Knowledge Base - Executive Search

Strategies for Hiring a Key Financial Person

Hiring or replacing a Key Financial Person can be a daunting task. Often they are key to the mission of the organization. They have critical knowledge of the inner financial workings.Often they are viewed as a “partner” not just an employee. Because they understand the financial side, they are often a sounding board for new ideas. They normally serve as the spokesperson or liaison with the outside professional advisors. If that is not the case, replacing should be viewed as an opportunity to upgrade the position.

So you just found out your financial person will be leaving or retiring. Now what?

The three common ways to find talent are:

  • Post the position
  • Seek candidates from your network
  • Hire a recruiter

Before we start, let’s spend a moment addressing the most important aspect of your search for a new financial leader: Developing a Profile of the Ideal Candidate. Without this critical definition of what you are looking for, your search is doomed to fail.

This profile should delve into:

  • Education and Certifications needed
  • Experience required
  • Technical proficiency desired
  • Soft skills and cultural fit

With a detailed profile in hand, you know what you are looking for; now let’s take a look at how to go about it.

Post the Position

Posting your opportunity will do a  number of things, some good, some not so much.

  • You will begin receiving resumes from a wide variety of active job seekers, most of whom are not even remotely qualified. It is time consuming to sort through the stack and narrow it down to those that are qualified.
  • People will begin to call and stop in your office to drop off their information. The most motivated are not always the best qualified. It takes time to deal with this disruption.
  • Limiting your search to only candidates who are actively looking will not provide the best candidate pool.
  • You will begin to receive a steady stream of calls from recruiters, trying to push resumes in front of you. They can be highly motivated and persistent. Again, taking up valuable time without bringing any value. Listen to what they say. They represent that they have the ideal candidate but really have no idea what you are looking for.

This whole process can be very time consuming and a major distraction, and seldom results in generating a pool of qualified candidates that you can compare and contrast to get the right fit.

Posting can be productive for clerical positions but seldom is right for a key management hire.

Seek Candidates from your Network

Another way people look for talent is by reaching out to their network. In theory, this should work. In practice it has a serious flaw. Think about it this way. If you are a banker and you have a customer with an exceptional CFO, will you be willing to refer that person to another customer?

The answer is probably not. That would violate the trust relationship with the other customer. More likely and what we see in practice, your network turns up people that are currently on the market. These referrals offend no-one but seldom result in a pool of excellent candidates.

Hire a Recruiter

The third way to find talent is to engage a recruiter. They are on the lookout for talent all the time; it is what they do best. Why is a recruiter the best choice?

  • A good recruiter starts with the profile you have for the position and develops a strategy for where to find candidates that match that profile.
  • They serve as your gatekeeper, saving you significant time.
  • They hunt for appropriate candidates and then sell them on your opportunity.
  • They should only present a select group of candidates that have been prescreened to match the profile for the position.
  • An experienced recruiter allows you to take advantage of superior screening and reference checking skills.

Good recruiters don’t stop until you have found the right match. It is typical for a client to say “I really like this about candidate A and that about candidate B. Can you find me someone that combines those traits?”

It would be disingenuous to say you can’t find a good candidate through your network or by posting the opportunity. On the other hand it is highly unlikely that you will find several. The role of a good recruiter is to find a slate of at least three candidates that match your profile. This allows you to compare and contrast, significantly increasing the odds of an exceptional hire.


Are all recruiters created equal? No, definitely not.

If I am looking for an engineer, I would use a search firm that specializes in engineers. Their skill evaluating the good ones should be better, because that is what they do.

Beware of the recruiter who doesn’t start with the profile but rather only pushes resumes. “Here are 10 good people”.  They may very well be 10 good people –  but do they match what you are looking for? Are they a match to the technical and cultural fit you have determined will bring the most value to your organization?

When looking to hire a key member of the management team, we have learned that the best process:

  • Starts with a profile
  • Hunts for people that match that profile
  • Is executed by people who specialize in finding what you are looking for