Having spent two years at a Big Four firm and three years working in the part qualified market for Marks Sattin, I have a vast amount of market knowledge and have worked with a variety of clients within financial services. The part qualified market forms a big part of our business, however some of our clients have never recruited a PQ candidate before or are unsure of what this candidate pool looks like. So, we thought we would answer some typical questions/opinions regarding PQ recruitment below. ‘We are a small team and cannot afford to lose a member of our team to study for weeks at college’This is a common misconception from clients who have no experience in study support for junior accountants. If you are a practice-trained ACA your personal experience will be very different to accountants who have qualified in industry. It’s important to note that typically candidates don’t get sent to college for vast amounts of time, and there is always the opportunity to offer candidates online courses or evening/weekend courses taken outside of core working hours. A typical study support package towards ACCA/CIMA would look like this:- Exam and membership fees - Study materials- An additional one or two day’s leave for revision plus the exam day, per exam ‘We don’t want to invest in someone and then they leave our company’ Investment in candidates is always rewarded with harder work and longevity which are key attributes clients look for when hiring!
The ultimate goal for aspiring accountants is to become qualified and have steady career progression, and without investment by their current business, they may be more likely to seek investment from a competitor who will provide study support. "
When offering a study support package most clients can protect themselves with a clawback clause, meaning if an employee leaves during their studies or a short period after qualifying, they will have to pay back a percentage of the fees incurred by the employer. ‘Why would good candidates be on the market for a new role before they’ve qualified?’ This ties in well with the above point, whilst study support is very important to candidates, equally to that is career progression and continued professional development. I am sure if you are reading this then you will be able to relate, especially when thinking about your own decisions and choices that you have made to get to where you are today! Coming from a big 4 background myself, I know how uncommon it is to leave an ACA training programme before you are qualified - you could even say it is frowned upon. There is a completely different culture to accountants who train and ones who qualify in industry. Just because they are on the market as a part qualified accountant does not mean they are underperformers. In fact it just means they actually are committed to bettering themselves! ‘We are looking for a smart and ambitious graduate but we don’t provide study support’ In short you’re saying you want the best of the best without giving them anything in return. Smart and high achieving graduates will be sought after by many businesses. From my experience, these types of candidates can usually end up with more than one job offer on the table. For example one of my candidates recently graduated from a top university (University College London), and within a week had three offers on the table! In this scenario, more often than not, money is not a key motivator. By contrast these candidates will favour career progression opportunities, study support as well as the culture of the business. You need to make yourself competitive to win over ambitious candidates, unfortunately a good salary isn't enough. ‘We would prefer a newly qualified accountant’ Depending on the type of role a good question to ask is: Why do they need to be qualified to do this role? Part qualified candidates ultimately show value for money. A part qualified accountant with 2-3 years experience, will know how to do the job itself. For example, processing invoices, journal entries, bank recs, preparing management/financial accounts. Their salary expectations range from £33k to £44k. You can then compare this to a newly qualified accountant coming from an audit background that may never have performed a hands-on accounting role, only external audit. Their salary expectations are usually around £55k if they’re big 4 or around £50k outside the Big 4. Alongside the savings you could make, PQ accountants tend to be more willing to take on some of the transactional tasks which qualified accountants want to move away from, recently qualified ACA candidates typically do not like financial reporting roles, instead they’re looking for more ‘commercial’ roles. This is proving to be a massive challenge in recruitment. You can achieve greater longevity from a part qualified accountant as they work towards becoming qualified, especially with the help of clawback clause. ‘We prefer to hire directly for junior roles’ With everyone looking to cut costs now more than ever, it also means there are an abundance of candidates and more people applying for jobs. One of my adverts received over 2,000 applications! This may seem like the ideal situation with plenty of options to choose from but the reality is that the majority of applications are candidates who are not suitable for the role. A lot of job seekers have the ‘throw everything against the wall and see what sticks’ kind of approach. And the reality of finding the right CV becomes ever more daunting. By using a recruiter who specialises in this industry, and who spends their days building relationships with these candidates, you can cut this down to receiving a few top quality profiles tailored to your business. Not only will this save you time, but you will also receive an extra level to the interview process. Speeding up the entire hiring process (especially if you are looking to replace a team member who is leaving, this notice period window can be crucial). As everyone in business likes to say; time equals money! Long hiring processes can mean losing candidates to other offers, or losing their interest if you make them wait too long - it doesn't reflect well on the business. At that point you may find yourself starting the whole search process again, not ideal or cost effective. If you would like to discuss a part qualified role, or if you're looking to expand your team please get in touch with me here.
The part qualified market is huge and forms a big part of our business, however some of our clients have never recruited a PQ candidate before or are unsure of what this candidate pool looks like.