Accountancy sector recruitment too ‘elitist’

Accountancy sector recruitment too ‘elitist’

May 8, 2023

Accountancy firms hire the majority of their trainees from top universities, reducing diversity and opportunity

More than half of firms only hire from top universities, finds research by recruiters Barrington Hibbert Associates.

Financial services in general are seen as the most ‘elitist’, with Oxford and Cambridge graduates topping their list – and the same was happening in the accountancy, engineering and healthcare sectors.

The study, which surveyed 1,600 hiring managers from some of the top UK industries, discovered that 41% of law firms and around a quarter of accountancy, banking and insurance companies admitted they are unlikely to hire anyone without a degree.

Across all industries, some reasons for this included the belief that graduates will already have the required skills (39%) and only wanting the ‘best’ employees (33%).

The study also revealed that around three-quarters of those in the law industry believe the skills on someone’s CV were more important than their cultural fit.

Michael Barrington-Hibbert, CEO of Barrington Hibbert Associates, said: ‘It’s disappointing to see that these industries are missing out on employing so many fantastic candidates from different backgrounds, who have other kinds of education and life experience to bring to the table.

‘Having a degree from a leading academic institution will absolutely enhance one’s employment opportunities, however, there are thousands of people who don’t have the financial means to attend higher education, let alone a ‘top eight’ university.

‘This demonstrates, rather unfairly, that talented people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds still face a much harder battle to be employed in certain industries in this country.’

However, 67% of legal firms believed it was easy to learn skills on the job, without a relevant university education, and 73% have been surprised after hiring someone without a degree.

The research also found hiring managers in the public services and administration sector considered themselves to be the least ‘elitist’ with 72% likely to offer a candidate who is not university-educated an interview.

Around 70% also said they would miss out on top employees by restricting themselves to just people with degrees.

Despite this, age remains a key factor for many sectors when hiring, with engineering (28%), finance (21%), healthcare (21%) and marketing (21%) taking it into account.

Around 16% of those recruiting for law firms also considered family backgrounds as one of their top three requirements when taking on new talent.

As a result, 79% of legal workers polled admitted ‘who you know’ really helped people get their foot in the door, as well as promotions within the workplace, according to the figures by OnePoll.

Barrington-Hibbert added: ‘When recruiting there are lots of things to consider, but age and family background should not play a role in the decision process.

‘The UK is currently facing a desperate shortage of workers and the government’s campaign to get over-50s back into the workplace is failing miserably. The fact that ageism is clearly a factor behind the hiring decision process in these industries won’t be helping things in that respect.

‘I hope this research serves as a wake-up call because if these industries don’t start identifying, hiring and developing diverse, untapped talent, they will struggle to survive the coming climate.’