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Alison Keogh

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Alison Keogh

Director

I joined Pro in 2008 and now sit on the board as a Director. I now head up Pro-Tax and together with my team we cover Practice and Commerce & Industry at all levels. We also have our Partner Search division which specialises in the recruitment of Tax Partners.

I have a trusted network and solid relationships that have been formed over 10 years’ and that continue to grow. People stay in touch with me, refer friends and family to me and those that I have helped over the years look to me to help with their recruitment needs..

I have 10 years of tax recruitment experience in London, my knowledge of practices, and in-house tax teams rivals those in any tax recruitment team in London. I know many candidates who I can reach out to which helps keep me ahead of my competition.

Outside of work, I usually head out to walks with my Boxer dog Tess, after which I tend to hang out at the local pub and have a pint of local bitter. My favourite holiday…too difficult a question, skiing in the alps, road trips in the US or partying and relaxing at the same time anywhere in the Far East I love them all. 

alison's articles

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Should I stay or should I go? What looks good on a CV now?

Posted by Alison Keogh

Deciding how long you should stay in one job can be difficult. Questions that are asked by many a candidate nowadays are; should you stay in one job for a long period of time? Is being a “lifer” a good thing or a bad thing? So what looks best on a CV? In my opinion, as an employee there's a fine line between establishing tenure at a company to show that you're not a job hopper, and staying so long in the same job you stop developing and learning new skills, ultimately leading to little or no progression. Good tenure is still highly sought after by employers. According to Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, in an ideal world you should try and stay at each job for at least two years as employers may cast doubts on your employability if you have more short stints than long ones, and potentially question your judgement, career goals and performance as an employee. A Bullhorn survey also found that 39% of recruiters believe that the biggest obstacle for an unemployed candidate in regaining employment is having a history of job-hopping or leaving a company before one year. The BBC spoke to Claire McCartney, Senior Advisor for the CIPD, who had a very sensible approach to the subject and felt there was a minimum tenure for changing jobs. In her opinion, remaining at a job for between 6-12 months and then changing could make employers wary when considering whether to hire you. On the other hand, if you leave a company within 3 months it is normally because you turn up and the role or company culture is not as described at the interview, you have a change in personal circumstances, or it simply is just not the right fit for you and you know immediately. This type of tenure can (normally) be explained on a CV and if it only happens once in your career, can be the ‘blip’ that a lot of people have had to experience and overcome. When is the best time to change jobs? While it is true that constantly job-hopping may not send the right messages to potential employers, it is also fair to say that leaving a job doesn’t have the same stigma that it once did - particularly when a move makes sense in the context of your overall career goals. Employers like to see clear progression and professional development in potential candidates. This could possibly include the development of a diverse skill set across disciplines, departments or even secondments. I am of the opinion that the size of an organisation can be a potential factor in determining how long you decide to stay in a role, with larger companies offering secondments, more opportunities to progress through the ranks, and a broader spectrum of departments to gain exposure to - all of which are positive, both for future employers and for you in mapping out your career. As well as this, in certain sectors regular change is not only common, but favourable. In the sectors that we recruit for here at Pro-Recruitment Group, we often find that changing jobs - within reason - is highly sought after. People can gain exposure to different ideas and approaches, see how different businesses are run, gain technical expertise from varied roles and work within different sectors with a wide variety of clientele. Job switches may reward you with a broader skill-base and higher compensation than if you were to work for only one or two companies during your career. In most cases, changing roles every 3-5 years if you are looking for progression or variety is seen as a positive in the current hiring market. Gone are the days when a Partner is a Partner at one firm and one firm only. So how long should an employee stay at one job? To conclude, you can explain a ‘blip’ on your CV albeit only once, and you are encouraged to change jobs if a move offers progression, variety and a different way of learning something. However, if you are gaining all of the above and more in your current role it is not frowned upon to stay with one firm, so long as you can demonstrate movement, variety and climbing that all important career ladder. For more information on this article or to speak to our recruitment experts about your next career move, contact Alison on 02072696312 or alison.keogh@pro-tax.co.uk.

