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Five candidates waiting for job interviews

How three different sized firms tackle recruitment

15th Oct 2018
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Bobby Chadha speaks with three different-sized firms about the skills and techniques they use when hiring new recruits.

I have written previously about how hiring has changed with the use of technology to find candidates but also how candidates now must embrace technology to find suitable roles and keep developing their skillset.

I’m now going to focus on how three different firms ranging from small (M Parmar & Co), mid-sized (Peter Jarman & Co) and large (Propel by Deloitte - my previous employer) in size and what they look for when hiring staff into their firms.

MP & Co

What skillset do they focus on when hiring: The London-based hire accountants who can do the day-to-day work of creating a set of accounts to tax returns but also people who have experience working with technology and are comfortable using applications with clients.

They do not have a separate team who focus on ‘tech only’ because they’re a small firm. Each team member is expected to onboard clients, connect apps and get clients up and running.

However, the firm does have certain team members (typically chartered accountants) who focus on preparing accounts, complex tax returns and communicating management information.

Skills they focus on when hiring: MParmar has a number of trainees working in the firm all either part Q or up to level 2 AAT qualified. They develop employees by exposing them quickly to complex accounting and tax work whilst internally training all hires on QuickBooks and AutoEntry.

“We look for people who are committed to studying and becoming qualified and are very comfortable talking to clients face to face and over the phone,” said Vinay Parmar from MParmar. “We’re based in West London and have clients ranging from tech start-ups to traditional Middle Eastern restaurants. We need people who can easily flex between different business and client types thus communication, confidence and influencing skills are key.”

How they find hires: They have used recruitment agents in the past but have stopped as they felt candidates coming through lacked modern and communication skills. They have used word of mouth effectively, online jobs sites and have even hired trainees based on clients recommendations.

“It’s crucial for us we find people who are comfortable using apps but let’s not get carried away, they need to know their debits and credits first to ensure we can use the candidate effectively across different jobs” Parmar added.

PJ & Co

The UK representative of the QuickBooks ‘firm of the future’ competition has an interesting approach which I’ve seen present in larger firms. They have hired specialist technologists like Rowan Von Tromp who is a cloud services manager at PJCO and focuses solely on tech which can help their clients and colleagues internally. Von Tromp focuses on the following:

  • Modernise the firm with its use of tech internally with the team and also with clients
  • MTD focus, migrating clients to MTD ready apps and training clients
  • Von Tromp focuses on streamlining processes internally such as client onboarding to carrying out jobs without biases.
  • Research applications which they can use within the firm in order to help find, test and buy a select number of key apps.

How they find hires: PJCO generally advertise with online recruitment agency Reed and normally get at least four suitable candidates to go forward to interviews.

They have recently hired a 16-year-old apprentice studying AAT - a first for them.

Skills they focus on when hiring: We have always hired graduates who join us on a 3-4 year ACCA training contract. They must have a 2.1 or better but we are not really worried about what they studied.

“As part of the training contract we offer a comprehensive study package with study leave. This has meant that all our trainees have passed every exam for the last three year. All trainees must commit themselves to maintain this record” said Peter Jarman, the managing partner of PJCO.

PJCO expect their trainees to manage a portfolio of clients after two years’ experience. This requires skills such as communication, a good handle on technology, eagerness to be versatile and portfolio management where KPIs are set.

Propel By Deloitte

Propel by Deloitte is a large cloud accounting based small business firm with regional offices in London, Cardiff and Nottingham. I worked closely with the Propel team initially during my time at Deloitte.

Propel hires external and internal candidates to fit their specialist teams who focus on client delivery, internal processes, compliance, technology adoption and a number of internal contacts with Deloitte who they can call upon for more complex needs.

The different teams are structured to focus on excelling different areas of the business. For example, there is an onboarding team who concentrate on setting up clients on the accounting software, ensuring engagement letters via Adobe E-sign are signed, and most importantly the internal Deloitte processes which are at times challenging are followed.

The client delivery team are also split by bookkeepers (typically trainees), financial experts (chartered/qualified accountants), marketing and sales team, and a compliance team (accountants and auditors) who work together to ensure any management/statutory accounts produced meet the high standards set by the firm.

This siloed set-up is quite typical in larger firms and especially in firms who are used to historically working with FTSE companies. The challenge for larger firms has always been to keep the high standards set by the firm whilst trying to scale a small business offering which let’s be honest doesn’t pay as much as an FTSE company.

How they find hires: Having an internal HR function and talent acquisition team, Propel are in a very fortunate position of having a good number of applicants wanting to work at Deloitte and a team of people finding specific talent.

In the past, Propel has used LinkedIn to identify key talent in the regions it operates and works closely with the internal HR function to hire.

Being part of a large firm, Propel has hired staff from other service lines within Deloitte.

Skills they focus on when hiring: The financial experts within Propel are the face of Propel when communicating with clients.

Communication, influencing and the ability to translate management reports from Futrli/Xero with clients are key skills for the financial experts.

Financial experts are qualified experienced accountants who want to focus more on the management reporting whilst answering all types of questions from clients. Whilst they’re chartered accountants, typically statutory accounts and tax returns are completed within compliance and tax teams within Deloitte. This ensures that the financial experts remain CFO like with their clients.


So above are three different firms ranging from a small local firm to the largest in the world. All have slight differences in how they hire and the skills they seek in their employees.

The larger the firm the great amount of specialism, whereas in the smaller firms these silos tend not to exist.

When focusing on candidate skills, it was nice to hear that there is a focus on hiring people with high EQ and the ability to use technology. All firms had a sound development path where internal training took place. It will be interesting to see how the main accounting bodies help develop the accountants of tomorrow by teaching students skills beyond accounting principles.

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