Armanino Blog

Building a Best-in-Class Financial Team

May 01, 2012

For all the buzz about the accounting and business intelligence technology that is transforming the workplace and increasing productivity, there's still a major issue that CFOs say concerns them: namely, human judgment. Necessary human skill sets, including analytical insight and good judgment, are relatively rare and finding candidates with these attributes can be challenging.

There are a number of possible solutions, says Julia Holian, Director of Armanino’s Executive Search: a CFO could honestly evaluate the capabilities of his or her staff and if the team is found to lack needed skills, decide to:

  • reorganize the department to put the right people in the right positions where they are better suited and will be successful;
  • train the staff in the areas where they are deficient; or
  • supplement the skills of the staff with outside experts.

"You can use outsourcing strategically to create a more flexible workforce," Julia says. "If done correctly, this can deliver a team with the right mix of expertise to complete projects more quickly and efficiently." Julia adds that another strategy would be to realign responsibilities, train in-house staff where it makes sense, and hire skilled talent to "increase your comfort level in areas like compliance and reporting."

Analytical skill is the key to building CFO organizations, notes Julia. "There may be quality information at your staffer's fingertips, but if they don't know how to gain insight from that information, your technology investment will be underutilized and your team will be less effective as the company grows."

If you're in hiring mode, Julia offers these general suggestions:

Write a thorough job description - This is the foundation for a successful hiring process. There's no way you can find ideal employees if you aren't clear on the qualifications for the job. A detailed job description commits you to documenting the skills and experience required for success. Take your time. Do it well.

Set your recruiting partners up for success - Whether you work with an external recruiter or your own human resources team, you need be an active partner in the recruiting and selection process and continually evaluate the essential soft and hard skills required for the right candidate.

Conduct one-on-one interviews - We believe interviews are best conducted one-on-one and in person. Develop behavioral interview questions that directly probe for experience in the required skills. For instance, if analytical skill is crucial, come up with a scenario, real or imagined, that requires the candidate to think through a problem. Note the candidate's spontaneous strategy or path to the solution to gain insight into analytical skills and judgment. Ask the same questions of all candidates to get apples-to-apples comparisons.

Know when and where to be flexible - In most cases, your new hire will not meet all your criteria, but may bring other valuable skills and abilities to your team. Be ready to balance the candidate's skill set and career experience with their interpersonal skills and abilities to compliment your team and blend with your company's culture. After all, the right fit may look slightly different from what you first envisioned.

Be flexible about pedigree. An Ivy-league grad from the top of the class isn't always the best fit. More importantly, consider candidates from a broader spectrum of schools who were above average students with excellent post-graduate track records. These candidates are often more hungry and curious, are not complacent, and have the motivation and drive to contribute to your success.

Julia's final advice? Make the offer yourself. "By personalizing the offer to join your team, you plant the seeds for a positive new relationship that will motivate and inspire the new hire," she says.

May 01, 2012

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