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8 Key parts to hiring, retaining and developing the best team around you

Posted by Alison Keogh

Recruitment Process We all know that hiring that amazing team can be a daunting task but we’ve compiled a list of 8 key parts to hiring, retaining and developing the best team. In our experience, a key part of creating your perfect team is getting the decision right at this stage. A few very important things to consider are; 1. What Is Your Process>> 2. Take References>> 3. Hire People That Raise the Average>> 4. Its Ok to Ask a Second Opinion>> 5. Give Them Room to Grow>> 6. Show Them Some Love>> 7. Remuneration Fairness>> 8. Personal Needs>> 1. What is Your Hiring Process? - Ensure there is a thorough interview process, is just one stage enough for you to make an informed decision - Have the key people in your team met with and approved with your decision - Do you complete a competency-based interview, if not, know what your competencies are and test these thoroughly at interview 2. Take References - Have you taken references, not just HR references but have you picked up the phone to the person's old employer to see if there are any positive/negative indicators. (Ask at interview who the potential candidate would recommend you call from their jobs) 3. Hire People That Raise The Average - An age-old saying is recruit people that will one day be better than you, don’t be worried about people being better than you or wanting your job, they will make you look good if they come on board and do a great job. - Constantly look to improve your team, upskill and raise the average 4. It's Ok to Ask for a Second Opinion - Never “take a punt”, if you are slightly on the fence about recruiting then either it is a no or you need a second opinion, if you are working with a recruiter you trust they will listen to you and will advise against a hire as they don’t want things to come back and haunt them at a later date if you get this wrong. Retaining the best team Companies with employee engagement programs achieve 26% greater year-over-year increase in annual company revenue, compared those who do not have formal programs. Staff members are just the same as you and I, think about the basics and put them into practice; 5. Give Them Room to Grow - You need to be able to offer development, opportunity to learn and interesting work/projects for them to get involved in. - Your best people are the ones that want to develop and better themselves, these are the people you want to keep, think back to the start of your career and how you went about developing and getting further in your career. 6. Show Them Some Love - It’s the little things that count for many people, offering small incentives that can range from an early finish on a Friday for a good week's work, ice creams on a hot day, pizza lunches for the office right through to buying them and a friend/spouse dinner one Friday evening. 7. Remuneration Fairness - Do your research when it comes to salary, all employees really want is to be paid market rate and have fairness in accordance with the rest of the business, if you have huge disparities at the same level you will get disgruntlement and unhappiness - Equally, don’t become an easy hunting ground for your competitors, yes you do need to pay market rate but understand what benefits you offer over and above the salary - Consider car allowance, bonus, salary, overtime, holidays and pension contributions 8. Personal Needs - The biggest thing to offer your employees is an understanding of their personal circumstances. Having a genuine interest in their life, what makes them tick, is it the gym, their family, a sport or a hobby. If you don’t know this then you can’t meet their basic personal needs. - Most people in life need their personal needs met to the point that sometimes just allowing someone routine and time makes them very happy in their working life. Recruitment is a network of sharing knowledge so if you have any of your own groundbreaking tips I'd love to hear them. For more information about this article, or to speak to Alison about your recruiting needs, contact Alison on 02072696312 or alison.keogh@pro-tax.co.uk

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The World Cup – can you watch it at work? A few tips to get around your boss…

Posted by Alison Keogh

Between now and the 15th July at 4 pm the nation is waiting to see if, in fact, it is coming home. With a 6-1 win behind us and a promising start to the World Cup, everyone is keen to see who we will be playing next and what our opposition is doing. But the biggest question on our mind, whilst the sun is shining, and the football is on…how can you watch the world cup at work? Thus far, the issue has been minimised as all of England’s games have either been at the weekend or at 7 pm, however, there are plenty of other teams that are favourites for people to watch, whether you are from another country or you have a sure thing on the sweepstake at work, and let’s face it, any sport is good to watch! Here are a few handy tips so that you can try and get the best bits of the matches you are keen on at work; 1. Ask your boss, most employers will either want to watch it or allow you the flexibility (deadlines permitting) to watch the odd game and note to self, this doesn’t mean watching every match in the office, feet up with a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. 2. Listen to the game, whether you are streaming from your mobile or have the radio on your phone, you can carry on with your duties, and when a good bit of the game comes up you can take a sneaky look on your mobile device and never miss a goal. 3. A lot of offices already have TV’s in their office, normally this is for the news or financial reports or snapshots of business, maybe talking to your employers and persuading them that during the World Cup and Wimbledon, all of your clients that come into the office would prefer snapshot of the hottest games around…surely? Get the best of the World Cup on the office TV and make as many trips past the reception as possible. 4. A few words of wisdom, don’t take a sickie to watch the World Cup, don’t go to the pub at lunchtime and not go back to work, don’t put privacy screens on your computer and pretend to be working, always be diligent, professional and show your employer full transparency and respect, it will go a very long way. If you need to book last minute annual leave from work, during the current season, I’m sure most employers would be delighted if you were open and honest about why. Finally, there is potentially one date you should put in your diaries, Monday 16th July 2018. If the unthinkable happens and England actually win a penalty shoot-out and go all the way to the final, then this would kick off at 4:00 pm on Sunday 15th July 2018. If England somehow managed to win the World Cup then rather than there being record levels of unexpected absence – be the good guy, get your annual leave booked now!

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Tax Managers – When is a good time to move In-House?

