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Could marketing solve accountancy's recruitment bind?

With many accountancy firms are struggling to recruit, Jason Ball explains how marketing could help attract more quality candidates. 

27th Jan 2020
Founder Considered Content
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Group of  candidates waiting for a job interview

Recruitment has fast become one of the biggest challenges for accountancy firms. It’s like tumbleweed out there. Take a look at the Any Answers forum over the last several months and you’ll see a number of questions from AccountingWEB readers complaining that “no one is looking for a job at the moment”.

A recent question even pointed the blame at recruitment companies, comparing them to “expensive CV forwarding companies”.

“We are expected to pay extortionate fees within very tight payment terms, which, if not adhered to, results in all offers of a suitable replacement or clawback of fees being withdrawn, even if the candidate turns out to be totally unsuitable (having mislead us at interview), or if they leave of their own accord in the first few weeks,” complained one user.

If the usual tactics like LinkedIn to referrals and online job boards aren’t yielding much, one area that is still under-utilised is ‘employer branding’.

Employer branding

In sectors with only shades of difference between what one firm offers and the next, you can still stand out with an unrivalled employee experience, communicated through exciting behind-the-scenes content that reveals what’s it’s really like to work for you.

In fact, this may no longer be optional. A Glassdoor survey found that, when making a decision on where to apply, 84% of job seekers consider the reputation of a company as an employer as important.

But it’s not only about winning the ‘war for talent’. Employer branding is just as much about attracting employees who chime with your culture, values and expectations, and so stick around for longer. Importantly, a strong employer brand will also clearly demonstrate who will not be a good fit, discouraging applications from candidates for who the process will be a waste of their time and yours.

Retain talent

In many cases, it could be up to a year before your firm sees a return on the time and cost of your recruitment efforts, so you need to retain, as well as find, great people. An authentic employer brand – coupled with a great workplace culture – will increase your chances of retaining employees (and of them helping you find others like them).

A LinkedIn survey found that companies with stronger employer brands have 28% lower turnover rates than companies with weaker ones, and the cost per hire is more than two times lower, too.

But a word of warning: businesses tend to over-inflate their perceived attractiveness to candidates. I’ve seen companies listing Apple laptops as an employee perk and making their ‘commitment to diversity’ a central part of their employer branding. In 2020, these are now merely the price of entry. Think about what makes you a truly great place to work.

Perhaps you furnish your team with Apple laptops so they can work flexibly from wherever best suits them. And perhaps your culture takes that further, with employees encouraged to photograph and share what they’re up to when they don’t have to commute to and from the office, either pursuing hobbies and interests, or spending time with their families

According to LinkedIn research, a strong employer brand is crucial to attract ‘passive’ candidates – those that aren’t actively seeking new jobs but could be tempted. It shows these candidates are more attracted by roles which challenge them and in which they can make an impact, and they place more value on workplace culture. Active candidates want strong growth prospects and the chance to develop skills. Your employer branding needs to be tailored to both.

For passive candidates, you could film a video montage – complete with outtakes – of your employees describing your firm’s culture. For active candidates, you could interview an employee who’s been with your firm since they graduated, ask them what they’ve learnt so far, and what’s next.

For inspiration, watch these

  • HubSpot’s enlightening video, starring its own staff, gives the viewer a real sense of what it’s like to work there.
  • Xero’s ‘Come Join Us’ video reveals what its employees get up to in their personal lives, as well as at work
  • Barclays’ one-minute corporate recruitment video on how it’s snapping up (kidnapping!) the world’s best graduates is high-budget, but worth a watch because it’s funny. Humour goes a long way in B2B content, especially when trying to humanise your brand for recruits, yet most professional services firms are reluctant to try it.


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