When helping somebody to find a new job, I offer market and salary advice and support them with everything from their CV content to their interview technique, and contract negotiations.

Throughout the process, many factors can affect the success of a job search, but it is during the interview that both parties genuinely discover if the chemistry is right.

The best interviews are always a two-way affair where both sides are not only selling themselves but also deciding whether they think there is a future together.

From an applicant’s point of view, in my experience, it is the people who are prepared, have done the research, and are keen to make a good impression that comes out on top so, even if you’re not yet passionate about the business in question, you need to show you are.

Assuming all goes well, at the end of your interview you will be asked whether you have any questions for the interviewer. Never decline. By opting not to ask a question, the final impression you leave will be that you either weren’t engaged in the conversation or you haven’t done your homework and aren’t interested in the business.

It pays to think of questions beforehand, however, be careful what you say, as there are some questions you cannot afford to ask, including:

Something Google could answer.
A common mistake people make when trying to show a curious mind is asking more about what the company does, who the competition is, or what clients the firm works with. Any questions you could have conceivably discovered the answer to already need to be avoided. Before an interview, it is your job to learn as much as possible about the company and the last thing you want to do is to come across as being unprepared.

Anything salary or benefits related.
The terms of employment are yet to be discussed so, while you may think questions like “What would my starting salary be?”, “How often would I get paid?”, “When is the next performance review?”, “Would I get healthcare benefits?” show the employer that you are keen, the reality is that they only serve to make you look focused on the wrong things.

Questions starting with the word “Why”.
People are predisposed to take a defensive position when faced with a question beginning with “Why”. Instead, try to rephrase your queries to be less confrontational i.e., rather than “Why did the company do …”, try “What is your opinion on …”.

What happened to the person before me?
Knowing what happened to the previous person in a job is important but, as tempting as it may be, this is information your recruitment consultant should be able to supply and not something you need to ask. Hopefully, it will be offered during the interview but, if not, it is best to steer clear of the topic and pick it up with your consultant, as you don’t want to give the impression that you have concerns about the opportunity.

Do you monitor internet usage, work emails, or social media?
While a valid concern, this is something best left unsaid. Often, it gives the impression you have something to hide and, on a similar note, in the lead-up to an interview, it is also wise to review your social media accounts to make sure there is nothing critical of your current employer or any posts that could be conceived negatively when viewed out of context.

While most recruiters agree that “Thank you, but I don’t have any questions” is the worst possible response when the tables of an interview are turned, your goal is to build on the rapport you have created and ask a few smart and thoughtful questions that not only show you have been paying attention during the conversation, but you have done your homework.

Inspiration can arise from anywhere. It could be a place you visit, someone you meet or, more recently for me, a movie I watched.

Hopefully, Top Gun: Maverick needs no introduction but, without wanting to highlight my age too clearly, it is a famous quote from the 1986 film that led me to think about how “the need for speed” is vital if you want to become the best Navy fighter pilot in the US, but it is equally important in the (slightly less glamourous) world of recruitment.

And, while it is not a death-defying mission into the unknown, presently, competition to attract talent is as fierce as I can recall in over 20 years of practising recruitment in the North East.

Businesses’ intention to bring new people in has soared well above pre-pandemic levels and continues to head skyward, but the severe shortage of quality candidates brings a serious challenge, even if you have a wide network of people at your fingertips.

A sentiment supported by the CIPD’s most recent Labour Market Report, spring’s most popular response to hiring difficulties was to raise starting salaries. An obvious but short-term fix, the approach comes with a warning as there is a limit on how far you can go before negatively affecting the morale of your existing team.

Encouragingly, the firms I am advising are also looking at other approaches to tackle the challenges. Upskilling the existing workforce, more flexible methods of operating, and a focus on improving job quality are ways used to influence decision-making but, from a recruiter’s perspective, the speed you engage and take decisions often correlates directly with the rate of success.

You see, generally speaking, the best person for a role is unlikely to be actively looking for new openings in the job market. The perfect people always have options, and it is often only through existing relationships that they can be enticed to explore a new opportunity.

Now, more than ever, the relationship between business and recruitment consultants is key. If you can find the right partner, it will allow you to exploit their market knowledge, access their network, and capitalise on their expertise, reputation, and ability to generate interest in your vacancy in the right circles. From your side, you need to be comfortable trusting the advice you receive, as you may need to be flexible on the final solution, which is not always as bad as it sounds.

Once you choose to engage in a candidate-driven market, you need to be prepared to give time to the process and make fast decisions. As recruiters, we realise you are busy and that hiring is often an addition to your core responsibilities, but the more time and importance you place on the process, the better long-term results you will see.