Posted by Alison Keogh

The age-old myth would tell us that someone from Practice can move in-house at any point in their career. In fact, this may well have been true a few years back. In 2011, we saw many people Tax Seniors, Tax Assistant Managers, Tax Managers, Tax Senior Managers and Tax Directors move in-house. We even identified some Tax Partners moving in-house. Alas, it's 2018 and the market has changed. No longer can you move in-house at any point in your career. The ripest time to move in-house is either upon qualification or whilst you are still a Manager or (junior) Senior Manager in Practice. As a seasoned Senior Tax Manager in Practice, you can get to crossroads, you are either being pushed to do Business Development (which is not why you got into tax) or you are being targeted within an inch of your life to hit certain targets to get to Director. Some people think this is the prime point to jump in-house. As recruiters, the honest answer is, you are an expensive resource for someone who has no proven in-house exposure, compared to those who have 2-3 years’ experience in-house and are at the same level as you. You may well be put forward for roles and if you know the Head of Tax, you may well get an interview, but when the CFO and CEO sign off business cases and meet you for a final interview, the person with the in-house experience that is in the same or less money than you, ultimately may get the job. Don’t get me wrong we are not saying it is impossible to move if you are at this level, it’s just much more difficult and you may be waiting a while for an interview. As a Director or Partner, it is rare that you will enter an -in-house role (unless you are seconded to the business for being a great asset in everything you have done for them already), the number of roles at this level are slowing down and the competition is rife. Someone who is already a Head of Tax will have the edge over someone who is straight from Practice. There is also a big disconnect between the average Head of Tax remuneration and that of a Big 4 or Top 20 Partner, who are too expensive to make the switch (unless of course, they are willing to take a hefty pay cut). So, in essence, the best time to move in-house, in my opinion, is between 1 – 5 years PQE as this is a prime spot for those of who are still willing to learn, are still keen to soak up information and your salary hasn’t reached a level where you price yourself out of the market compared to those with industry experience who will most likely be on less money that you as a basic salary.

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Tax Market Intelligence Q1 2018

Posted by Alison Keogh

It’s been an interesting start to the year in tax recruitment. A very slow yet steady 2018 so far…but are things about to change? In Q1 of 2018 we were down 20% vs Q1 2017 on the number of vacancies that we were instructed on and 17% down on the number of new candidates that registered with us. When doing this analysis, we explored what these changes meant and forecasted whether the same pattern would continue as we entered the halfway point of Q2. The decrease in opportunities available to tax professionals could be due to a number of reasons; many of our clients delayed thinking about recruitment until at least the second week in January. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the scepticism around the post-referendum recession that never really materialised, along with the poor weather, alternatively named the “Beast from the East”, had everyone sitting tight, sounds slightly odd that recruitment was affected by the weather, but it has been a very long winter, people have been snowed in, taken ill and many meetings with clients and candidates alike were postponed or cancelled as a result. Most of the recruitment in Q1 was based on replacing existing people and just doing the necessaries, as opposed to organisations hiring for growth. When looking at new candidates registered with us here at Pro-Tax, we saw a 17% decrease compared to Q1 last year. This has a lot to do with how well people are looking after their staff in the current climate. Wellbeing in the workplace is a huge talking point, in fact here at Pro we ran a successful webinar about this in Q1. Organisations are improving their offering with more flexibility, less pressurised environments, openness and support as well as more benefits such as holidays and ways of working as opposed to monetary. With millennials in the workplace, things are changing. Looking ahead Upon further analysis and as we step into Q2, it has been a far more positive. Our figures show that the market is looking to offer a similar number of vacancies in Q2 2018 as in Q2 2017. Q2 2017 was one of Pro-Tax’s strongest ever quarters as a company and therefore with the sun shining, business coming in thick and fast, we are extremely positive about the prospects for the rest of the year. We are only 5% down on new candidates registered compared to Q2 of last year, so with the winter out of the way are people coming out of the woodworks, are their green shoots waiting for us in H2 of 2018? We certainly think so, there is a completely different feel in the market in Q2 compared to Q1 and we are delighted to see the tax recruitment market turning back to is buoyant self.

