Indirect Tax Recruitment: Q3 2021 Market Report

As we look at Q3 2021, indirect tax professionals are very much in demand.

Director Alex Mann presents the Indirect Tax market report….

Once again, we report back to you on what’s been an incredibly busy quarter. Never in the 7 years that I’ve been recruiting into indirect tax has the market felt so lively.

But we have to ask is this really attributed to increased volumes of roles? Are we really seeing an increased demand for indirect tax professionals compared to previous quarters?

As we walk you through the quarter, you’ll notice the general volume of recruitment remains high but not abnormally so.

So what are we seeing exactly?

A quarter of shortages

On the face of it, it seems that the theme of this quarter has been ‘shortages’. Whilst drivers scramble to fill up their tanks and the retail sector races to fill empty shelves, the indirect tax recruitment market is no different.

Candidates are in high demand, and it feels like there’s simply not enough candidates to go around.

But is this really the case? Are we really observing a skill shortage?

Well yes, we all know there’s a huge gulf around the manager grade where demand is high and the flow of candidates is low. We see this quarter after quarter, across in-house & professional services. Historically, this is largely attributed to the lack of trainees entering the field, many firms have made a real effort to boost their entry level hiring across indirect taxes and this will be visible in the midterms when graduate hires enter the manager realm.

Despite this, the candidates are there. The problem and reason so many businesses have turned to HJ this year is attraction & engagement.

Much like  fuel and food ‘shortages’ sweeping the UK, it’s not really a shortage problem. It’s a transport problem.

The challenge that the UK government has been trying to overcome is not about having enough of a product, it’s getting the product into the consumer’s hand. Indirect tax recruitment is no different.

Don’t blame skill shortages, blame your level of attraction

It’s a blunt message, but this has been the theme of Q3 and much of 2021.

Admittedly, the market could do with having a greater flow on indirect tax candidates, particularly those within compliance and sector specialist advisors. However, with demand so high, it’s imperative that businesses constantly revaluate what they’re doing in the battle of attraction.

That’s right: ‘battle of attraction’. Much has been said by recruiters about the ‘battle for talent’ over the years but, really, the businesses who are recruiting most effectively are those who not only have a strong value proposition, but shout about it. As a tax leader who is serious about engaging the right people, join forces with your talent acquisition teams and make sure you put tax on the map.

Internal recruitment is marketing. It’s company branding. If one candidate receives a poor experience or a sub-par offer, this is a reflection of your company’s brand. Whether you use an agency or your internal recruitment team, attracting niche indirect tax specialists will be a challenge. You need to make sure that you’re on the front line in the battle of attraction… particularly in professional services. What makes one top 10 firm different from the next?

Professional Services

The demand across the UK, BENELUX and DACH has remained high within all pockets of indirect tax.

In key hubs within continental Europe, ie. Belgium & Netherlands hiring customs professionals has been evident.

Manager graded candidates are still the hottest commodity, particularly in key European cities such as London, Amsterdam, Belgium, Berlin & Frankfurt.

There is still little investment into junior hiring. Most firms are trying to stay above water by bringing on board experienced candidates who can hit the ground running.


215 new in-house vacancies this month: UK&I (31), BENELUX (38), and DACH (83)

Grade breakdown: Analyst 36% / AM 7% / Mgr 36% / SM 13% / Director + 3%.

An unsurprising breakdown, although interestingly recruitment at the analyst grade has increased from last quarter.

Another welcome uptick in activity is the increase in both SM and Director opportunities. While the % still pales in comparison to other grades, the volume has increased.

Top industries included: Retail (7%) / e-commerce (6%) / FS (8%) / Pharma & Biotech (7%) / Manufacturing & Engineering (9%) / Food & Beverage (6%)

Whilst the most active industries are not particularly surprising, we did also see an uptick in insurance companies hiring niche IPT profiles and also the various professional services businesses making in-house hires.

What can we expect in Q4?

As we move ahead to the final quarter of the year, we’d be surprised if we see the same level of new hiring activity. With 44% increase in new vacancies, we predict that many businesses will be playing catch up in their hiring and will set themselves a target to have offers out by Christmas, ready to start in the New Year.

The run-up to Christmas typically remains a busy period for recruitment but is often characterised by hiring managers wanting to lay the foundations for the new year and candidates gearing up for a job search come January.

Alex Mann is a Director at Harvey John

For expert advice on how to get the best out of your tax career, whether in a professional services firm or in-house, contact us today.

Harvey John is a specialist Accountancy, Tax & Treasury, and Legal recruiter operating across the UK & EMEA market

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