Meet Alison Han, CPA, Senior Recruitment Associate on our Permanent Search Team

Before joining Clarity Recruitment, Alison Han, CPA developed her finance and accounting skills working at a fast-growing SaaS and at accounting firms. Now she’s using her expertise to help candidates land their dream jobs and is supporting clients in their search for incredible talent.

What’s your favourite interview question?

“Why are you interested in this position and why should we hire you?” I personally enjoyed answering this question when I was interviewing for recruiting jobs because it gave me the chance to express my enthusiasm for the opportunity, demonstrate that I had done my research, and highlight how I align with the company and role. My advice to candidates is to always come prepared with a strong and thoughtful answer as this question is almost guaranteed to be asked – plus if you can’t articulate a convincing response, it’s probably not the right fit anyway.

What was your first job?

I worked at a Subway in a mall food court part-time in grade 12. I went on to work at a different location off-campus while attending Laurier for a few years to earn some extra money. It was honestly a great first job – not very demanding and I was a big fan of those cookies… However, the overpowering smell of bread that would linger on me and the official job title of “Sandwich Artist” were less than ideal. Glad to have it off my resume now, but it was definitely a fun topic during early interviews.

What’s your favourite place in the world, or your top vacation spot?

I’m sure this will change as I travel more but for now, New York is my top spot. I went on a spontaneous trip there last summer and stayed with some friends. The city, energy, and people left a lasting impression on me, especially since it happened during a pivotal time in my life. I ended up visiting two more times and the memories and adventures were truly unforgettable.

I’m planning to go to Europe this year for the first time so I’m looking forward to seeing where my future travels take me – who knows where my new favourite place will be!

Tell us something interesting about you that’s not on your resume.

Something interesting about me that’s not on my resume is how my career journey mirrors my personal growth. I used to be quite reserved and unsure of myself, which is what led me down the accounting path in the first place. However, as I began taking conscious steps towards understanding and improving myself, I became more self-aware and confident. Realizing and accepting that I’m actually a very extroverted, bubbly, adventurous person who genuinely enjoys connecting with people and seeking out new experiences is how I ended up trying various accounting positions and ultimately deciding to pivot to recruitment.

Outside of work, you can typically find me at the gym or out exploring Toronto’s restaurant and bar scene, eventually posting my foodie adventures on my Instagram food blog (you can follow me at @aliscalories – much appreciated!)

Before joining Clarity, you worked in accounting and finance at a scaling SaaS company. What was the most surprising thing you encountered when you made the switch to recruitment?

While many people seem to fall into recruitment, it was a deliberate choice for me after working in tax, audit, financial reporting, FP&A, and completing my CPA. Since I only switched to recruitment after years of contemplation–and landed in accounting and finance recruitment specifically–I honestly envisioned it being a smoother transition, given my personality, relevant experience and intrinsic motivators for this career.

Although I had a good idea of what to expect, I was surprised by just how fast-paced and overwhelming agency life can truly be. I quickly realized how crucial mental toughness, organization, and consistency are to navigating the highs and lows. Adjusting to the unpredictable nature of the recruitment world and accepting that there are certain things out of my control has definitely been a challenge, but the pros far outweigh the cons. I know it’s all part of the process and I’m grateful for the support and guidance along the way from my mentors and colleagues at Clarity.

Overall, I’m really happy with where I am and feel fulfilled knowing I’m showing up as my authentic self every day and doing work that I’m passionate about. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about making the transition from accounting to recruitment?

Network and connect with professionals in the industry! This was a game-changer for me. Even if it’s not your favourite thing to do, it can lead to unexpected opportunities and valuable insights.

I was initially hesitant about joining an agency and wanted to pursue in-house talent acquisition as a career move, but hearing about others’ experiences proved invaluable in guiding me towards making the best decision for myself. You never know where a conversation will lead or the doors that it may open!

For example, I had never heard of Clarity before a recruiter contacted me about an accounting role. During the call, I expressed my interest in recruitment and eventually it turned into an opportunity that aligned perfectly with what I was seeking in terms of environment, people, culture, and values.

Many thanks to Aoife, Joe, and Sindhu for the enriching conversations that led to a job offer, as well as the incredible recruiters I became friends with at Ada who helped me throughout my journey and demonstrated the potential for long-term happiness in this field.

You now spend most of your time talking to candidates about potential opportunities, what advice would you give to someone who is deciding between a career at a firm versus an industry?

Having worked in both environments, I personally lean towards a career in industry over firm, as it was a much better fit for me. That being said, I recognize that my viewpoint is shaped by my lived experiences, so it doesn’t apply universally to everyone’s situation. I strongly believe that the environment and the people are what matter most, and this can differ greatly across industries and organizations.

Again, I will stress the importance of networking and doing your research. This is advice that I offer not just to individuals in accounting, but to anyone who may be unsure about their career path. Seek out conversations with those you envision having a similar future as, and use their insights as a compass for what’s best for you given your unique career aspirations, lifestyle goals, and personal ambitions.

If you’re not keen on staying in the firm forever or climbing the ranks to Partner, then it might be a good idea to look into exit options while at the Senior level. I’m always open to sharing more about this topic and offering help with job searches, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested!

We’re always looking for recommendations – what are you currently watching/listening to? (Netflix, podcasts, etc.)

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest TV watcher, and the main downside of this is not being able to participate in conversations about the latest trending shows… I do enjoy the odd Netflix series though and I’m currently watching You, season 4!

As for podcasts, one that I’ve been listening to for years is The Mindset Mentor. It became a regular part of my daily routine during the COVID lockdowns when gyms were closed and I was struggling with my mental health. I would listen while taking walks outside and continue to do so now as the episodes are quick and always leave me feeling positive and motivated. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their mindset and lead a more intentional, purposeful life.

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