• Q2 Review – East Midlands

    By Trevor Dimmock

    Q2 2023 – East Midlands Resilience
    Despite all of the macroeconomic challenges we are experiencing, the East Midlands economy is proving remarkably resilient with some brilliant stories of growth and expansion and a high-quality labour force that is proving attractive for inward Investment to the region. As a consequence the demand for Finance & HR professionals is still very high with no sign of slowing. With inflation falling and business confidence returning we expect this trend to continue and can look forward to continued growth through the rest of the year. In addition the diversity in the sectors that we operate in makes our region much more future proof as we are not overly reliant on one particular market.

    Below are some of the topics that we have had the chance to explore over the last 3 months with our candidates and clients.

    Working in the office 5 Days a Week
    Interesting one this and very challenging. We are seeing a gradual trend for clients to explore the option of bringing new candidates in without hybrid opportunities. This has previously been more prevalent when recruiting a Finance Director for a growth SME when the leadership team is being formed. We have had some of these requests for candidates at Financial Controller level and have found that around 90% candidates will rule themselves out immediately from these types of options based on the lack of hybrid working. I can understand the importance of fostering workplace culture face to face, but the new reality is that if an employer wants to explore the candidate marketplace fully then hybrid arrangements are required in a candidate driven market.

    Cash is King
    Not really a surprising finding but salary considerations are now the number 1 reason for a candidate to look for a job, with the figure of 35-40% appearing on a number of recent surveys. Cost of living pressures and a tight candidate market will continue this trend for the foreseeable future but lower interest rates and continued economic growth should help mitigate this going forward. At the moment this is a major headache for companies looking at their retention strategies whilst also looking to attract new talent. We still find that proactive career management and ongoing 360-degree feedback appraisals with existing team members can mitigate many of these risks as they may uncover other factors that attract and retain staff on an individual basis.

    A Four Day week
    Many of the companies that have trialled the concept have reported; higher productivity, lower absenteeism, increased engagement, higher staff retention and an improvement in business performance. The condensed four day week could be an alternative to hybrid working for some companies that have a more traditional working pattern. Another significant advantage is that it would remove the disparity of experience between Blue and White Collar workers. The opportunity to be consulted about such a major change and the trust demonstrated by a management team could be very beneficial to retention and attraction.

    Green Washing, is it a thing?
    Most definitely and whilst there are some true believers out there, it is often a corporate tick box exercise. Superficially the right green credentials may attract and retain staff but most of our Finance and HR candidates are savvy enough to expose the imposters and see through the PR. As a business we are supporters of the green agenda with a number of initiatives that we sponsor such as planting a tree for every placement we make. We wholeheartedly support organisations that share our principles but only when it is genuine belief and anchored to some semblance of reality and not used to score Corporate or Political brownie points.


    Fantastic Greek Evening for our Summer Social Event

    We had a great evening at Zorba the Greek for our Summer Social event earlier this month.

    It was an incredible turn out and great chance to catch up with our friends from local businesses.

    The food and drink were excellent and the relaxed social setting made for a wonderful evening and the opportunity to enjoy a face to face social event 🥂

    Zorba the Greek proved to be the perfect setting! the service was excellent and the staff so friendly and helpful, and we would like to thank each and every one of them.

    Also a huge thanks to our wonderful team at Astute and of course all of our fantastic guests! 👏

    We’ve already had some amazing feedback –

    “Thank you for a lovely night, I had a really great time, the food was amazing.”

    “Thanks for having us. It was a good event and apologises I couldn’t stay any longer.”

    “It was good to meet people and the food was great.”

    “Great to mingle and meet up with an ex-colleague!! Also enjoyed meeting the Astute team face to face and chatting with them.”

    Nigel & I had a great night last night, so a big ‘Thank You’ for inviting us.

    Excellent food. We shall definitely return.

    The evening was fabulous and I would love to be part of another event like this. This event offered the personal touch, was well organised and my colleague had a great time too!”


    Amazing Curry Evening at Nicco!

    We had a fantastic social event at Nicco Restaurant and Bar in Derby’s Pride Park last Thursday!

    It was an incredible turn out and great chance to catch up with our friends from local businesses.

    The food, drink, conversation and laughter made for a wonderful evening and the opportunity to enjoy a face to face social event 🥂

    More than 60 guests attended our Curry Evening at Nicco

    Nicco proved to be the perfect setting for our social evening and we would like to thank all of the staff, who made us feel so welcome and took great care of us all!

