Rory Gallagher joined Howett Thorpe earlier this year as a Recruitment Consultant specialising in part qualified accountancy and finance roles in the South East. He focuses on working with candidates, identifying part qualified professionals and finding them opportunities within some of the most exciting businesses in his region.

For our clients, Rory’s approach is refreshing. Instead of sourcing a candidate for a vacant role, Rory proactively fits candidates to organisations. He provides employers with driven and committed accountancy and finance professionals that actively want to work for their organisation, put in the hours and add value.

In this Q&A Rory shares his insights into the current market as well as advice for part qualified candidates looking for accountancy and finance roles. If you’re Head of Recruitment or Finance Director at your organisation, we think you’ll also find this interesting.

Q1: What do you do at Howett Thorpe?

Rory Gallagher: “Within Howett Thorpe I specialise in recruiting for Part-qualified finance professionals, candidates who are actively studying ACCA/CIMA/ACA. That covers anyone who is actively studying for a qualification, and I continue to support candidates in their career development up to two years after they qualify. Part qualified is the second fastest growing area within recruitment.

“At Howett Thorpe we want to continue to support newly qualified candidates throughout their career. I’m here to offer them any careers-related help and advice, as well as to find candidates roles.”

Q2: Before joining Howett Thorpe where did you work?

RG: “Previously I worked for several accountancy recruitment specialists, but my background is actually in retail. I think I bring to recruitment the customer service skills that I developed in retail. Recruitment is all about relationships, I like being face-to-face with candidates and client alike.

”In recruitment it’s really important to meet your candidates, and that’s why covering a region like the South East is advantageous. If I was dealing with roles across the country it would be hard to build the relationship and meet people face-to-face. You can’t do it over the phone or email.”

Q3: What’s the process to build a relationship with a candidate?

RG: “My approach is to source passive candidates (people that are not actively looking for a new role but are very desirable candidates). I contact them and instead of focussing on a particular role I offer them essentially a business partnership to help them throughout their career.

“I’ll then meet them and get a full understanding of them (inclusive of aspirations and drivers). From this I propose an action plan to take them to market, just as I would with a client. We explore what companies they would like to work for, and even if there are no current roles I can approach the company and let them know that I’ve got a highly desirable candidate, who has shown an interest in their company.”

“I had a candidate who wanted to work for a large multinational beverage company, who are very difficult to contact. I managed to work out the email addresses for the Head of Recruitment and the Head of Finance and we’re now in the process. It’s a long process but we’re getting engagement.”

Q4: How does Howett Thorpe differ from other recruitment agencies?

RG: “Howett Thorpe treat their consultants like professionals, they give you full autonomy on your desk. We’re allowed to build it our own way. We’re not targeted on numbers; instead we’re targeted on quality of work. I really buy into that ethos. I don’t want to bombard our clients with CVs that aren’t relevant, I want to target my marketing for the right people and get credibility for that.

“I’ve come from a global recruitment agency and so Howett Thorpe is very different. Part qualified is also really niche, so a numbers driven culture doesn’t work.”

Q5: What do you most like about working at Howett Thorpe?

RG: “It’s an adult environment where you can be yourself, they’re there for you. Greg (Thorpe) is always asking me what he can do to support my desk; they want to give you the tools so you can be successful. Howett Thorpe see you as a person not a number.”

Q6: You talked about building relationships, what are your relationships with candidates like?

RG: “My candidates are almost like my friends. Candidates I met two years ago I still go out for drinks with. At the same time I need to be professional and keep focussing on the quality of work. Placing the right candidate with the right company.”

Q7: What are the key challenges companies face when recruiting candidates in your area of expertise?

RG: “The key challenge is that they don’t know the part qualified market well enough. They don’t know want they want, and they don’t always know what ‘actively studying’ or ‘part qualified’ means. It could be someone who has just graduated from an Accountancy and Finance degree and they will get exemptions so they’re ‘part qualified’ however they won’t have any practical experience.  Whereas someone else may have a couple of years experience and they may be a better fit for the role.

“Another challenge is retention, recruiting the right people and keeping hold of them. Recruiting part qualified candidates can help with employee engagement and retention, they buy into the organisation that has developed and supported them.”

Q8: What’s the advantage of recruiting a part qualified accountancy or finance candidate?

RG: “Part qualified candidates are actively studying, they’re trying to better themselves and do better in the market. Their focus is success, development and progression. Being driven by these factors means they’ll stay the extra hours, go the extra mile, and it’s good to have people like that within a company or organisation.

“Along with that you’re [the employer] paying for the candidate’s qualification and so they’re giving back to the company. You’re giving them development and progression, they give you their time and dedication. My aim is to place part qualified candidates that can qualify within the organisation and then develop beyond that. Staying in the organisation and adding value.”

Q9: How do you support candidates through the recruitment process?

RG: “Honesty is the key. Candidates don’t like feedback, sometimes it may be too honest, but everyone should embrace feedback. I don’t like feedback, I’m the worst person in the world for taking feedback! But I do understand that you need to take it. My approach is to be straight about why a candidate hasn’t got a role, tell them what they can do to remedy the situation if it comes up next time.

“Lots of recruiters don’t like giving feedback so what they do is say, ‘Yeah, they really like you but there was another candidate who was slightly better.’ If you’re actively looking for a job and you hear that, ask them for some proper feedback!”

Q10: Generally, how long does the recruitment process take for candidates?

RG: “After initially messaging a passive candidate on LinkedIn, we might have a phone call within a week to discuss the search criteria and take a look at their CV. I’ll offer some advice and arrange a face-to-face meeting. From there I’ll come up with a marketing plan to approach companies on their behalf. If the candidate says they want to work in this area, in companies of this size, I’ll attack them on their behalf.”

Q11: What’s the accountancy and finance market like for candidates?

RG: “Part qualified is the second fastest growing area within recruitment, and it’s a candidate’s market. Finance is also slowly merging into IT, FinTech is the future, and part qualified candidates are ideally placed to help companies embrace this direction.”

Q12: Has accountancy and finance recruitment changed since you became a recruitment consultant?

RG: “It’s changed massively, particularly in the areas that look forward, such as forecasting and planning. Technology is a key driver and that’s why finance is sitting much closer to IT these days. FinTech, artificial intelligence etc. is really exciting and shaking up traditional roles.”

Q13: What is rewarding about being a recruitment consultant?

RG: “I need to be around people, engaging with the market and building relationships and that’s why I’m in recruitment. Obviously, there’s nothing better than getting an offer in for someone and being able to tell them they’ve got the job they wanted. When someone says they’ve got the best job in the world, and you helped them get it, that’s rewarding.”

Q14: What are your plans for the future?

RG: I would like to establish relationships with more blue-chip organisations that I’m currently targeting. You need to have the right candidate at the right time to do that. The main thing I want to do short term is establish myself in my area and my personal brand as the part qualified recruiter. “

Q15: What do you like to do outside of work?

RG:I’m an avid follower of Tottenham Hotspur football club and go to as many games as I can.”

Q16: Who’s your office superstar?

RG: “I voted for Joely as Employee of the Month, the office administrator, because of the support she’s given me since starting at Howett Thorpe. Julie Mott’s really my office superstar though

We hope that you found this insight from Rory interesting. If you have any further questions about the accountancy and finance market, or part qualified roles, please get in touch. Call Rory on 01252 718777 or email.