When an impressive candidate’s curiosity is piqued, it is important to move through the stages of recruitment with speed, not haste. This might require breaking the rules a little to streamline more traditional, drawn-out recruitment processes and protocols but, right now, slow hiring means only the average will remain in your race and making fast decisions reflects a dynamic corporate culture that will endear the best talent to you even more.

So, if you like someone and want to stay ahead of your competitors, my advice is to “feel the need for speed”. Act fast and invite them in for an interview and, if it goes well, don’t delay in making them an offer. After all, your company is only as good as the people it employs.

Almost one in every five workers (18%) believe they are “extremely likely” to change their employer within the next 12 months.

According to a survey of more than 2,000 people from various industries, 32% also acknowledged they were “moderately” or “slightly likely” to make a switch, suggesting half of UK employees are actively considering their future.

That is a sobering thought for business leaders at a time when we are witnessing a growing number of new job opportunities together with chronic skills shortages and a lack of candidates with relevant experience.

It is a dangerous mix and one that has been driving fierce competition and applying pressure to the labour market to the point where accomplished people regularly receive multiple job offers and, in a bid to influence their decision, remarkably high starting salaries.

The paradox of an unavoidable market consequence is, however, that in return for continued dedication, existing team members are subject to soaring inflation and cost of living increases that comfortably outstrip their salary growth. So, can we blame them for being tempted by the opportunity to make more money elsewhere in a similar role?

In many ways, a move appears to have no risks, but I would offer a note of caution to anyone whose main motivation for change is an “increase in pay”.

While salary will always influence, in my experience, it will not always help you make the right decision. Other factors should be considered, factors that if ignored may mean you miss something worth a lot more than money.

REMEMBER WHY YOU WANTED TO CHANGE.
When faced with a dilemma, take yourself back to the original reasons you began your job search. Amongst the flattery of an offer, these reasons can be overlooked but remain critical to being happy now and in future.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER?
Before any move, take a step back and think carefully about the big picture. The decision you make will influence your direction of travel and your ability to progress in the future. The best way to do this is to forget about the salary and base your choice on the role, company, and potential for development.

CALCULATE THE REAL FINANCIAL IMPACT.
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple job offers, keep in mind your current salary, and calculate the impact any financial increase will bring after tax and over 12 months. Often, the difference is not as large as it seems and may help with your decision.

WILL YOU RECEIVE TRAINING AND SUPPORT?
To keep evolving you need to keep your skills fresh, but this does not necessarily mean a study support package – although that will factor into your decision-making. Think about day-to-day training. Is there mentor support available? Will your role develop new skills that move you closer to your end goal? And does the company have the resources to support that?

HOW FLEXIBLE IS THE ROLE?
A healthy work-life balance is important and being able to work from home or mix your time between home and the office may be a priority for you. Whatever you prefer, make sure the company matches your favoured working pattern and expectations.

DO YOUR VALUES MATCH?
A pay rise may lure you in but to stay engaged you need to be enthusiastic about the company’s vision and purpose, and how your role fits into that. Ask yourself whether you are interested in what the organisation does, whether you align with its purpose, or are simply being tempted by the money.

Ultimately, the choice is yours but whatever you decide, you will be spending a lot of time in this organisation. If you are unhappy, it will have a significant impact on your work and general wellbeing, so be sure you are moving to a place that satisfies the reasons you wanted to move in the long term.

As we approach the end of another academic year, very soon, the job market will prepare for an influx of fresh and enthusiastic academics looking for their first career break.

I am already seeing ‘Graduate Pending’ CVs land regularly in my inbox, along with school leavers too. And, staying mindful that Covid has denied young people the part-time work experience opportunities that usually prove how dependable and responsible they can be, the current crop of up-and-coming job seekers will be presenting to the market with little or no practical experience in the professional world.

Even with the high volume of vacancies we are seeing across the UK right now, it can be extremely hard to stand out and be shortlisted for an interview if there is nothing on your CV to link you to the job you have applied for. So how do you begin to tell new graduates apart?

One of the crucial areas I explore in any CV that helps me to decide whether someone stands out from the crowd is the ‘sport and interests’ section.

As a recruiter familiar with CVs of all shapes and sizes, my advice if you are preparing a graduate resume – or helping your children to compose theirs – is that while academics are important, what people look for most is what I call the ‘extra bits’. It is the volunteering, the charity work, or the discipline and dedication it takes to reach a certain level in sport.

I believe that the skills young people learn in these pursuits contribute greatly to their overall development. Especially through sport.

Not only does sport instil resilience and improve emotional intelligence, but it also helps to shape values and improve interpersonal and teamwork skills. Offering demonstrable examples of this in your CV is how you can shine as it offers recruiters an insight into the personality of the person they could be hiring.