    Also a huge thanks to our wonderful team at Astute and of course all of our fantastic guests! 👏

    We’ve had some amazing feedback –

    ‘It was a fantastic night – met some great people!’

    Thank you for a really great networking evening. Met some great new contacts in the evening. Really great to see people getting together again.

    Great to put a face to a name – an excellent evening. I thought the venue was excellent which facilitates excellent networking opportunities. Very organized! Thanks again’

    Thoroughly enjoyed the evening, company, and curry! Great to see an agency doing something different. If I were to give any constructive feedback, next time have it on a Friday so we can stay out longer!

    ‘The curry & networking event held by Astute is the first networking I’ve ever been to. I wasn’t sure what to expect but from the moment I joined in, I was greeted by some of staff at Astute who were simply warm and welcoming. Really enjoyed chatting various people about their roles over drinks and some amazing food. Even came across an ex-colleague who I hadn’t seen in years. I came thinking I would be one of the first to leave due an early start the next day, but I enjoyed catching up with the entire Astute team and others attending the event so much, that I ended up being one of the last to leave, literally getting kicked out. Can’t wait for the next networking event and meeting more new people, highly recommend.

    ‘Event was great. It was good to meet a few people and definitely a great choice on terms of the food!’

    We are already in the process of organising our next social event so watch this space……..


    Expansion for the team at Astute

    We are delighted to announce the growth of our team with four new starters having joined recently, and we enter 2023 full of excitement about what the future holds!

    Its been such a busy time recently for Astute, recruiting staff and celebrating internal success, with ambitious plans seeing our overall headcount increase by nearly 50% – with growth in all areas of the business.

    Front left to right, Ellie Eaton, Kristen Lightbody, Damian Salvatore
    Back row, Trevor Dimmock

    Trevor Dimmock started working with us in December and will head up our Executive Search Division – A highly committed Search & Selection process identifying top talent for organisations. Trevor has a tremendous track record in Finance & Senior Search, having worked for some of the largest names in the industry and we are very pleased to have him on board.

    Ellie Eaton has joined the team to work alongside Liz Champion on the Office Support roles. This team covers all temporary and permanent non-finance roles including HR, admin and customer services.

    Kristen Lightbody joins us from EMEA Recruitment, and is highly skilled in sourcing top talent. She will be connecting qualified finance professionals with permanent roles and developing new & existing client relationships within the Midlands.

    We are also joined by Damian Salvatore. With several years experience in recruiting, his role here at Astute will be placing experienced finance individuals with temporary and contract roles.

    Sarah Stevenson, Managing Director added “Here at Astute Recruitment, acquiring the right talent is the most important key to our growth, which is why I’m delighted to be welcoming these amazing new people to the team and look forward to supporting their development and watching them contribute to our future success.”

    “We have also committed to developing our own talent, which we believe will shape the future of our workforce. Jessica Starns was promoted to Senior Consultant recently, which is an amazing achievement after being with us for less than a year”

    Astute had a very good year in 2022, and with our brilliant team I am eager to see what 2023 brings. We will shortly be launching a new website with updated branding, and hope to announce more new recruits shortly. Our workforce is our future, and we are very excited to see what the future holds!”


    The Benefits of Recruitment at Christmas!

    As we approach Christmas, it’s possible that you will be thinking less about your recruitment needs and more about the Christmas party. Traditionally, January and February have been busy times for hiring. But with the shortage of quality candidates – you can’t afford to wait for the “peak” period.

    In what is a hugely competitive job market, recruiting over the Christmas period makes a lot of sense – and it could put you ahead of the competition.

    Christmas is a busy and exciting time of the year for everyone; not a time you would necessarily associate with searching for a new job or with companies taking on new employees. Job seekers tend to take time off from their job search as the holidays approach with the rational that very few companies will be hiring in the lead up to Christmas as their time will be occupied with staff trips, parties and annual leave. However, more and more companies as seeing the benefits associated with hiring in December in order to beat the inevitable increase in recruitment activity and in turn, industry competition, that occurs in the new year.

    For companies looking to hire new staff members, initialising the recruitment process in December, rather than January can have many advantages. Firstly, this enables hiring managers to pick candidates ahead of their competition; something that is especially advantageous in today’s very much candidate-driven market. From an organisational point of view, candidate interviews and phone calls are easier to arrange over the Christmas period as typically more people have time off work in December than they will in the new year. Those managing the hiring process are also likely to have more free time and less urgent responsibilities in December; enabling more time for staff training and inductions to take place while workloads are relatively low, minimising any potential teething problems that could negatively impact current members of staff.

