Firms willing to give applicants a second chance

When starting out on a career, most people set their sights high. They know
the senior roles command the largest salaries and have the most interesting and
varied work.

Many embarking on a career in accountancy therefore target the larger, more
prestigious, firms. As a consequence, the leading practices have the luxury of
turning away unsuccessful applicants in droves.

But how do the larger firms treat those who desperately want to work for them
but maybe didn’t quite cut the mustard in first interviews? For example, do they
encourage qualified accountants, with a few years under their belts, to apply
again if they were turned away first time round? Or is it one strike and you’re

Stevan Rolls, who heads human resources at Deloitte, says his firm has only
formulated a policy allowing graduates to reapply, but has not extended this
officially to qualified accountants. Graduates can reapply after 12 months have
elapsed, giving them sufficient time to address the issues that led them to
‘fail’ the first interviews.

“With experienced hires, we don’t have the same policy” say Rolls. “We do not
have a standard reapplication process; we treat each application on its own
merits. We would expect candidates to be applying for more than one job at a
time across different firms. If someone got close to securing a job with us, we
might reach out and try and match them with another role.

Whatever the final outcome, we want them to take away the message that they
should keep us in mind should other opportunities arise.”

A very similar position to Deloitte is taken by Ernst & Young. It also
has no specific policy for dealing with previous qualified applicants. Shirley
Jackson, its recruitment director (EMEA), points out they always ask candidates
if they can keep their details on file should a future role arise.

Jackson says they always keep an open mind and would definitely see someone
again if their career has shown progression and their experience now matched a
specific role requirement.

Interestingly, KPMG is currently reviewing how it handles reapplications from
experienced candidates. Lesley Winterflood, senior manager in KPMG’s experienced
hire section, explains: “We don’t have a published policy on reapplications, but
we are aiming to bring in a more formal process in the coming months on how we
review ‘near miss’ candidates. We will be encouraging our hiring managers to be
more pro-active in keeping in touch with strong candidates who, for want of a
little more experience, looked like a good fit.

“We try and make our recruitment process as open and transparent as possible.
People are our business, so we want to make the recruitment process as positive
as possible. We always bear in mind that candidates could be future employees or
even future clients.”

And the mid-tier accounting firms? Are they willing to allow candidates to
reapply? Alistair Budd, HR partner at BDO, explains its position: “If someone
applies for a role at BDO and secures an interview but is not successful, we
suggest they reapply in 12 months. However, if someone applies but doesn’t
secure an interview, we allow them to reapply in six months.

“We treat each candidate as individuals and on their own terms. We like to
pass back useful feedback on how they performed, perhaps helping them focus on
areas where they can make improvements.

“In the meantime, being realistic, we also encourage unsuccessful candidates
to try other firms and we can suggest useful jobs boards for finding out about
alternative jobs.”

The situation is similar at UHY Hacker Young. James Lodder, an HR officer,
describes its approach: “We don’t actively encourage reapplications but, unlike
a lot of our competitors, we don’t discourage them. In this year’s graduate
intake, two out of the eight we hired had been rejected the previous year and
they’d both picked up more experience and interviewed much better the second
time around as a result.”

Lodder says Hacker Young sees a clear benefit in allowing people to reapply.
“If someone reapplies it means they have a genuine interest in working for our
business. It also shows that, even though they were rejected by us, they’ve had
a positive experience and they can see themselves as part of our firm from a
cultural-fit perspective.”

Ed Hussey, HR director at Menzies, admits they “neither encourage nor
discourage reapplications. There are no terms regarding reapplying.”

Under the right circumstances, Menzies might consider a candidate who has
already applied. Hussey states: “It depends entirely on the circumstances – we
may have a great candidate but no opportunities, in which case, we may contact
them again in the future.”

Cooper Parry, again with no formal reapplications policy, is always happy to
hear from previous employees, and has a track record of welcoming back former
colleagues. The firm runs an active alumni network to keep in touch with people
and track how they are progressing. And it does see strong benefit in

Olivia Parrish from its human resources department comments: “We absolutely
recognise that to manage talent effectively, sometimes people need to develop
their skills and experience elsewhere or that a move is the right thing for them
at that time. We have many examples of team members who have rejoined us after
spending time elsewhere. This means they bring new skills and a fresh outlook.”

While this is a snapshot of the leading players, it’s clear most firms will
look at reapplications with open minds, and will reconsider qualified
candidates, especially if it was a near miss first time around and a suitable
role is currently available.

So, if you still hanker after working for one of the larger firms, keep in
regular touch, stay positive and you might get lucky and land that dream job.

Neil Boom works for

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