Having spent a not-insignificant amount of time volunteering CV advice and hosting mock interviews in schools on behalf of Founders4Schools, I have found that it is the children who regularly do out of school activities that have the most to talk about. Often, they are more confident than their peers and, for the most part, are better communicators.

Only last week, I was sitting poolside at 7 am on the outskirts of Leeds while my son prepared to compete in a regional swim competition. Watching the children interact freely with others from their club and those in neighbouring cities and boroughs reassured me that all the early starts are perhaps not such a bad idea after all.

Perhaps my weekend spent sweltering on plastic seats amongst the blistering heat of a packed spectator gallery was a reasonable trade if it teaches my son skills that will build his character, shape his outlook toward a challenge, and be incredibly useful when the time comes to join the workplace.

Having recently helped a graduate who competed at a professional level in his chosen sport, not only did his CV shine out to me, but when I spoke with him, he was a long way ahead of others in terms of his attitude, professionalism, maturity, and drive. In many ways, he had seen more of life, and it has helped him immensely. He found a career opportunity very quickly.

Regardless of the activity, competing at an elevated level in anything takes a lot of commitment, dedication, and time. If you see this on a CV, remember that it also means people have more than likely missed events with friends to ensure they still are dedicated to their training routine and if they can do that, they can go the extra mile in the workplace too.

Even with a continuous flow of attractive roles, recruiters are finding it harder than ever to unearth skilled people who are keen to move.

This shortage of talent is, in my opinion, the greatest business challenge we face and, regardless of sector, has been the case for some time.

It is a sentiment reflected in March’s KPMG / REC report on jobs. Following a survey of over 400 UK recruitment consultancies, it cites that as hiring activity continues to markedly increase, permanent appointments are expanding at the softest rate for 11 months due to candidate shortages restricting companies’ ability to fill roles.

With vacancy growth picking up, the combination of robust demand for workers and low supply has added even more upward pressure on starting salaries, which are now rising at the second-fastest rate in 24 years of data collection.

Firms succeeding against this backdrop are those who collaborate with recruiters to get their offers to candidates right but, the good news is that there are also changes you can make within your business to tackle the talent shortage and avoid entering into salary bidding wars:

Re-skill your team
One of the greatest opportunities is to retrain your existing workforce, especially if you have people in the business who have the right attitude and the softer skills needed for a role.
By identifying the competencies required in your team and up-skilling the right people, you will not only give someone the tools to help you grow the business, but you are also developing them as individuals and offering new opportunities, all of which will discourage them from looking for a new challenge elsewhere.

Apprenticeship schemes
By expanding – or starting – an apprenticeship scheme and inviting more trainees into your business each year, over time, you will find resourcing much easier. While it may not solve immediate issues, scarcity of talent is a long-term problem, and a stream of new shapeable talent will ease the burden of recruitment in the years to come.

Build your employer brand
Great people are never short of job offers, so the way your company is seen by prospective employees, and how a job opportunity is sold to a potential recruit, is crucial to attracting them.
Start by thinking carefully about what it is that you do and do not want to be known for. Next, make sure that everyone involved in the recruitment process sees it as a two-way interview. They must always show your business in the best possible light at every touchpoint, proving what it is that makes you stand out from your competitors.

Re-evaluate your offer
Following COVID, people’s attitude toward work-life balance and what they need from an employer has changed. There are more variables to consider when changing jobs: can they work from home; do they need to be in the office every day; can they work flexibly or run with part-time hours.
To recruit the best, you need to be clear about what makes your offer stand out. It doesn’t need to be as revolutionary as a 4-day working week or unlimited holidays, but flexibility is important and the option to work non-core hours is generally welcomed.

Act fast
From receipt of their CV to making an offer, you must move quickly and prioritise recruitment as once they decide to move, talented people receive job offers very quickly. If you find the right person, be prepared to act fast as it will not be long before one of your competitors attempts to steal them away.

Get help from an expert
At a time when niche consultancies are replacing generalist recruiters, it pays to build strong relationships with experts in your field. Not only do they have access to wider talent pools, but they can also source the hard to fill vacancies non-specialists and in-house teams simply cannot do.

At this time of the year, the most common question we get asked is whether we can support people with independent salary advice.

To be truthful, this is almost always on the minds of people looking for a new job but in February and March, as part of the annual planning cycle, the tables turn, and employers become very keen to understand how competitive they are.

While we would never breach the confidentiality of our clients and candidates, with over 20 years of experience working with public practices across the Northeast, we have the privilege of gaining extensive insight into average salaries across all levels of the industry. It’s this broader picture that enables us to help firms determine whether or not they are paying the market rate.