    For job seekers looking to secure a new role, the benefits of job hunting in December are also numerous. If they are still working, applying for roles when their workload is reduced, and they have more time off will make the application process much easier. Competition from other candidates is likely to be lower as not everyone will choose to continue their job search over Christmas and therefore their commitment to the job search will be emphasised by sending applications at this time, highlighting their diligence, making them stand out and helping to ensure they will not go unnoticed by employers. In many cases, more vacancies start to arise over the Christmas period as employees who have been considering leaving wait to receive their Christmas bonuses before quitting.

    Timing is critical in recruiting, both from a hiring perspective and from a job seeker’s perspective. But of course, the main reason has to be that for job seeker’s and hiring managers, there may be no better Christmas present than receiving their dream offer or the addition of a brilliant new employee!


    Help us support our Christmas Charity – Derby City Mission

    We are really pleased to be supporting Derby City Mission this year to provide food and presents, to help local families enjoy Christmas!

    Most of us spend our Christmas holidays with the people we love, content with our jolly festivities and that warm and fuzzy feeling inside. It’s easy to forget that there are many people in the UK and worldwide who are much less fortunate than ourselves. Many people do not have a home, do not have simple sanitation and healthcare facilities, live from one meal to the next and never have the luxury of a Christmas present. A lot of these are children, just like your own bundles of joy, nieces/nephews or grandchildren.

    Currently, over 14 million people live in poverty in the UK, 4 million of those are children! 

    Can you imagine getting to an exciting time in the year and wondering how on earth you can afford to treat your children at Christmas?

    Toys to make children smile at Christmas!

    Unfortunately, this is the reality for many families and since 1996, Derby Mission have been reaching out to underprivileged families working in partnership with a number of churches in Derby through donations of new toys for boys and girls, and this year we can help!

    We have a huge box waiting here at Astute to fill with toys, selection boxes, books etc so we can help spread some Christmas Joy! To get an idea of the items required please see Derby Missions Amazon wishlist Amazon.co.uk

    You can also donate directly through the wishlist or make a financial contribution here Children at Christmas | Derby City Mission

    We are also collecting Christmas Treats and non-perishable food items here at Astute, which we will deliver to Derby Mission, who have provided the following list of items they are particularly short of at the moment:


    Laundry tablets or capsules

    Shampoo & Shower gel

    Deodorants (male and female)

    Instant noodles / instant mash / instant custard

    In an average year, Derby Mission give out close to 800 food parcels to struggling families and individuals who they also help with Debt Advice at the regular Clinics they hold. The team are also able to provide support to people who are struggling with their mental health through their Community Shop and Cafe where volunteers provide a listening ear and guide to other helpful services.

    A general list of food that Derby Mission are keen to collect at Christmas and all year round can be found on this page Food Bank Donations | Derby City Mission

    They also collect the following items

    Hats and gloves (as new)

    Underwear and socks (new) size small and medium only (male and female)

    Clean, new/as new sleeping bags

    Clean, new/as new fleece blankets

    and we are happy to collect any of these items and include them in our delivery to Derby City Mission on Tuesday 13th December 2022.


    Fantastic Business Breakfast Event with Claire Lomas MBE

    An amazing morning was had by all last week at our Business Breakfast Event with Claire Lomas.

    Her presentation on overcoming adversity after her tragic accident was truly inspirational.

    Over 30 local businessmen and women attended and enjoyed the motivational talk from Claire and there were lots of questions for her at the end of her talk and also a book signing.

    Derby Arena proved to be a perfect setting for our Event and Team GB Training at the Velodrome added to an extra special morning.

    Guests were offered the chance to enter our raffle using the hashtag #AstuteBusinessEvent and our lucky winner were

    Maria Hanson MBE @MeandDeeUK charity wins the Tattinger

    Bonnie Mach was the winner of the Prosecco

    4 of Claire’s amazing books were won by:

    Winners – Craig Hardy, Diana H, @jonward @handley_stephen

    Raffle Prizes
    Velodrome – Derby Arena


    Starting a new job successfully….

    Starting a new job is an exciting opportunity for you to connect with interesting people and make a great first impression.  This could be because it’s a step forward in your career, or you might be relishing the chance to work on a fresh, new project. Either way, preparing carefully can help you get the most out of the opening weeks of your job, while also setting yourself up well for the future.

