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Would You Employ Someone Common?

17th Jun 2015
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According to research by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, legal and financial institutions impose a hidden "poshness test" when recruiting.

The implication from their findings is that if you want to get a top job with a Magic Circle law firm, a major investment bank or a big four accountant, it helps to have the right accent and educational background.

Those of us who believe that the British class system disappeared soon after the Second World War will have been surprised to learn that who you know and how you speak is still more important to some employers than what you can do.

It seems likely that most readers of this column will believe in meritocracy i.e. that quality of work and thought should be much more important than social factors when deciding who is to become the next partner in their practice. Perhaps we have all been getting it wrong?

Looked at from one perspective, if all of your clients have been to Oxford or Cambridge following their schooling at Eton and Harrow, they may turn their noses up at sly Scots or canny cockneys. The downside is that they may find themselves advised by an upper-class twit.

On the other hand, given the rates that accountants and lawyers charge these days, achieving the perfect solution would seem to be a bigger attraction for most clients than sharing happy memories of beatings by a Flashman-like prefect.

Perhaps the most encouraging conclusion that one can reach from what really are shocking findings relates to the possibility of developing our own practices going forward.

If the big organisations are too snobbish to employ the best people, that gives those lower down the food chain an opportunity to recruit high quality staff, even if we may have to put up with perceived lack of social graces.

One other point to consider is whether the trick for those who have not had the appropriate education is to go foreign.

Very few recruiters over here would have a clue whether schools or universities in Australia or South Africa are top-notch. This might explain why so many of them have successful careers in the UK.

The corollary is that those unfortunates with comprehensive school backgrounds and university education at former polytechnics might benefit by moving to the EU (while Brits are still welcome) or possibly somewhere in the former Commonwealth.


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Replies (8)

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Should Be Working ... not playing with the car
By should_be_working
17th Jun 2015 10:01

Shock News

People who have been to good schools and unis tend to get better jobs than those who haven't.

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Replying to Accountant A:
By Old Greying Accountant
17th Jun 2015 12:56

Unfortunately ...

should_be_working wrote:

People who have been to good schools and unis tend to get better jobs than those who haven't.

they don't do those jobs better, which is why we are all up the smelly river without means of propulsion.

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By k743snx
17th Jun 2015 12:21


research by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission

Or - taxpayers' money spent on the bleedin' obvious.

Have any of the Govt's austerity-mongers been checking this outfit's remit in trying to save a few coppers?

I won't, as they say, be putting my respiratory functions on hold.


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By Old Greying Accountant
17th Jun 2015 12:53

I won't employ ...

... no-one wot don't speak proper like wot I does, and nuffink will change my views on that.


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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
18th Jun 2015 17:21

"The corollary is that those

"The corollary is that those unfortunates with comprehensive school backgrounds"

Don't worry mate, some of us do pretty well in the UK. No need for the pity.






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By David Gordon FCCA
19th Jun 2015 11:39

Stuff the political correctness.


 Oh please! those of us who survive in practice tend to employ people who are able to do the job,

 Old saying: "No such thing as bad employees, only bad managers"

 My observation is the bigger the firm of accountants the more ferocious is their weeding-out process.

 It is to our profession's credit that it is remarkably ethnically diverse, we even allow Arsenal supporters, and that staff turnover tends to be much lower than the national average.

 Nevertheless costs being what they are, we are bound to prefer those who seem to be better educated and adept at communication skills.

 The days when firms took on a client's nephew twice removed, because they wanted to keep the client, died along with premiums for articles at the end of the 1960s.

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By slipknot08
19th Jun 2015 15:30


... is important: I work for a large Firm and we are - happily - diverse and proud of it. I have never 'looked down' on anyone who doesn't speak with the same accent as me (which does tend to be a bit 'BBC' when I'm at work, even though I'm a grammar school girl - and of course, out of work, I swear like a docker, so no danger of being labelled an upper class twit there!!!)

What is vitally important though is that candidates can speak - and write - the language well. The excuse that "language adapts" (which I have seen given as an apology for various "innits" and the use of "like" in every sentence whether context requires it or not) is just laziness on the part of its proponents.

I don't care what accent you speak with - it is irrelevant - but professionals do need to maintain a standard of spoken and written communication, so poor grammar, "text speak" and the like are - and should remain - totally unacceptable in a work context.

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Routemaster image
By tom123
20th Jun 2015 09:06

Robust language in my sector

Having, mostly, worked in construction, transport and manufacturing sectors I can honestly say I learnt most of my swearing at work. The language tends to be a bit less robust these days, and all the better for it in my view.

Personally I may (possibly subconsciously) vary my communication to suit my audience.

I changed from a grammar school to comprehensive for sixth form, and went to a 'Russell Group' university - but only got a 2.2, so that blighted my earlier career. Probably should have gone to the local recent Uni convert, which dishes out 2.1s to about 80%. 

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