Many employers are discounting a skilled pool of candidates because of a trend towards only shortlisting graduates for their job opportunities. I can understand why people might think that to get the most skilled and talented employees they should focus on those candidates with a degree. But this approach could be ruling out many highly suitable candidates who could be an excellent fit for the company.

This is especially true for accountancy and finance jobs. While you may think that stipulating that candidates must have a degree will help you shortlist and identify the most promising candidates; there is a pool of talent who have bypassed going to university that often have a better skillset and can offer your company much more than a graduate can.

Why some A-Level students are bypassing university and getting professional qualifications

Increasingly university is no longer being viewed as the only route into an accountancy or finance role. Not surprisingly the hefty price tag that comes with a degree – the average student debt is now £44,000 – means that many school leavers are looking for an alternative path into their career.

Any school leaver with an interest in accountancy or finance will no doubt be adept at crunching the figures and working out that they can avoid this debt by studying the AAT accountancy qualification instead!

This is what we’re seeing at Howett Thorpe. School leavers studying for their AAT at a local college can gain a professional qualification in 2 to 3 years at a fraction of the cost of studying as an undergraduate. Most also work at the same time, often supported in their studies by their employer, and gain valuable commercial experience that graduates simply do not have.

Typically, these candidates continue their studies proceeding onto CIMA or ACCA qualifications whilst working in junior and intermediate finance roles.

While there are many very talented graduates entering the job market every year, I think that some employers are missing out by favouring these candidates over non-graduates. I also suspect that this trend towards bypassing university is only going to increase, as more school leavers look for an alternative way of jumpstarting their careers without incurring huge amounts of debt.

So why should you consider employing a non-graduate AAT qualified candidate? Here are 3 compelling reasons to do so:

    1. Skills shortages – in a candidate rich market strategies to shortlist candidates by discounting non-graduates may have their place. But when there is already a shortage of suitable candidates you need to widen your search. As more and more school leavers decide not to go to university, the graduate candidate market is shrinking.
    1. Not second best – an AAT qualification is a professional qualification that allows candidates to continue to CIMA or ACCA without a degree. Many well-known companies are using AAT to train their staff, it’s globally recognised and desirable.
  1. Commercial exposure – candidates with an AAT qualification will also have gained real workplace skills while studying. Unlike graduates who may never have worked in an office before, the on-boarding process with an AAT qualified candidate is often much easier and many employers find they get a better cultural fit too.

I am delighted to say that many of our clients – some of whom previously would only consider graduates for their roles – are reaping the benefits of recruiting AAT qualified candidates.

If you would like to talk about this in more detail, or have any other challenges with recruiting for accountancy and finance roles that we may able to advise you on, please get in touch. Call 01252 718777 or email