    Below, we explore how you can achieve this:


    Many offices are now opting for a hybrid working strategy. Instead of working in the office every day of the week, employees are given the opportunity to split their working hours between home and the office. Nevertheless, transportation to the office on the days that you are working is important. You’ll want to get to the office punctually and in comfort.

    If you’re anticipating a long commute, it might be the right time to upgrade your car, or at least book it in for a service!


    Every office has slightly different expectations for the clothing you wear. For some offices, it’ll be mandatory to wear a suit and tie to look professional at all times. Elsewhere, smart casual might be more acceptable. Either way, you should find out what the expectations are in your office before sorting out your ‘work wardrobe’ and shopping accordingly.

    Make contact with your manager

    You are likely have conversed with your manager during the interview process for your new job. But it’s certainly worth setting up this relationship further before you start your job. This can help you settle in and position yourself for success from the outset. But what’s the best way to achieve this? Well, a couple of days before you start you could drop your manager a message to show your enthusiasm and that you are ready to be effective from day one. This can help you enjoy first week success before going from strength to strength.

    Research the company and your team

    Finally, it can make the world of difference if you research the company and the team you’re joining. Naturally, you’ll have carried out plenty of research to pass the interview process. But it’s good practice to familiarise yourself with this information once again before the job starts. Plus, you can carry out more specialised research once you know your job title and the colleagues you’ll be working alongside every day. You could also start matching faces and names by researching on LinkedIn people who will be working on your team.

    Starting a new job can be daunting and exciting in equal measure, but by following the guide above, you should be all set to hit the ground running!


    Astute to host next Business Breakfast with motivational speaker Claire Lomas MBE

    Overcoming adversity and accepting what you can’t control are increasingly relevant in business, and life! The powers of motivation, mindset and positive thinking are of huge value to employers and employees alike. We are therefore delighted to announce the amazing and inspirational speaker, Claire Lomas MBE, will be joining us at our next business breakfast event on Thursday 13th October at Derby Arena.

    The event is the fifth business breakfast we’ve organised, aiming to motivate and educate professionals whilst also giving them the chance to network and catch up with business connections.

    Claire was working as a chiropractor and had reached the highest level within Eventing, when a freak accident left her paralysed from the chest down. She talks about the split second that changed her life, and candidly describes the darkest times.

    Claire challenges her audience to raise their sights, make their own luck by taking opportunities and be the best version of themselves that they can be. 

    People will leave the room believing in themselves, inspired and hugely motivated.

    When faced with challenges in their own lives, Claire’s words will be sure to stick in their minds….

    “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t – you are right”

    Many people have listened to Claire and left her events inspired and hugely motivated with renewed belief in themselves.

    Managing Director of Astute Recruitment, Sarah Stevenson said: “We are delighted to be hosting our next event with motivational speaker, Claire Lomas MBE . Her mindset and positive thinking about what can be achieved with the right attitudes and support, will also prompt us to think about how differently physical and mental illnesses are recognised and accepted in society. We believe it will hugely benefit all those in attendance, inspiring us and giving us lots of takeaway points which are perfectly transferrable to the business world”.

    Astute Recruitment is a multi-award winning accountancy recruitment agency offering bespoke solutions to clients and helping candidates to find suitable positions. Apart from the recruitment side, we work to create positive life-experiences through our events. Experiences which can inspire our guests, valued business professionals and candidates across the East Midlands.

    Please let us know if the breakfast event could be of interest and one of our team can forward you a complimentary and exclusive invitation to attend with details to confirm your place. This event is strictly by invitation only and there are only a few places still available, so ensure you don’t miss out by contacting Kelly Thomas, Marketing Director by email kelly.thomas@astuterecruitment.com

    Get in touch if you are interested in hearing about future events, and would like to subscribe to our newsletter where we will announce news, views, events and topical career and business articles.


    Caught an employee lying on their CV? You could confiscate their pay, court rules

    Employees caught lying about their qualifications or salaries on their CVs could be made to pay back their dishonestly-earned wages, following a landmark legal ruling.

    Every HR professional will have encountered a job applicant who has stretched the truth on their CV. Perhaps they exaggerated their skillset, or told a white lie about a lengthy employment gap.

