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Answering questions from 'The changing landscape of job hunting' webinar

Neil French and Dawn White answer questions raised in the recent webinar.

Questions from the webinar

How much ageism is there in current recruitment? And how can one avoid it?

In my opinion there is ageism but it is not systemic. Companies do try to get a balanced work force. If you take a young hip fin-tech company in Shoreditch, the CEO is probably 28 yrs old so bare this in mind. Work round it, don’t take it personally. Keep going.

I have recently moved to Manchester from India. Though accounting in India and Manchester is similar, I get feedback that I lack UK experience. How do I address that?

Very difficult as demand and supply dictates you need UK experience to compete and hit the ground running. Look for roles where your experience is relevant for e.g a large international group with Asia operations where your IAS and local GAAP is useful. A group consolidation role using your technical skills will open up opportunities in operations.

Do you have advice for working with recruiters who don't readily get back to you, for example for a particular role?

Not really, email, call, don’t bug. If they want to talk to you they will. Sometimes they do miss a trick and this is what is frustrating for candidates. Even a poor quality recruiter will know what they are looking for in a CV for their client so they will come back to you. Don't let bad service levels and lack of communication frustrate you, move on.

Aside from LinkedIn, what is the best way to get noticed? Or is it just about your network and agencies?

LinkedIn profile. Post articles if appropriate. Recruiters and network. Go to company websites if it is a company you want to work for. They maybe recruiting in finance.

Do you see insolvency work increasing yet?

Yes from an accountancy profession angle not in commerce or industry or banking unless insolvency specialist. They make hay at this time.

How open are organisations to recruiting candidates from other industries?

Not very open at all. It is a shame. Accountants qualify to go into business not a sector. I spend my life influencing clients to look at experience, skills, cultural fit, fresh eyes and learning.sometimes they are not for turning. Sadly with demand and supply the way it is, sector will become more of a key factor.

What is the best way to get Non-executive director roles? Your own network or a specialist recruiter?

Odgers Berndtson are strong here for Non-FTSE 100, Non-executive and Chairman roles as are the other SHREK firms. Your network has the most value.

What is the market situation for CAs who have moved into technology with finance systems with in IT departments?

Strong if relevant system and sector and size company. Don’t lose your finance roots. That is very important. Keep that or you become a generic IT bod. Measure the value you bring from IT to finance and sell that to a CFO.

What is the best way to keep yourself up to date?

In what way? Update technically, CPD? Use the Institute and your interest in finance and the market it is in your interest. What roles are out there? What do people need?

For an FD role, how many bullet points would you include in the CV for the section on major achievements?

I would advise: two line overview, company, t/o, ownership, sector. 4/5 bullet points responsibilities, 4/5 bullet points achievements, choose the best ones, the most valuable to the next employer.

Some job ads mention specific software knowledge as an advantage for the position. Is it worth investing the time to learn such software?

No. If you have experience or exposure then great. If you have not, learning off grid without work experience, guessing the market needs is a long time, high risk play. If you want to learn, then please do. It is an interesting extra but not possible to learn unless you are really motivated to.

How can I, as a candidate, tailor my approach to get better feedback on interviews where one has not been successful?

I'm sorry to say, feedback is only given by half decent recruiters who can be bothered. That is the truth of it. They cannot reply to everyone, they concentrate on the candidates they need at that point in time. Send an email, low pressure, "I would appreciate your feedback on my CV if you have five minutes". Leave it. If you get a response great, if not, move on.

Does fragmentation of the job hunting process also mean that roles are more likely to be of a shorter term nature or interim roles even at board level?

Not really, the fragmentation means a job could be managed by anyone of 1000's of recruiters or the company/client direct. Same options, permanent or Interim but with many recruiters, job boards, websites rather than just a handful of recruiters. Less for recruiters to more competition for us too.

NED Recruitment agencies seem to charge between £300 and £2,000 to take you on board. In your experience is this good value? Is this the key way through which companies recuit NEDs these days?

It is a small investment if they are a quality operator and have a strong track record of success. It is unusual for candidates to pay for recruiters service but it takes time, time equals money to promote candidates to their clients. Look for reviews of the recruiter and ask people they have placed for a reference. I would not pay unless I knew the recruiter and trusted their work ethic.

Given people in their late 50s/60s are having to work longer - any specific tips for this age group looking for a role?

The same applies in approach but beware, you will face ageism but there is also a need for expericence so think what you can offer; find an organisation that needs your skills if it be short, medium or long term

Are there any hashtags that are commonly used to 'find' employer listed roles, or how do I navigate through the maze of LinkedIn to find the new roles being listed?

I really have no idea. I don’t use them. Volume recruiters will. Not really for finance specialists.

Are you seeing more opportunities that allow flexible working and remote working since Covid-19?

Yes, absolutely. Flexibility, adaptability and suggesting options that make scenarios work are useful and help clients.

Do you foresee interim jobs becoming more popular as companies do not wish to commit to hiring full time permanent positions?

Yes as always, the need for interim help through changing times increases but permanent roles, building experience and demonstrating long term commitment to help long term strategy is still key.

The biggest issue for me are Job Adverts which say practically nothing and zero response from recruiters after application. What is best way to 'chase' recruiters to actually have a conversation?

It is very difficult as most recruiters only come back to you if they see something in the CV they want to discuss or is useful for clients. On the other hand it is difficult for recruiters to talk to every applicant. 300 CVs plus for a finance role on LinkedIn for example. If you do make contact, have the job number ready, title and your key areas of experience that are relevant. Keep focus on the role and your specific skills.

Do you have insights into the EU / global job market - locations, skills needs?

Personally I don’t. Globally all businesses are suffering. HSBC yesterday 35,000 global jobs going. That was happening anyway, it is in the timing of the announcement. Smaller markets will bounce back quickly I assume, Australia, smaller European Countries. I feel London will bounce back best with most opportunities, most other markets are quite provincial by comparison.

How important is it to have a website? A personal website?

Not important at all. LinkedIn profile and CV are your calling cards.

Often feel that between time of application and rejection, my CV would not have been properly read but probably rejected automatically. Any tips of how to deal with automatic rejections on websites?

Very difficult. Larger companies and recruiters use robo-reading techniques looking for key words. What a waste of time and it doesn’t work. The words are so generic and the recruiter does not pick up the nuance you are looking for. Those recruiters are highly unlikely to be able to help you. You need a consultancy that bothers to communicate with you, get to know you, build a relationship of sorts. It won't be all recruiters.

An opportunity can arise anywhere. How does one pick the most appropriate website for the level of role one is looking for? Eg. I am an experienced senior interim. Conversely where not to apply to?

Market research, talking to people, getting referrals, find out which recruiters suit your profile. It takes time, there are many recruiters offering all sorts of service levels. You may need to engage with many more than you thought. 

What sort of jobs would you recommend for over 60s these days?

Projects, systems implementation and integration, technical changes in IAS, discounted cashflows for PE, if you are not in an organisation then to add value as you get older, look at your experience that younger finance don’t have.

There seem to be quite a few PE roles, but they always specify prior PE experience - I am often a good fit but do not have any PE experience - any suggestions?

This is frustrating as PE owners believe you need to have PE experience to understand their needs, which is true to a degree. PE owners are investors not operators. For a CFO role you will need successful PE sale or transaction, that is a given. For HOF, GFC or other then you can gain experience in a different size companies and sectors that PE are in. Strong FC experience in smaller companies or larger in the same sector can take you to a PE business. Don't be offended if they say no. They have their way and they are hard to influence. A good recruiter will advise and talk to clients about you and what you offer.