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As many countries experience a reduction in growth, Insight asks recruitment firms how this is affecting the job market and what tips they have for job hunting in a slowdown. By Tim Cooper, business journalist.
Several European countries look as if they are slipping back into recession and many others outside Europe are experiencing a slowdown, largely thanks to the ongoing Eurozone crisis. Recruiters around the world say the market for accountants with the right experience remains buoyant but they also have some useful tips for job hunting in such a challenging environment.
Tony Stevens, manager, Hays Senior Finance in the UK, which is among those countries in recession, says: ‘In a competitive jobs market, it is imperative that people pay attention to every step of the process and don’t neglect the basics. From thoroughly checking the spelling and grammar on your CV to not arriving late to the interview, make sure an employer has no reason to doubt your professionalism and enthusiasm for the role.
‘Tailor your CV and application for every job you apply for. Think about notable achievements that will help you stand out from the crowd and explain the personal contribution you have made to your organisation’s success.
‘Interview preparation has always been important, but is even more so in this market. Don’t just reply on the company’s website, make use of Google and LinkedIn to research the people you are meeting and try to find common ground. Think about the style of the interview, for example, if it is competency-based find out what competencies they will be looking to cover and prepare examples for them. Personality and cultural fit is a huge factor in the recruitment process, so think about how you fit with the company’s vision and values, which will usually be outlined on their website.’
Stevens’ biggest tips for a qualified accountant who is out of work or otherwise affected by the downturn are to stay positive and be proactive. ‘Despite the concerns in the markets, there are signs of growth across the UK,’ he says. ‘Use your time wisely, attend as many networking events as possible and keep up to date with any economic or legislative changes. Spend time working on your CV, interview techniques and presentation skills so you are ready for interviews.’
Steve Morrissey, managing director for East Coast and mid-West USA, Michael Page International, says the North American market seems to be improving. ‘Some recruitment stages have slowed and job offers have lengthened due to the unease in Europe but we are not seeing a slowdown or stop in the actual job growth,’ he says.
For anyone struggling to find the role they desire, he says: ‘You need to be involved in professional networking and even cold calling companies you are interested in. Be aggressive, diligent and active on a daily basis.’
Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand, says the job market in his region is also holding up well generally. But some sectors fare better than others, so candidates should research the demand for their job function including recruitment and salary trends to gain an understanding of demand for their skills.
‘Many jobseekers use social media to enhance a potential employer’s perception of them,’ says Deligiannis. ‘For example, you can create a LinkedIn profile and leverage the network. Or you could show your passion for your specialism by blogging about latest trends. This can highlight your expertise to a potential employer and show them what you could bring to the company. If you don’t want to create your own blog, you could post a response with pertinent advice and comments on blogs of relevance to your specialism or industry.’
He recommends reviewing your online profile regularly and if necessary editing content and updating privacy settings.
‘The length of the recruitment process varies, so be prepared for anything!’ adds Deligiannis. ‘Some organisations are very swift as they believe a quick recruitment process will allow them to secure talent ahead of competitors. Others run a lengthy and detailed recruitment process. You need to be prepared for either scenario.’
Finally, Deligiannis says cultural fit has become so important to hiring managers in Australia that it now often rates above a 100% match to the necessary technical skills. ‘Research the company to be able to clearly demonstrate how you are an ideal fit,’ he says.
Steve Saah, director of permanent placement services at Robert Half International in Washington DC, says: ‘The big difference in a downturn is that people have to be a lot more patient, persistent and maybe a bit aggressive. Use every resource available: continue to refine your resume and tailor it to the job; networking in person can make a dramatic difference in your search; follow up on every lead and opportunity you have. Little things like sending a thank you note after interview can separate you from the other candidates.’
Saah encourages any candidates not working to look for consulting or temporary positions. ‘We also encourage them to look for volunteer work, and get involved in professional associations because that can get them back in the work force and separate them from people who are not doing any of that. It leads to a lot of great networking opportunities as well.’
Saah says: ‘Go to as many in-person working events as possible – that’s critical. Often when you meet people it may not lead to a specific job with them or their organisation, but you never know whom they might know. Meeting people can lead to many productive conversations. Also think about your personal network and who they know? One last tip: keep positive. That is easier said that done when you apply for a lot of jobs and you don’t hear back, but that attitude can come across to potential employers.’
Here are some more great tips from recruiters in Asia.
Cheryl Ann Szetoh, manager of commerce finance division, Robert Walters Singapore, says: ‘Ensure you are moving for the right reasons and not for the sake of changing jobs or because everyone else around you seems to be. When you move, ensure you are value-adding to your CV, whether it’s a new skill set you would pick up or a new industry you are entering.’
Angel Lam, manager of commerce finance division, Robert Walters Hong Kong, says: ‘Candidates seeking management accountant positions need to be able to interpret figures to a non-financial audience and to analyse figures such as budget versus actual, forecasting, planning and modelling. Advanced Excel skills are also very important in financial modelling and analysis to assist in business planning and strategy.’
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