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The secret to Interview Success

Posted by Alison Keogh

Interviews can be intimidating and no matter how much experience you have, unless you fully prepare you’ll run the risk of underselling yourself and missing out on that dream position. It may be cliché but the old adage “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” has never been truer in relation to interviews. We have produced a Secret to Interview Success booklet to assist our candidates with their interview preparation, the printable version can be found here. In this guide, you will find all the hints and tips necessary in order to perform to the best of your ability at interview. We hope you find this booklet useful and if your Pro-Recruitment Group Consultant has not booked you in for a full interview briefing, please get in touch with them to arrange this. Download the booklet here >>

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60 Seconds With: Alistair Armstrong, Head of Tax at U+I

Posted by Alison Keogh

If you could banish anything to room 101 what would it be and why? Celery and cherry tomato garnishes on a Bloody Mary. I want a drink, not a crudité experience. Sprouts need to go in 101 as well, just for being sprouts. What do you do to unwind at the weekend? I have two children, my weekends are a taxi service and cash machine. However, I like to play golf when the very rare opportunity arises. What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to make Head of Tax? I think it is important in the early part of your career to move every two and a half to three years and you should not be afraid to do this two to three times in your career. Gain what you can from each role and make sure the next move offers something new, whether that be an exposure to a different tax or a different skill set; for example advisory work as opposed to compliance/tax accounting. During this journey be prepared to get out of your seat and get to know the business. Acquire as much knowledge you can of what makes a commercial operation function and all of the different roles that play a part in that. Try and observe what makes a good meeting or conference call work, and what doesn’t. Basically, learn the when to speak and when to shut up. This skill-set should also be used in any marriage. What do U + I do well? The answer to that lies in our core mission statement, to be seen as the best mixed-use property regeneration company. We place great care and consideration to the history of the site we are developing and one of the ways we do this is through active engagement with the local community. By doing this throughout the whole of the planning process we aim to ensure that we deliver a development to an area that has a lasting legacy and is fit for the purpose it is built in. If not in tax, what would the dream be? After graduating I wanted to be an officer in the Royal Navy, unfortunately, they didn’t share the same career aspiration. Coming from a forces background that would still be the dream. Biggest superstition/fear? A 200-yard par 3 with a water carry all the way to the green; golfers reading this will understand that fear. Snakes as well, obviously. What is your morning routine before work? Read the Metro as far as Bromley South and then sleep for the last 20 minutes. Contrary to the majority of U+I, it certainly doesn’t involve any form of gym, yoga or strange looking green juice drinks. I’m normally in the office by 7 am so that I can leave at a reasonable time to have dinner with the family. Skiing or beach? I love both but the last alpine adventure ended up departing the piste by helicopter. I’ll have to go with beach then; a cold beer, good book and turquoise waters are in my experience a lot less likely to result in a claim on your travel insurance. Who is your hero? I don’t have any heroes per se, however, there are three people in the tax profession that I admire greatly. Sam Grodzinski QC (Blackstone Chambers), Julian Hickey (Temple Tax Chambers) and Kevin Hindley (Alvarez & Marsal). What is your life hack / top tip? Profit is an opinion, cash is a reality.

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Do you have any questions?

Posted by Alison Keogh

That moment at the end of an interview when they ask…So do you have any questions? To this question there are three possible outcomes; 1. You are prepared. You have all of the questions in your head, you may even have them written down. If this is you then well done! Have a quick glance through and see if there is anything else you can pick up from our guide. 2. A brief moment of panic. You have thought about this but they have answered everything you had in mind. Read on, there will be something here that they have not covered. But also, never end an interview without asking a question, it will make you look uninterested and like you have not prepared or thought about this interview. 3. Sheer panic. You hadn’t realised you were going to be asked this and you are totally unprepared. You start asking questions around working hours and holidays (these are things that you recruiter can talk to you about and not for interview) and you may even ask a question when they have already covered during the interview, ultimately showing the interviewer you have not listened. In any event, we have devised a number of useful and thought-provoking questions to show that you have prepared. It's ok to write these down and take them to the interview and it's ok if they have answered some of them, skip past it. Whatever you do, don’t go in unprepared, as last impressions count too. Here are just a few; (please note; not all will be relevant, make sure you pick and choose your moments) 1. I see from your profile on LinkedIn/Website that you used to work at XXX, how does that compare to here? 2. What was the biggest draw for you to come here? 3. What is the best thing about working for XXX? 4. How would the team describe the culture here? 5. Where do you see the team going in the next 3 years/ what is your business plan? 6. Do you see this role progressing? 7. Who was the last person you recruited into the team and how are they getting on? 8. I know your competitors are X and Y, how do you compare to them, what is your differentiator? 9. I saw an article that you wrote on X – did you get much feedback on that? 10. I saw on the news that this company did Y – has that impacted things at all? 11. Lastly, is there anything today that you feel we didn’t cover enough and if so, would you like me to clarify anything? Ending the meeting… No, sorry, we are not done yet. At all times remember to be positive, upbeat and have a good energy about you. People want to work with those that they genuinely like. Tell them how much you have enjoyed the meeting and (if true) how keen you are on the role in question. If you know why tell them. We always say, if you like the job ask for it and that is what the above means. It is not literally speaking asking for the job, but it is still showing a keen interest in the position and they know you want to proceed whatever the next step may be. A firm handshake when you say goodbye is always an important way to end.

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