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About In House Tax

About In House Tax

This weblog is a news and views site for tax professionals within the UK and international in-house tax community.  You will find information about appointments and people moves in and around the in-house tax market, issues affecting the in-house tax professional, opinions on the state of the tax job market, updates on tax technology, and other general thoughts of the day.

Hope you find it useful.

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Location: St Albans, United Kingdom

This site has been developed by Simon Godley, who also runs the niche tax recruitment company Talentpool Selection . Simon spends a lot of his time placing tax specialists into FTSE companies, large in-bound groups and some professional services organisations. He also recruits and is well networked around the UK tax technology and VAT markets.

Tax News

Tax candidates - what are employers really looking for?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

What are employers really looking for in tax candidates?
By Simon Godley

A candidate had recently called through to me to discuss VAT opportunities in the market.  During the discussion, he asked the very sensible question ‘What do employers look for in a tax candidate?’  It’s a simple question, but there’s not an obvious answer, and generally job seekers / tax candidates don’t know the answer to this.  They view it from their own frame of reference, with their mind very skewed towards their current role, and so often can’t see the bigger picture as to what key elements an employer is considering to decide on which candidates to bring into an interview process. 

In the main I think you can order it in the form of a checklist, starting with the most important / relevant item, and work back from there.  This in turn may help to structure a CV so that it quickly catches the attention of an employer.

So in order of importance, I think it goes like this:

1.       Most recent experience.  Employers are primarily looking for a trained person with highly relevant experience, both technical and non-technical, to come into a role.  This is always No.1 consideration.  They are always looking for a close match between the remit of the role and what the candidate has recently been doing.  When I say recent, I typically mean within the last 2 years.  If they had the experience over 2 years ago, and then been doing something very different within the last 2 years, the CV may be instantly put on the ‘maybe’ pile.  So a CV has to instantly show, on page 1, that they can do the job without any training. 

2.       Who have you worked for?  The name of your current employer will be a strong influence on the level of interest in you as a tax candidate.  This is mainly for 2 reasons.  Firstly, tax experience (and I’m mainly referring to corporate/business taxation) can be classed into 3 broad tiers – that for mega-large, global multinationals….then group companies….then smaller owner-managed companies.  Of course, you can only get tax experience of a mega-large company from either a Big 4 practice side or from working with companies such as BP, GE, Vodafone etc.  So who you are working for gives a strong indication as to relevance of tax experience.  Secondly, it’s a branding issue.  Working for a well known, strong brand identity organisation will add a kudos value, and will help the application – however the underlying experience has to be relevant and recent, as per point 1.  So if you are working for a lesser known company, but you are doing the exact job required on experience, you’re still in. 

3.       Does your level make sense?  This is again a matching issue, and a very key one.  I often speak to more senior-end candidates who say that they would be happy to take a step down, and with it a salary drop.  But in reality, and most of the time, the market won’t let them do this.  Once you have achieved a certain level of experience and seniority / grade etc., then you are only relevant for roles at that level of just above.  Hiring managers generally want to recruit someone who will be immediately challenged by an opportunity, and therefore motivated to do a great job.  That will mainly come from someone with a close match on experience level, rather than someone who has ‘been there and done that’ etc.  End of the day, companies will not recruit Senior Tax Managers into Tax Accountant roles, just as a company wouldn’t recruit a junior manager into a CEO role. 

4.       Are you professionally qualified?  Some may expect this to be higher on the list.  And yes, it is tremendously important, but I think employers will generally glance around points 1-3 above before looking at the formal qualifications.  But actually it does depend on the role.  If a company is looking for a newly qualified accountant to do a tax reporting role, then looking for that ACA or ACCA on the CV will take precedent.  But if it’s for a more senior management tax role or VAT Manager role, for example, then points 1-3 above will be looked at first.  But suffice to say that being a fully qualified accountant or chartered tax adviser (CTA) is still a major plus.

5.       Education This is a fairly obvious one, but in general candidates with very strong academic backgrounds, including degrees from top universities may be at an advantage.  That said, I don’t think employers put a lot of weight on this part.  I think it’s now seen as a useful indication of intellectual capacity, which may help someone’s case if they are border line on any of points 1-4 above. 

6.      Other items By the time a hiring manager has considered points 1-5 above, they will have quickly made a decision as to whether they want to interview the candidate.  In fact, in a lot of cases, that decision will have been made by the time they have got to point 3, and they will have arrived at that decision within 30 seconds or less of glancing around the CV.  So there’s no need for any other information.  Don’t bother with personal profiles or ‘career overviews’ – it’s a waste of CV space and it won’t get read.  In terms of listing hobbies?  Well, they are certainly not important to include, but I would include them.  Don’t list many, only 2 or 3.  I think they do give a small insight into someone’s character, and you never know, if they match well with the hiring manager, it may just tip the balance.  

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posted by Simon Godley


Blogger Mark Lee said...

Great advice Simon. I am a tweeting a link to the article.

Where do you think Linkedin profiles fit here? Do employers seek out prospective recruits using Linkedin and only approach specialist recruiters when they get stuck?

Or are they so time poor that they don't look at Linkedin perhaps until after they have shortlisted candidates (possibly not even until after they have interviewed them)?

28 March 2013 at 13:41  
Blogger Simon Godley said...


Yes, good point re LinkedIn profiles. With a lot of tax people who want to market their experience on-line, then the LinkedIn profile tends to be an abbreviated version of the CV. So all the points in my article are applicable to a LinkedIn profile, and LinkedIn tends to steer you towards having good content on your profile e.g. experience, education, current employers etc

I think some employers now turn to LinkedIn as part of a candidate search, but in a lot of cases they will go first to the specialist recruiters as a way of outsourcing the search process as in most cases they haven't got time to trawl through LinkedIn.

Thanks for commenting on the article Mark.

11 April 2013 at 14:48  

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