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Jay Sky

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Jay Sky

Senior Consultant - Tax

I specialise in finding qualified tax professionals at the ‘newly-qualified’ to ‘Head of’ level for in-house opportunities within the financial services sector.

 

With Pro-Tax, I have tapped into a vast network of professionals within this space, from global banking groups and insurance companies, through to smaller organisations in traditional and alternative investments. I’m also a Work Psychologist by background, and so can offer psychometric testing services for key hires.

 

Outside of work I’m keen on martial arts, yoga and meditation. I’m also not-so-secretly a bit of a science geek and a fan of inspirational quotes.

jay's latest roles

  • In-House Tax Manager - Insurance

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + + bonuses and benefits

    In-House Tax Manager - Insurance Central London £75,000-£85,000 + benefits, bonuses & flexible working Are you ACA/CTA qualified with financial services experience and an interest in the Lloyds market? Seeki...

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  • Tax Manager, In-House

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + + 25% bonuses & benefits

    Tax Manager, In-House Global Asset Manager Central London, £75,000-£85,000 Are you ACA/CTA qualified with a demonstrable interest in the financial services? Seeking end-to-end functional ownership in a techn...

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  • Tax Manager, In-House

    £55000 - £65000 per annum

    Tax Manager, In-House FS Trading, Central London £55,000 - £65,000 + bonuses & benefits Are you ACA/CTA qualified with broad UK taxation experience? Looking to maintain exposure to a broad variety of corpora...

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jay's articles

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How to Prepare for Every Interview and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Jay Sky

