Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The glory days of auditing

For anyone who knows what auditing is, it hardly sounds like something that would have glory days. In its simplest terms, it's basically a means of verifying a company's financial accounts. Are you still awake? Hello??

Much as it sounds deathly dull, it's how my husband and I started out in accountancy and, to be honest, we had a blast. There was normally a team of you of similar ages sent out to the company's premises and over time you get to know your team members really well from spending so much time together, and know what makes them tick, and guffaw.

My husband's memories include one audit where he was working next door to the company's accountant who suffered with persistent flatulence. Every time she broke wind, she'd immediately get out her Impulse and spray it, oblivious to the fact that the auditors in the next room could hear the parp, then the spray and were doubled over in silent hysteria. At another company, he was looking through the accountant's cupboard for a file and knocked over some floppy disks, whilst restacking them, he noticed one labelled 'Tits and Bums' which to his glee he held up to the window connecting the office to that which his colleagues were working in. More hysterics ensued.

My own favourite memories inevitably invole working with the same senior who taught me everything I know about auditing. His sinuses were in an awful state, until the day when he returned to the room following a meeting with one of the directors, to announce that the guy's body odour was so bad that it had cleared his sinuses for the first time in years, and he could smell the pine trees outside. Another time he returned to the room in stitches and wouldn't give away what had happened, eventually he admitted that he'd been to the loo and his zip tab had broked off. Resourceful as ever, he'd fixed it with a paperclip.

Of course, it wasn't all laughing until your pelvic floor was fit to give way. My husband worked for a manager with unrealistic dealines and worked every waking hour until the team broke and started to work to rule. In contrast, my workload was light, but I seemed to get a reputation for a reliable person to undertake mundane tasks, from collecting cheques from clients to collecting staff members from hospital. I vividly remember being sent to collect a cheque for a long overdue debt from a poultry processing client and being told to take the office mobile phone (those were the days!), "in case they try anything". I quietly wondered whether I was supposed to hit them with it. On arrival the premises were grim, blood everywhere from the door handles to the photocopier, but I got out with the cheque and without having to wield the mobile phone.

To this day I'll never understand how it was never fed back to us that from the client's point of view, it sounded as if there was constant uproar from our room on-site. Perhaps the managers and partners shielded us from it on the basis that we always got the work done, or perhaps the clients were oblivious. I certainly never get any such feedback on my teams, which makes me a bit sad in a way. I'd hope there are still some laughs to be had out of auditing.

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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Do graduates have it too easy?

I can answer my own question in a way. I didn't. Back in the day, I got very average GCSE grades and left school with some pretty appalling A levels. As a result, I didn't get into my chosen university and got into the only college I could through clearing. I really wasn't suited to studying, but it was the done thing. As a result I came out of a poor college with an average degree. I took a job in a shop to keep out of the unemployment statistics, as no-one would offer me a position in my chosen career, but after 18 months of folding towels, decided it was time to try again.

I managed to get two job offers. One at the grand annual salary of £4,600 and one for £6,500. Both pretty lousy, but I took the one with the less heart-stopping salary as it was a step onto the ladder. Here I am 17 years later, after a number of moves up the ladder and I've got a senior management job with a reasonable sized firm. I worked hard, got through my professional exams with barely a hiccup and, bizarrely, have made a success of it all to date.

The shoe is now on the other foot and I'm the one trying to recruit graduates. We offer a lot more than £6,500 by way of salary, but wouldn't offer a position to anyone with my educational background (or my boss's, amusingly enough). I spent a lot of time interviewing about eight months ago, and saw graduates with a variety of social, numerical and literacy skills, until I interviewed one candidate, who seemed perfect for the role. We made him an offer to start with us in September 2012 and he was delighted to accept. I relaxed and was happy to have more time in my diary for the day job as I had no more interviews to conduct. Fast forward to three weeks ago, when he contacted us to say that despite signing a contract months ago, he wouldn't be joining us, and had decided to work for a bank instead. I'm not sure I'd have have the self confidence to turn down a job three weeks before I was due to start now, let alone when I was 21. There was nothing we could do, so it was back to interviewing. We interviewed one candidate, who intimated throughout the interview that he would accept our offer, if he wasn't offered one for more money elsewhere. It seemed odd, as he hadn't been made an offer, we clarified that point and moved on. We decided that he wasn't the right person for the role, and rejected him and later received a confused call, asking why the offer he'd previously received had been rescinded. Whether he was confused, naive, or just wanted the job so desperately, that he'd convinced himself it was in the bag, I don't know.

Another department has been looking for an office junior. They've only received two applicants. One was invited for interview, which they accepted, didn't turn up, and is now ignoring contact. The other has ignored our best attempts to contact them for a couple of months. Perhaps the reality of a nine to five role isn't so appealing when it comes down to it, perhaps they've had a better offer; but what confuses me throughout, is the common sense and common courtesy that seems to be missing.

Anyway, I'm back to interviewing and hope to strike lucky this time. All I can pin my hopes on is that the staff that we have successfully recruited are happy, genuine people, with a good work-life balance and are making the same sort of success of their lives as I did all that time ago. Surely it shouldn't be so difficult to find someone that wants that?

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