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The Talent Shortage at NQ Level – What’s Happening in the Market?

The Talent Shortage at NQ Level – What’s Happening in the Market?

The Talent Shortage at NQ Level – What’s Happening in the Market?

Hiring newly qualified professionals (NQs) out of practice is becoming increasingly difficult for employers, with many left wondering “what exactly is going on?”.

At the start of the pandemic, the Big 4 hiring engines (Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG) put a freeze on recruitment like many firms amid great uncertainty in the face of the unknown. This impacted the hiring of talent across all levels for the major players in the market, including among graduates starting out in their careers.

The result? A shortage of new talent coming through these firms. This is making the recruiting of NQs, a process that was already increasingly difficult due to the rise in competition for talent from multinational tech companies, even more challenging for employers in the market.

In addition to the talent shortage, now more than ever we are witnessing firms placing a lot of emphasis on retaining talent at the NQ level. In some cases, companies are even redefining their business models to entice individuals to stay longer with the Big 4s rather than make the customary move to industry.

This is quite evident in the change in salaries offered to NQs this year, with a 10% rise to €55,000 base meaning that previous gains made from moving to industry are reduced with such companies paying c€60,000. Firms are also utilising internal relationships, mentors and career advisors to highlight the long-term benefits of staying in practice, methods that would usually be more widely used to retain those at management level. These tactics are having an increasing effect on ensuring that heads are not turned.

Furthermore, with the events of the past 18 months seeing a lot of the 2018 intake working from home, it has become more difficult for firms to identify future business leaders and rising stars. They are therefore looking to retain as many professionals as possible until the return to the office where soft skills, personality and commercial acumen may be more easily recognised.

Understandably, the Big 4s are doing all the right things to meet the needs of their businesses and their clients. In addition to this, the career in practice is evolving with increased flexibility and changing working environments, meaning it is an option that NQs are giving more consideration to. Plus, while the market continues to recover, professionals may not want to take on the risks associated with moving to another employer.

The hiring of NQs out of practice is certainly a more challenging recruitment process for employers that rely on the entrance of such talent to the market every year. Better compensation, improved retention strategies and increased flexibility at Big 4s may make the process more difficult… but not impossible. At Coopman, we partner with our clients to find the best talent available in the accounting market at the NQ level and to find solutions where barriers exist.

For further insights and advice on the market, or to discuss your recruitment needs, please reach out to Consultant Christine Jones on

William McCoppin


William has experience across multiple markets, specialising in compliance and financial crime at the interim, mid-to-senior and executive level.