    Then there is Jon Andrewes. In 2004, the former builder and probation officer landed the post of Chief Executive Officer of a hospice after claiming he had a PhD and an MBA. In reality, a Higher Education Certificate in Social Work was the highest qualification he actually held.

    Now, following a major legal case over his wrongdoing, the Supreme Court has ruled that CV fraudsters like Andrewes can be subject to a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act. So if you pad out your CV, you could in theory be prosecuted for fraud and have to pay back a chunk of your salary.

    Judges concluded that Andrewes had landed his chief exec role “by making a number of false or dishonestly inflated and misleading statements about his educational qualifications and experience in his application for that role. He remained employed in that role until 2015. According to the Supreme Court, during this time Andrewes was also appointed to two paid roles as a director and then Chair of the Torbay NHS Care Trust and as Chair of the Royal Cornwall NHS Hospital Trust. Despite his lies, the court heard that Andrewes “did a good job as CEO and was regularly appraised as either strong or outstanding”. But suspicions grew about his true qualifications, and his ruse was eventually foiled. He was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to three counts, including obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, contrary to the Theft Act 1968 and fraud by false representation under the Fraud Act 2006.

    In 2017, Andrewes was exposed and convicted of fraud, jailed for two years and ordered to hand over all his remaining assets.

    However, the confiscation order was overturned by the Court of Appeal two years ago when judges ruled he had given ‘full value’ for his salary in the jobs he did.

    Now, half a decade after being rumbled, the Supreme Court has reimpose the financial penalty. As a result of the verdicts, Andrewes, who earned around £643,000 as a result of his CV fakery, must pay back £96,737.24.

    The court wrote: “It was clear that he would not have been appointed had the truth about his education and job experience been known”.

    What HR should know about the legal ruling

    Alexandra Mizzi, Legal Director at Howard Kennedy, believes that the court’s decision opens the door for other employers to follow suit.

    She said: “The Supreme Court has issued a stern reminder about the pitfalls of exaggerating your qualifications. An individual who dishonestly inflated his qualifications and experience in order to secure numerous roles, most notably as a CEO role at a hospice, has been prosecuted for fraud. Whilst prosecutions like this have previously been rare, with most employers opting for dismissal on the grounds of lying on a CV, this case could pave the way for employers taking greater action. The Supreme Court has issued a confiscation order, forcing the defendant to pay about £90,000 of the total £643,000 he earnt in the role, offsetting the pay that he would have received if he hadn’t lied about his qualifications.

    “Some surveys suggest CV fraud has increased during the pandemic as people turned to online ‘diploma mills’ to boost their chances of a better job and then misrepresented the qualifications they had obtained. If this case is anything to go by you not only risk losing your job if found out, but also having to pay back some of your salary and the bigger the fib, the bigger the percentage the employer can claim.”

    The bottom line of CV lies

    Although the case of Jon Andrewes is an extreme one, research shows that he is not alone in embellishing his CV for career gain. A study from YouGov found that 10% of Brits admitted to having lied on their CV at some point in their careers.

    The results show that, first and foremost, education and qualifications are the most likely parts of a CV to be embellished, with four in ten (40%) résumé embellishers having fibbed about this.

    Other common CV lies included how long Brits had spent in a job (35%) and their level of experience (30%). People who worry about not sounding interesting enough in the “personal interests” section of their résumé should note that this too was a fairly common fabrication, with three in ten (29%) CV liars admitting to making up hobbies.

    Career coach Matt Somers said: “Just don’t do it. Ever. Rather than wonder if you can get away with a small lie on this CV or that online application, just resolve never to lie. That way you’re never under pressure at an interview to remember what you lied about, interviews are stressful enough as it is!”

    Unfortunately, making some false claims in the recruitment process may be a necessary evil for some.

    HR Grapevine recently reported on the case of a UK worker who claimed he was rejected from more than 100 jobs before finally securing job interviews… after he began using a British-sounding name on his applications.

    Thiago Carmo, a Brazilian man who lives in Scotland on a visa scheme, claimed he had unsuccessfully applied for more than 100 jobs, receiving nothing but automated rejection messages despite holding two degrees AND a Master’s. However, he reportedly received a wealth of interest from hiring firms once he started going by James Carr on his applications.

    Carmo’s case highlights that the calls from the likes of Somers to ‘just don’t lie’ on your CV isn’t always practical – the current bog-standard hiring process means some jobseekers will instinctively feel the need to embellish or conceal parts of their CV in order to get noticed. But how can we change this?