Interviews are far from perfect. Whether you are a graduate, newly qualified or a Head of Tax, the interview will likely consist of around 45-90 minutes of unstructured conversation, which leaves plenty of room for impression-management, memory bias and simply ‘screwing up’ what should have been said. There are answers you should prepare, questions you should be asking, and common mistakes you should avoid, which will be explored in this article. No doubt you will have researched the company in-depth, mind-mapped the fit between your CV and the role and potentially even gone through earlier rounds of interviews and survived the psychometric testing. Despite many candidates preparing what can seem like heaps of company research and technical revisions, unstructured interviews are generally a relaxed approach to exploring candidates’ fundamental interest and competence. Reflections on personal interests and competencies are amongst both the most basic and forgotten aspects of preparation, at all levels from the newly qualified to the Heads of Tax searches. The aim is not to rehearse answers to the effect of becoming robotic or scripted. Rather, it is important to evaluate your own motivations and skill-set as a business-case offering and reflect on how this can be illustrated to a decision-maker in perhaps just one hour. Interest-based questions Quite simply, an interest-based question is one which probes your motivations for leaving/applying. The recommendation is to bullet-point 5 features of interest, from your research of the company and specification, to each of the following questions: 1. Why are you leaving? 2. Why this company? 3. Why this role? Mistake #1 – answering a different question When taking interview feedback from clients, it is often surprising to see how many candidates have answered a completely different question when running through these fundamental considerations. Or at least, surprising to see how many candidates have digressed, or mixed two (or more) questions together in a way which leave the interviewer with real uncertainty over the original query. For instance, "why this company?" is too often taken for "why this role?" (very distinct), before really digressing into reasons for leaving (when not asked). Mistake #2 – demonstrability and memorability It is not uncommon that candidates' interests in applying are rather similar. Imagine you’re interviewing 4-5 candidates, back-to-back, and all interviewees list the same features of interest here. How do you filter out those which seem the most genuine, and more pressing, how do you remember who said what, if all reasons are near-identical? Though the reasons for applying within the competition pool may be practically the same, usually one person’s answers just stand out. In these cases, their interests are often articulated in a way which just ‘sticks’ as both demonstrable and memorable, to the extent there’s no need for the interviewer to revert and check their notes. The solution: Reflect on your BFFs, in advance You can reflect on what from your Background leads you to this Feature of interest (in the company/role), and how this relates to your and Future intentions (BFF). Contextualising the answer with a past sentiment and forward-looking goal in this way anchors your reasons as both demonstrable and memorable, relative to just listing the same features of interest as your competition pool. The suggestion is not to launch 5-10 BFF’s at your interviewer in one go. Rather, the aim is to concisely deliver those Features of interest (elaborating where appropriate), while being ready for the follow-up question of “why is this aspect interesting?”. Competency-based questions A competency-based question is one which asks for behavioural descriptions in a given scenario, intended to probe a specific capability. For instance, “tell me about a time when you showed ‘x’…” (past-orientation), or “tell me what you would do if ‘y’…” (future-orientation). The questions below are not technically competency-based, but often determine those which follow. Here, the recommendation is to list 5 answers to each of the following questions, once having examined the job specification. 1. What are your strengths (why hire you for this)? 2. What are your weaknesses (why not hire you for this)? Mistake #3 – the questions candidates set themselves up for Often, it’s not the format of the follow-up (competency-based) questions which are difficult, but the capability which the candidate has pitched themselves against. For instance, if an answer is “I am self-motivated/a hard-worker", the only follow-up competency-based question foreseeable is “tell me about a time when you showed self-motivation/hard work?”. Would the person asking, or answering this question look more ridiculous? The likelihood is that if a time-bound, specific follow-up example cannot be provided, your reason is neither sufficiently demonstrable nor memorable beyond that already achieved by a CV. The solution: Set your answer up as a STAR For every response you provide, you need to be ready for the follow-up question, “tell me about a time when you have shown this”. This follow-up question is asking for a specific example of behavioural patterns you have shown (or would show) in a given situation, and not descriptions of your general responsibilities. The go-to structure to handle competency-based questions effectively is the STAR format. This consists of a specific Situation you were in, a Task you were faced with, the behavioural Actions ‘you’ (not ‘we’) took, and the Results you achieved. The STAR format can also apply for future-bound competency-based questions. In these instances, STAR can be adapted by contextualising the answer with a hypothetical situation and task, before running through anticipated actions and results. Whereas most candidates would simply list the actions they would take, ‘setting the scene’ of your actions in this way can help orient your own thinking and communicate your actions to the interviewer more tangibly. Mistake #4 – impression-management, rather than honesty While this question is often seen as horribly cliché and perhaps a little uncomfortable to answer openly, no selection process is complete without this being considered in some way. We all have developmental areas, and ostensibly, both parties would rather be aware of these from the start, rather than when expectations are falling short, 3-6 months in. So, think carefully prior to falling into the trap of framing disguise a strength as a weakness (e.g. “I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist”). The solution: reflect on as many weaknesses as possible Thinking about where your strengths may fall short against the job specification and what you are doing to address this gap will leave you in good stead to manage the topic of developmental areas when they arise. Asking this question back (e.g. “where might you see my developmental areas in relation to this role?”) is also a great follow-up question to openly address any potential reservations. Summary Overall, these questions are a little cliche, but for good reason - they are essential for both the interviewer and interviewee to ask, especially in a selection process which is largely unstructured. If after a discussion with your recruiter, you just can’t list at least one key answer to any of these questions – really consider if this opportunity is worth interviewing for at all! Some of the most common mistakes in preparing for unstructured interviews revolve around these basic reflections made (or more often not made) in advance, which impact on the demonstrability and memorability of answers for these fundamental questions, and the followups. Looking for help with interview preparations? Contact Jay on 020 7269 6343 or jay.sky@pro-tax.co.uk.

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60 Seconds With: Matthew Rees, Group Head of Indirect Taxes at Schroders

