Awards – Ladders to the top

Many employers of finance staff will be alarmed to learn that at any one time, one in three UK accountants are registered with a recruitment consultancy.

And if this isn’t bad enough, Robert Half Associates reckons there are another one in three who regularly browse the job pages and could be tempted to send off their CV if anything catches their eye.

For senior partners casting their eye round their practices, or finance directors gazing over their department, this is not a happy situation.

The content expressions on the faces of two-thirds of their staff, rather than reflecting satisfaction in their current posts, may have more to do with the prospect of an exciting new job elsewhere.

By encouraging staff to read the accountancy press, employers could be inadvertently encouraging staff to leave, rather than ensuring they are kept up to date with the latest developments.

Any employer wanting to test their staff loyalty may want to check past issues of Accountancy Age to see whether it is the recruitment or the news pages which are the most well-thumbed.

Given this situation, it is not surprising recruitment adverts are a very important tool for businesses looking for new accountants, and for the recruitment consultants which many employers use to find staff. According to Jill Rowe, a Robert Half consultant: ‘Recruitment ads are a vital tool and we actively promote them, but you have to pick the media you use carefully.

‘You mustn’t treat job ads like shopping lists. They are a marketing tool in the widest possible sense.’

The Accountancy Age Best Recruitment Advertisement of the Year award is designed to reward the best solo or campaign accountancy recruitment advertisement.

It must have been run in the press – national or trade – between May 1998 and May 1999. The award will be given to the consultancy, agency or direct client which has managed to communicate its vacancy message in the most successful way.

Anyone wishing to enter has to contribute details on the number of respondents, the calibre of the candidates, innovation in the message and, in the case or a consultancy or agency entry, a case study from the client. The closing date for entries is Friday 13 August.

So what does make a good recruitment advertisement?

For the person placing the ad, the best way of judging this is in terms of response – how many applications they get from suitable candidates.

But beauty is also in the eye of the beholder, and in the case of the accountancy profession it seems that the beholders, in other words the tens of thousands of jobs page browsers, are a cynical bunch. Understandably, jobs page browsing is a somewhat illicit activity.

Those tracked down by Accountancy Age were happy to talk about their habit at length, but only on condition their anonymity could be guaranteed, particularly from their current employer.

One such individual – chief accountant with a mid-size transport company – had mocking words for some of the more wacky styles of recruitment ad.

He also criticised those that overused management-speak without giving much information about the actual role which was being advertised.

‘The designers of these ads appear to have overdosed on their own marketing spiel,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t work for someone with a stupid advert.’

Another jobs page browser – this time a Big Five senior accountant – said: ‘A good ad is one that grabs your attention and makes you think it is something different from the others.’

But, speaking from experience, he had harsh words for those advertisements that appeared to exaggerate remuneration levels. This, he pointed out, led to much wasted time for all parties involved.

He also referred to another use for recruitment ads, particularly for those who work in specialist areas. For the more sophisticated jobs page browser, the recruitment pages act as something of a secondary gossip column, highlighting who is hiring, who is firing, and who is quitting.

‘You can see where there is high staff turnover, and you normally know roughly who works there,’ he said.

However, it is far from true to say that all accountants get their jobs through recruitment ads. Many use recruitment consultants as their primary method of job-hunting.

For others, it is business and social contacts and ex-colleagues, ‘the grapevine’, which has led them into their current position.

This is particularly true for those who work in audit who have extensive contact with their clients and often end up working for them.

In areas where there are skills shortages, particularly tax and senior positions of all kinds, many employers, sometimes via their recruitment consultants, are resorting to headhunting.

But recruitment advertisements remain a vital staging post between potential employee and employer.

Any ad, however, is somewhat limited by the job on offer.

In the words of another anonymous accountant: ‘The only ones that really appeal are those that advertise three-days-a-week for £100k a year, but unfortunately there aren’t many of them.’


Free entry

Closing date for entries: 13 August 1999

Ceremony: 3 November 1999

Venue: Natural History Museum, London

For an entry form: call 0171 316 9554



If you have yet to submit your entry for the Accountancy Age Awards for Excellence – there is still time.

We are now accepting entries up to 13 August. So if you want to see your trainee, finance team, large, small or medium-sized firm, public-sector achievement or annual report and accounts applauded at our November gala contact us for an entry form now. You can email your request to us or contact us by telephone (see above).

Alternatively you can photocopy the form opposite and return it by post with your entry.

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