Accountancy & Management: No room for grey backroom boys

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The Independent Online
ACCOUNTANCY is a long way from the dull backwater that many outsiders imagine it to be, writes Roger Trapp.

In an employment market described with some understatement by the recruitment specialists as 'competitive', the grey backroom bean-counter need no longer apply.

Instead, according to a survey by Robert Half, recruitment consultants, team players and those with outward personalities are likely to be favoured.

The survey asked 200 personnel and finance directors what they would look for in a candidate who already demonstrated the ability to do the job. Some 27 per cent said they would choose those they felt would best fit into their organisation. And 25 per cent believed an 'outgoing and pleasant nature' would clinch the interview.

Personnel managers tended to put more emphasis on general appearance and manner, while finance managers favoured enthusiasm and energy. Other qualities were regarded as far less important, with communication skills and sense of humour quoted by fewer than 10 per cent of those surveyed. Only 3 per cent admitted to trusting gut feeling.

But it appears there is another, less readily admitted, factor they take into account: age. According to a report in next month's issue of Accountancy magazine, most chartered accountants who have been unemployed for a year or more are men in their forties and fifties. 'The long-termers are mainly men because women have not yet reached senior positions in large numbers,' it says.

It is estimated that 600 to 700 members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants have been out of work for more than a year. The general belief is that a candidate's marketability starts to decline after about nine months.

Jeff Grout, managing director of Robert Half, said: 'Obviously, the most important consideration for an interviewer is that the candidate has the requisite skills and experience to do the job. The interviewer must then ensure that the candidate will complement the team already in place.

'Therefore, the personality characteristics of the individual and their compatibility with the rest of the team are of vital importance.'

All very well. But how do ambitious newly-qualifieds demonstrate these qualities?

Mr Grout has hosted evening seminars on the subject. The focus was on how accountants should prepare themselves for the job search, since making a career move today is much more than simply changing jobs.

'The job search involves careful planning, a thorough exploration of the options available, the preparation of an effective CV and a successful marketing campaign,' Mr Grout said.