Group Accountant

The story of a recently qualified CA making her first move into industry

Background

It's natural to be apprehensive about trying something new.

We were approached by an oil service company who had been struggling to recruit an experienced Group Accountant for their growing team. They had engaged with another recruitment agency who had been actively sourcing for the role for several weeks, but had failed to find someone who really hit the mark at interview.

They were looking for a recently qualified accountant, ideally making their first move into industry, whom they could develop over time. The Finance Director was trying to future-proof his team. He wanted someone who could work closely with the Financial Controller to develop robust systems and processes, foster strong cross-functional relationships and provide more meaningful financial information to their Management teams. He hoped that within two to three years, this individual would be ready to step into the Financial Controller's shoes when she was promoted to the FD role.

Unfortunately the search so far had proved difficult. There were plenty of suitable CA's on the market, but none of the candidates presented had the 'spark' the client was looking for; someone with real drive and determination to be instrumental in the overall improvement of their business. Essentially someone who wanted to make their mark, rather than just coming in to do a job.

Vero was engaged on an exclusive basis to manage their recruitment process.

Sourcing and selection

As the role had been active for a few weeks, most of the newly qualified accountant's in Aberdeen were aware of the role. Friends and colleagues had all received the same emails from agencies with the job spec, and naturally shared this around. Our first job was to ensure that the brand messaging was right and that the employer was being presented correctly to individuals who could be a suitable match for their requirement.

It's really difficult making a move from the profession, especially if the potential employer in question isn't an existing client/a company you have prior knowledge of. This is why we provide far more meaningful information at an early stage, rather than a job description with generic bullet points and a link to the company website.

We don't use generic job boards. You wont find Vero adverts running on S1 jobs or Indeed.com. We do have our own Jobs page, and we use our company LinkedIn page to highlight some of our live vacancies. However many of our positions are never advertised, and are handled on a highly discreet basis.

This is why we like to build relationships with accountants who are passively considering a move (i.e. not actively job hunting) or those who are just keen to connect to keep up with key market trends and get some career advice.

For this role, we used a mix of content based social media marketing and active headhunting using our own network. From here, we worked closely with the individuals who were potentially interested in the role, ensuring that they had all of the information necessary in order to make an informed decision before committing to an application.

Shortlisting

We're very selective about who we work with - both candidates and employers.

Our shortlists consist of no more than four profiles. These include detailed notes we've taken from our interviews with the applicants, followed by their career history.

There are many reasons why we cap our shortlists to a maximum of four, but the main benefit is so that candidate has a higher chance of securing an interview, and ultimately the role.

When employers receive ten, twenty or thirty CV's, they have no option but to skim read and make quick decisions based on job titles and salary requirements, rather than taking time to understand your individual motivations, achievements and aspirations.

Upon presenting the shortlist we had a follow up call with both decision makers - the Finance Director and Financial Controller. On average, we discussed each candidate in detail for around fifteen minutes.

All four candidates were invited to interview the following week.

Interviews

It's one thing discussing a role with a recruiter, but it's a different thing entirely trying to "sell" yourself at interview. It can be a very daunting process for many people; whether you get nervous or not, there's always pressure to present yourself well and make a positive impression, regardless of outcome. You just never know where that person could be in future...

We always hold thorough interview preparation sessions to give you the very best chance of securing the role. Now we're all meeting over Teams/Zoom for most first stage interviews, it's about far more than "dress smartly, smile and give a firm handshake"!

Softer skills, how to prepare for specific questions, the format of the interview itself with questions likely to arise, backgrounds of the interviewers etc. These are all things we feel set you up to present the very best version of yourself at interview.

You'll always know the timeframe for interviews and feedback up front; i.e. how many people are being interviewed and when you'll know the outcome. No more waiting around for weeks for an answer, unsure of what's going on in the background.

On this occasion, prep sessions were held with each candidate 48 hours before their interview to give them adequate time to prepare and come back to us with any further questions they had. Following each interview, we caught up with each candidate by phone to gauge their thoughts, and find out if there were any areas they didn't get the chance to cover during their interview. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we don't give examples we later regret.

Upon completion of the interviews, we held a thorough debrief with the employer. During this, we discuss their initial thoughts on each candidate, strengths, weaknesses and their overall impression. It's also a chance for us to reinforce those areas you didn't quite get the chance to cover/examples you wanted to put forward.

All four interviews went well, but two candidates in particular stood out to both the Controller and Director, so we scheduled second stage interviews for the following week. The unsuccessful candidates were regretted professionally, with detailed feedback as to why they were unsuccessful. It's something we feel is incredibly important, and we only work with employers who share this belief.

The final interviews included a presentation; we guided each candidate through the process thoroughly, including previewing their presentations and providing support as required.

Outcome

Both the Finance Director and Financial Controller commented that their decision was made difficult by the fact that they had been presented with exceptional candidates, who were well prepared and were obviously very capable.

However, one candidate stood out due to her open communication style. She had also commented from the first interview that she "just clicked with the Controller and Director, they're my kind of people". It's great when the feeling is mutual!

But this was still a massive decision and she needed time to consider. We gave her space (we're not sales people) and were there to answer any questions and give our unbiased advice as needed. After two days, she accepted the offer and resigned from her employer.

The unsuccessful candidate was regretted professionally, and was provided with detailed feedback as to why the other candidate was selected after the second interview. He left with a positive impression of their business and was grateful for the time they'd spent invested in the process, and for giving him some positive feedback with areas to work on for his next interview.

Every project is different, but this project took just over four full weeks to complete from sign off to acceptance of the offer. It's relatively quick for a two stage interview process, but the client was fully invested, and due to our unique model, we were able to keep up momentum for the applicants.

This is what the successful candidate, and the client, had to say about their experience working with Vero.

Candidate

"I'm often approached on LinkedIn by recruiters keen to connect. But from my first conversation with Andrew I knew my experience with Vero would be different.

They aren’t just interested in a job title and salary requirements, they go FAR beyond that. Andrew took a lot of time and care at the outset to get to understand me as a person, what my personal motivations were and where my aspirations lie. He was also very focussed on finding me the right boss, or as he called it, a mentor. Becca and Andrew understood that I didn't just want to jump into any industry role, it had to be right, and it had to fit with my personal five year plan.

With Andrew and Becca, it really is quality over quantity, so much so that I secured the first role they presented me with. The level of support they provide through the application process really goes above and beyond; it helped my confidence greatly and I honestly don't think I would have secured this role without their additional support and guidance throughout the process to make sure I was adequately prepared.

It's a pleasure to recommend Vero.

I honestly can't thank you enough."

Employer

"This was our first experience working with Vero, and I must say they've blown me away. I've used recruitment agencies for most of my career, both as a job seeker, and as an employer, and the service has always been very transactional and patchy in terms of quality.

From the outset, their professionalism and energy set them apart. They were clear in their communication, managed the entire process seamlessly and provided us with a shortlist of highly targeted candidates, all of whom we could have hired into the business.

I will be recommending Vero to my peers without hesitation, whether they're looking for their next senior move, or hiring a key member of their team.

Thank you again."

Making your first move into industry from professional practice can be daunting. So many different paths, so many different benefits packages (and so many recruiters). It can be really difficult to know where to start, and to work out which opportunities are right for you.

If you're considering your options and would like to have a confidential discussion to gain some open, honest and impartial advice, we'd love to hear from you.

The best way to start a conversation is to contact us directly on 01224 784000 or by emailing andrew@verorecruitment.com.