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Attracting and securing the right talent

According to research carried out by the Daily Telegraph, You Gov and EasyJet, attracting high calibre employees is the major issue affecting the UK’s SME businesses.
In a survey of more than 1,000 board level leaders, 43% of those from organisations with between 20 and 500 staff said that accessing talent had the biggest impact on how they ran their business. Whilst there is no denying that the war for talent has increased for qualified finance professionals, certain clients across the South East are still enjoying success in hiring the most sought after profiles by adopting a pro-active, strategic approach. 

Capturing interest

Seeing as recently qualified accountants looking for work are made aware of an average of 15 opportunities, clients need to differentiate themselves. Having a clear vision of where the company is heading and how the role on offer will impact this is imperative, whilst also outlining how joining your company will develop the individual’s skills and career prospects in the medium term. The depth and quality of information that both, the prospective employer and recruiters, can provide candidates to gain initial interest, is key.
The lack of available talent has clearly increased the requirement to approach passive candidates, where the process to gain their interest is still more complex. In 2013, shortlists for qualified accountant vacancies would generally comprise of candidates who have actively registered with recruiters, whereas now, circa 30% of candidates have been approached on a specific vacancy to gain their interest. The quality and depth of information available, as well as a willingness of the business to meet the candidate on an informal basis prior to an interview process, will therefore significantly increase the chance of having a selection of applicants to interview.

Interview stage

More than ever before, interviews now need to be a two-way conversation. Clients who are taking the time to understand the individual and their motives, as well ascertaining if their skills match the requirements for the role, are enjoying far greater success in securing their preferred candidate. A fast growing accountancy practice in Hampshire that has hired over 20 new employees in the last two years dedicates the initial interview purely on getting to know the individual, and understanding their motivations to determine if there is a cultural match fit with the business – technical questions are left for a second interview.  Whilst motivations are clearly personal, recurring themes for Millenials include a defined career path (including clear potential for earning increases), a professional development programme and the opportunity to make a valued contribution to a company’s performance.
In such a competitive market, clear, constructive feedback post interviews and a fast process is also key. With the strongest new qualified accountants securing roles within a fortnight of registering, the flexibility and speed of a prospective employer can make a huge difference to their success which often presents SME with a significant advantage over large corporates businesses.

The offer

Whilst salary and core benefits (pension, bonus, medical insurance etc.) remain key factors, particularly given the increase in counter offers from candidate’s existing employers, job offers made by employers are becoming increasingly varied and personal. Flexibility in hours, access to home working and dress down cultures are more prevalent, as are smaller incentives such as Fit Bits, gym membership, and even taking an extra day’s leave on your birthday.  In short, candidates are attracted to socially responsible employers who invest in their people both financially and also in their career development. 


The challenge for employers is not just solely in identifying talent, but in having a clear and attractive proposition and knowing how to package it. If you’d like help in securing the right talent for your SME business please contact, Stephen Howes, Operating Director, Michael Page Finance.
Stephen Howes
T: +44 2380 206440
M: +447827334716