Market insight

Echoing our experience, the most recent KPMG and REC report on jobs found that easing pandemic restrictions have improved market confidence and given rise to a historically sharp uplift in recruitment activity.

With a scarcity of candidates, the knock-on effect is more upward pressure on starting rates of pay, which is now increasing at the third-fastest pace since records began, behind only October and November of last year.

Couple this with sky-high household bills and rocketing inflation and it’s easy to see why having an understanding of where your company’s offer sits amongst your competitive set has never been so important. You simply cannot afford to get this wrong.

Specifically in the North-East, while we continue to see employees re-evaluating their work-life balance in the wake of Covid, there has also been a distinct rise in people searching for new roles purely for monetary reasons.

In a recent poll of business owners, 30% are planning no salary inflation rise for their teams this year, in contrast to 63% offering more than the standard 2%. However, with starting salaries rising between 10 and 15%, whether people are feeling underpaid and undervalued, want to work permanently from home, or have seen friends receive multiple job offers and move on to do the same role for more, people who are feeling the pinch are getting tired of it.

What to consider

Right now, a standard inflationary increase applied to everyone in the business at the start of the new fiscal year is a good start, but it is only good enough if your salaries are on, or ahead of, the market rate.

When speaking to our clients, we encourage them to set aside time to review salaries quarterly. While it may sound like overkill, the market is changing at such speed, it will be time well spent.

In the world of accountancy, while professional qualifications have a benefit to your business, often practical experience is more valuable so, please, never base salaries on professional qualifications alone.

Of course, not everyone gets blinded by money. Each candidate is unique and there are more factors to consider but, if you are recruiting and think the person is right for you, we would urge you to offer your best salary first. This is not the time to scrimp and save and you don’t want to be the one that falls at the last hurdle.

Regarding your existing team, making sure they know you value them is critical. When reviewing their salary, try asking yourself what life would be like if they were gone. Would they be easy to replace? Are they worth the top end of your salary range? If the answers are no and yes, it’s probably a good time to up the ante as it’s a competitive market out there.

The good news for business is that rising salaries won’t keep increasing exponentially. And, when they do plateau, being in line with the market rate will make it much easier to not only recruit but is far less likely to upset anyone when a new team member joins on a higher salary.

The job market has endured a lot of upheaval in the past two years but, for now, it is being firmly driven by candidate availability.

In the world of accountancy, there are far more opportunities in Public Practice than people who are looking for a new challenge.

It is fabulous news for ambitious, skilled professionals who can present themselves well. They have a pick of fantastic positions, and a new job offer is never far away, but this can also become a slightly double-edged sword.

After 20 years working in the North East recruitment market, right now, when a good candidate reaches out to me and is sure they want to move, quite often I can help them to secure a job offer within a matter of days. And for many, this is far too fast.

From the time they decided to start looking to when they receive the offer, they haven’t had the time to feel like they have explored their options properly and, while I would only put them forward for something I think fits with what it is they said they wanted, moving jobs is a big decision and they need to be sure the offer is the right one for them.

When speaking to people about this, I always ask them to consider several different elements before making their decision:

1. Firstly, take a moment to make sure you have enough information to be able to make a choice. Have you researched the company thoroughly? Did you ask all of the questions you wanted to at the interview? Once a role has been offered, don’t be afraid to ask for further information. You could even arrange to go into the office for a tour so you can get a feel for the place and culture. At this stage, you are in the driving seat, so do whatever it takes to give you the peace of mind you need.

2. Be honest with yourself and discuss any doubts you have, however small they seem, with the business, your recruiter, or family and friends.

3. Once you have an offer, go back to your original reasons for leaving your current role. Consider carefully whether you are satisfied that the new job and business is going to meet your objectives.

4. It is very easy to get carried away with the financials. A great offer may sway your decision making, but try to remember that salaries can change, especially if you are in the right company and doing a good job.

5. Think about the long-term. Do you want progression and if so, is there a path in place for you? What is it that you ultimately want to achieve, and how will having this experience on your CV influence your options in three to five years?

6. Try not to be too influenced by emotions. You must put yourself at the centre of the decision-making process and think practically, as the impact of your happiness at work has an enormous bearing on so much of your life.

7. We all have the best of intentions when it comes to work-life balance but will the new role give you the balance you want? If not, do the benefits outweigh the sacrifice?

8. A little compromise can sometimes be okay, providing that it aligns with your bigger picture and goals. This is particularly useful to remember if you are considering a number of different offers at once.

Above all else, a new career move should excite you. That’s why I would also say don’t be afraid to listen to your gut a little too. You know yourself better than anyone so, if it feels right deep down, and the rational analysis checks out, then it’s time to make the change.