitment consultancy can help firms identify and hire existing candidates, but what about the longer term?

Is it the responsibility of the traditional big hirers to identify talent earlier on, rather than relying on universities to weed out the serious contenders? Should they be focusing more on attracting school leavers and funding their professional qualifications?

Does the answer lie in creating more paid internships where companies from other sectors – from construction to retail and media – support their staff as they work towards their qualifications? Would they be willing to invest the time and resources necessary to add to the pool of talent provided by the big accountancy companies?

Should schools themselves encourage children to consider alternative career paths rather than focussing on universities as the Holy Grail? And would this help elevate those who are not from the privileged or better off middle classes into the professional sector?

Whatever is done to tackle the shortage isn’t going to change the landscape of the market any time soon. So for now, I’d recommend seeking the advice of a recruitment consultancy that is immersed in the market, and can provide the added value needed to give clients – and candidates – the edge.

By Simon Taylor, Executive Director

If you want to talk to Simon and his team about your career in Accountancy and Finance, or are looking to hire, call us on 020 7048 6970

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