Posted by Jay Sky

Matthew Rees is the Group Head of Indirect Taxes with the FTSE100 asset manager, Schroders. A bright Oxford graduate, Matthew started his impressive career to date with PwC, where he trained for his CTA and progressed through the ranks in VAT for financial services businesses, all the way up to Head of Investment Management VAT prior to his current role. We sat with Matt to ask on key areas where someone of his standing may be able to offer career-insight, between experiences in practice and in-house, and what advice he might be able to provide – to himself and the next generation of tax professionals. How are things at Schroders? Schroders is a really pleasant place to work, and I don’t use the term ‘pleasant’ lightly. As you know, a significant portion of the shares remain owned by the Schroder family, which I think keeps a family-feel to the office – it’s a very collegiate environment. The culture totally revolves around treating staff well, and this is reflected in the tenures of those employed. Some of my colleagues have been at Schroders for 12, 15 and even 18 years, which speaks volumes. You made the transition in-house at a fairly senior level. How was the adjustment and what challenges did you face? I think the transition was both insightful and challenging. The good news is that I had progressed to a fairly senior level within PwC and had worked in a number of different teams. Through these various roles and rotations, I had developed decent soft skills, such as team management, which were largely transferrable to the in-house context. But the key transition is getting your head fully around the responsibility involved in-house, in terms of end-to-end process ownership and stakeholder management. It isn’t the easiest process but if you keep at it, the effort and hard work will definitely pay off. With these challenges in mind, what practical advice would you give to yourself if you could, when tackling these transition challenges previously? Great question. Practically, when making the first step from practice to in-house you simply must remain open-minded. You really don’t know what it will be like – closer to the lines of business and responsible for full delivery of projects – until you’re there. At the same time, it’s fundamentally important to keep hold of what you’ve learned in practice. Keeping fresh with the technical matters you’ve faced previously puts you in a good position to have ‘quick wins’ when in-house and this is where you have the opportunity to add value and build a profile. On a wider note, as I’ve developed in my role at Schroders, I’ve found it very helpful being a member of sector bodies: e.g. the EFAMA and IA VAT committees. I say this on three accounts; firstly, it’s good to give something back; secondly, it’s important to retain a network of peers with which you can share experiences, challenges and opportunities; and finally it requires you to keep your technical skill levels up – I enjoy the learning that comes, for instance, from delivering presentations on key topics to these groups. You have an impressive career to date and have progressed quickly amid this hyper-competitive climate. What do you do for downtime? I’d say the first thing that comes to mind is that the work-life balance in-house is significantly better than that you’ll find in the Big 4. And so this transition in itself allowed me to refocus my energy where it was most effective, once I’d got my head around the remit of responsibilities. I’ll never forget a mantra made by an ex-colleague at PwC – “nobody ever died from a lack of tax advice”. Your work needs to be engaging, but not all-consuming. Beyond this, sports have always been a huge passion and big outlet of mine – cricket, rugby or anything you can watch or play really. Also, my wife and I are big on travelling. I’m not a ‘by the beach’, relaxation type of character – being quite high energy means that even on holiday I’m out exploring and learning or trying to sneak out to watch a local match! What are your guilty pleasures? Love Island. Strictly Come Dancing. Made in Chelsea. A few members of the team are always first in the door, and I’ll admit during the peak TV season our early morning conversations could be a little more VAT focused. How would your team describe you? I’d like to think they’d describe me as a smart guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously but treats everyone honestly and fairly. What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation of VAT professionals face and what advice might you give? I remain amazed at the hyper-competitive nature of the world right now. I look back at the graduate interviews I used to host at PwC, and I was consistently astounded at the quality of candidates who walked through the door. The range of qualifications, grades, knowledge and abilities acquired at a very junior stage in their career was as humbling as it was impressive. It’s a bit of an arms race today in career advancement; you just need to keep at it and stay true to what you want to do. On this note, I’d equally suggest not being too narrow with aspirations – I look back to how focused I was at university on getting top grades and playing rugby and there were perhaps a lot more experiences I could have gained if I’d been a little more relaxed. We’re doing a blog series currently on interview preparation, drawing on the common shortfalls and practical advice. Where do you see candidates falling short in interviews, and what advice would you give here? As you know, we are lucky enough to have very good applicants at Schroders, which makes the interview process much easier. Beyond this, I note that 75%+ of the candidates I have seen have the skills to do the job, so when it gets to the interview stage, it really comes down to displaying a personality and seeing where you best fit in. There is obviously some basic homework that everyone should undertake in preparation for interview – Google is your friend – but the key message I would have it to be yourself and try to make a personal connection with the interviewer. After all, you are going to be spending a lot of your life with your colleagues! For more information about this article, or to speak to Jay about your recruiting needs or In-House Tax opportunities in London or Nationwide, contact him on 02072696343 or jay.sky@pro-tax.co.uk.

