Downturn forces companies to look for different skills in bean counters

The slowing economy is causing companies to look for different skills, leading to intensifying demand in highly skilled accounting and finance professionals, says international recruiter Robert Half.

The slowing economy is causing companies to look for different skills, leading to intensifying demand in highly skilled accounting and finance professionals, says international recruiter Robert Half.

Australia is facing the same difficulties as other countries, with 54% of Australian companies reporting difficulty attracting the right mix of talent and experience against a global score of 56%, reports The Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor for 2008-2009.

“Demand for accounting and finance will seriously continue to outpace supply, especially in highly sought specialties such as accounting, finance management and financial and business analysis roles,” says Nigel Barcham, managing director, Robert Half Australia and New Zealand.

“Industry knowledge and experience are the key attributes sought for executive-level hires in Australia at the moment. This is an interesting shift from last year, when regulatory compliance was the leading requirement.”

About 67% of companies cited industry knowledge and experience as the most sought-after attributes of executive-level job hires. This is a marked change from last year, in which regulatory compliance expertise was the leading response at 68%. It takes 5.5 weeks to hire an entry-level position and 6.5 weeks to hire a management level position, the survey found.

Significant resources are being expended to get it right, with more than a third (39%) assessing performance on a temporary basis before making a permanent employment hire. In an effort to increase the likelihood of a successful hire, more follow-up with candidates is being performed before a final hiring decision is made, with an average of three interviews for both management and staff level hires. Staff level interviews averaged two in 2007.

“On a global level, Australia is competing with demand from developing nations such as India and China. On a local level, pressure for enhanced financial reporting standards means both corporate and small businesses have increased their accounting needs. In addition, supply shortages from Australia’s educational system means the pipeline is not matching business growth,” he says.

Reference checks were also rated highly in making hires (22%). Resumes and cover letters, though essential, scored the least, says the survey – which included responses from more than 4000 finance and human resources managers in 20 countries. A total of 273 respondents were interviewed in Australia.

About 62% of Australian companies are concerned about losing their top performing accounting and finance talent to other job opportunities, an increase from last year’s 50%.

 

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