Kate Flanagan, Tax Partner with Barden, celebrates her 10 year anniversary this month in recruitment. Jennifer Brennan, Head of Content & Communications with Barden, caught up with Kate to take a trip down memory lane and get her insights into how much has changed, in the last 10 years, within the recruitment and tax profession in Ireland. We’ll try not mention anything about Covid-19!
Jenn: Kate – congrats on your 10 year anniversary on being a tax recruiter! Tell us when and how did it all begin?
Kate: It all began in April 2010 when I had just moved home from Australia. I had qualified as a Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA) in 2006, and spent 7 years working in tax, but had always known tax wasn’t the right career choice for me. So this was the perfect time to take stock and figure out what I should do next.
I met with a recruitment consultant to discuss my options and it was at that point that recruitment as a career choice was suggested. Instinctively I knew this could be the opportunity I had been waiting for and took a leap of faith. That’s when I embarked upon a complete career change from tax consultant to recruiter.
Jenn: What was the market like when you started out?
Kate: Strange coincidence, or not, but I started my career in recruitment in the last global crisis, although by 2010, there were green shoots of recovery beginning to show. Nonetheless, that year was particularly bad with levels of unemployment and slim pickings of new opportunities. So it was a tough start but I do believe learning the ropes of recruitment during a recession helped build my resilience and forced me to earn a strong reputation and personal brand in the market.
Jenn: What sort of trends did you witness over the next few years?
Kate: Confidence slowly began to creep back into the market over the next couple of years with more opportunities and more optimism out there. Thankfully by around 2015 we could see a trend of professionals returning to Ireland after mass emigration.
There was a noticeable turnaround in the market from 2016 when unemployment levels were returning to singular figures and candidate shortages were apparent in a lot of areas, particularly in tax. The substantial reduction in graduate intakes in those recessionary years caused an under supply of tax professionals. This coupled with an increase in demand within practice and in-house tax teams led to a challenging market for employers. This trend continued for the next few years.
Jenn: Besides the employment trends and market conditions, did you experience changes within the recruitment profession itself?
Kate: Absolutely. Within our own profession, we saw an explosion in the establishment of smaller, more specialised recruitment practices (including ourselves). This was a game changer in terms of a more competitive landscape. It also changed the standards of recruitment and improved candidates’ experiences, which was something I was very passionate about from the outset of my career.
Like every other profession, the recruitment profession experienced a complete disruption as a result of technological advancements.
Although I’m glad to say the fax machine was well gone when I started out in recruitment, the dependence on job boards, candidate databases and some print adverts was very much there, back in 2010. Technology in recruitment has changed rapidly over the last 10 years with the notable presence of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has been a fantastic tool for everyone concerned in the recruitment process, from candidates, to recruiters, to hiring managers. So effective, that many analysts predicted It would be the end of recruitment agents! Thankfully that hasn’t been the case. Talent Is not an online commodity. Whilst technology can help identify candidates, human beings recruit. It’s the ability to bring talent to the hiring table and manage the process. It’s the art of developing meaningful, long lasting relationships and become an expert in your field.
Jenn: The world of work has also changed so much over the last 10 years, what are your observations around that?
Kate: Yes organisations have faced a radically shifting context for the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work. Automation, the need for new skills, an ageing workforce, tightening labour markets, and the need to manage an entire ecosystem of workers to name a few.
The era of the “millennial” has certainly been the most influential on recruitment trends. How companies engage with this generation has changed dramatically, starting with the recruitment process. Companies have had to engage with candidates in a more meaningful manner, highlight their cultural values and sync in with candidates career objectives.
Also, not unique to the millennial generation, most people in society are now looking for a fairer work life balance and companies have had to adapt to more flexible working arrangements for their employees.
And of course Covid-19 will and has changed things up again….
Jenn: I know we said we’d try not to mention Covid-19…but on that I guess the recruitment market has been turned on its head as a result?
Kate: Yes, the market has slowed down considerably. Uncertainty always causes havoc on the market and this is probably the highest level of uncertainty we’ve ever experienced. But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are businesses still recruiting and I’ve no doubt we will recover from this.
More specifically to the recruitment profession, technology has played a huge, and increasing, part in the recruitment process. Obviously with social distancing restrictions and offices being closed, the recruitment process has had to adapt quickly to video interviewing and remote on-boarding. This may be only a temporary measure but I think it will become part of a company’s strategy for future hires, as it’s proving to be a very efficient way of recruiting.
Jenn: Can you make a prediction of what will happen in the next decade of your career in recruitment?
Kate: God knows what will happen over the next 10 years – I mean who could have predicted what we’re going through now. However as the saying goes – “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
There’s always going to be a need for tax advisors and therefore tax recruiters so I hope to be here and going even stronger in another 10 years!