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Keeping Selection Standards High in a Candidate-Scarce Labour Market

I was talking to the owner of a small Chartered Accounting business last week who told me that they were so desperately short staffed that they would “literally take on anybody” who applied for their vacant accountant role.

A few days before, a Practice Manager in a larger firm asked for a refund on the Part/Non-Qualified Accountant test he had purchased as their candidate refused to complete it, citing the multiple job offers he had elsewhere from firms with lesser recruitment standards.

For those of us who have been around the block a few times and seen previous employment cycles where scarce candidates seem to call the shots, juggling a robust selection decision with choosy candidates is just another day in the challenges of management. However, for people less familiar or comfortable with a situation that’s showing no signs of changing anytime soon, here’s a guide for landing great selection decisions in a tough job market:


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Remember – You’re a professional services business

In a world where your clients increasingly expect your accountants to be trusted business advisors as well as, or even instead of, compliance checkers, how do you suppose they would react to the news that you are dropping the standards of the professionals in your team?

The relief for you and your team of getting to fill that long-standing vacancy is likely to be short-lived once the time, cost and frustration of rework, unhappy clients, exasperated staff questioning your ability to hire and demotivated recruits failing in their first week on the job starts to take hold.

So, if you’re not willing to lower your professional standards, how do you sell candidate testing and assessment to scarce, choosy candidates?


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An easy reference document covering the whole process from scoping the Job Description for upcoming vacancies, right through to making better job offers than your competitors and sealing the deal, and every step in between.  Written by Accounting firm Partners, HR/People Management professionals within the accounting and bookkeeping sector and drawing on established and emerging best practice in selection techniques in Australasia, the UK and US, you can have access to a wealth of practical recruitment and selection knowledge and links to external expertise and reusable templates whenever you need it.


Make the testing & assessment all about them

When candidates are weighing up which accounting business they should accept an offer from, what are they likely to value?  

Career progression? A salary that matches their skills and experience? Early opportunities to work with key clients and prove their worth? Training, coaching and development to address current shortfalls or concerns?

Isn’t that exactly what you can offer to candidates who complete your candidate assessment? How else will you identify how to make this next step on their career path a rewarding experience?

This is especially true of small/medium sized accounting practices which can be much more nimble in playing new recruits to their existing and emerging strengths than larger less agile businesses, so make sure you yell the opportunities from the rooftops in your job ads to get ahead of the pack.

If they don’t complete the assessment, it’s all going to be a drawn-out series of trial and error, rather than a targeted process that benefits the candidate as much as the business.

That’s why you want them to complete the personality questionnaire, ability, and accounting skills tests.

If they still refuse, what don’t they want you to know? Are you better off with an empty chair for a while longer?




About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers. 

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