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The One Question You Should Be Asking In Every Interview

Posted by Jay Sky

You have navigated your way through all the interview preparation, from researching the company at-depth and mind-mapping the fit between your CV and this role. You have gone through three rounds of interviews and survived the psychometric testing. You have answered the competency-based questions in STAR format, and unless you are tested on your ability to perform handstands, this should be the end of the process – when you are asked for any final questions you may have. This is perhaps the last opportunity you will have to 'sell' yourself before an offer is made (or not). So, what questions can you ask your interviewer to really sell your business case offering? If we put the genuine ‘need-to-know’ questions aside, the typical questions asked by candidates are often intended to demonstrate an invested interest in the opportunity. The potential problem is that remarkable interest after ‘talking up’ your positives in the interview is not a 360 approach to selling yourself. “Telling is not selling. Only asking questions is selling.” – Brian Tracy A decent framework for asking questions in interviews is the ‘4 Cs’: Connect Your chance to build rapport, prior to going for the tailored questions. For instance, ‘what made you join, and how have you found it?’ Culture Your chance to bridge any distance between the person-company fit. For instance, ‘what kind of person would you see as really fitting into this team well?’ Challenges Your chance to bridge distances between the person-role fit from a corporate perspective. For instance, ‘what challenges are coming up, and how can my role contribute to these?’ Close Your chance to seal the deal – determining what more might be required from your candidacy, prior to proceeding with next steps in the process. Central point: this may be the last opportunity you have to manage any reservations your interviewer may have. Why focus on reservations? No candidate can ever be ‘perfect’. If a prospective employee can do anything and everything on the specification (blindfolded) – what would this person find interesting about the role? How will the employer know this ‘perfect candidate’ will not simply get bored and move on elsewhere after 3-6 months Some candidate developmental areas/challenges are desirable, without the gap between current capabilities and required standards being too vast to bridge. So the question to ask centers on what could prevent you from moving forward in the process, which you can elicit in the room to sell yourself against. This phrasing might take varied forms: Where might you see my developmental areas in relation to this role? No candidate can be totally perfect. What potential weaknesses do you think I might have for this role that we can use this opportunity to address, rather than 3 months in? Based on what you know about so far – what more might you need to hear from a candidate to think they are right for the role? Some people will see an inherent negative phrasing around this question and cringe a little about the idea of asking anything which could frame their offering as anything less than perfect. But this negative phrasing is the very reason you should be asking the question – it is much easier for you bring up the topic than it is for your prospective employer/employee to seem like they are shooting you down. On both sides, you would presumably rather be aware of any developmental areas from the start, rather than 3 months in when expectations fall short. A lot of the time, interviewers are not asking "what are your weaknesses?" just to probe on developmental areas, your degree of humility, or just for the cliché. Much of the time, the interviewer will hold a nagging reservation they would like to talk about. The “what are your weaknesses” question is thus an opportunity to raise a developmental area which may be somewhat awkward for the interviewer to pose outright. On both sides, the ‘weaknesses’ question is your chance to lay all cards out on the table. If you are successful in eliciting a reservation, then great work. This is a discussion you should prepare for. Sit down before the interview, and list any and every possible reservation the interviewer may hold about your candidacy against this role. Start with your developmental areas against the specification, and then extend your thinking on to general weaknesses. This exercise of 'bullet-proofing' has the advantage of preparing you for any curve-ball conversations which arise and bolstering your confidence that you will be able to cover any ground. If no reservations are shared, then it means either you have not covered the necessary ground (or rapport), or there is simply nothing preventing you from receiving an offer. For more information about this article, or to speak to Jay about your recruiting needs or Tax jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 02072696343 or email jay.sky@pro-tax.co.uk.

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