Straight Answers to Real Questions
Question: I’m a CPA CA with twenty years’ experience in food manufacturing. I’ve spent the last ten years as VP Finance and CFO of a frozen food processor in Mississauga. My company was acquired six months ago by a private equity firm and so I decided back then that I should start looking at the market.
I’ve contacted some recruiters and I’ve sent my resume in on a few different CFO and VP Finance jobs that I saw advertised on Indeed Jobs and LinkedIn but I haven’t gotten any traction out of my job hunting efforts yet. Have you got any ideas on how I can get a little more action?
Answer: This is a very common and very big question that I get all the time. And my stock answer is to refer people to my book, The CFO’s Guide to the Hidden Job Market, which anyone can download for free from our website: https://www.osbornefinancialsearch.com/think-like-a-headhunter/.
But if you want a very high level view of this topic, here are the basics:
- Have a detailed LinkedIn profile and make sure that you have a professional, head and shoulders shot on your profile page.
- As much as possible, try to make sure that your resume tells a logical story of progression and achievement that will make sense to any reader. Keep it to two or three pages and try to avoid long lists of bullet points.
- Make sure that you put your current and previous positions on your resume in context of your employer at the time. That includes industry, specific products and/or services and size (revenues and/or employees), ownership (TSX, owner-managed, PE owned etc.). Owner-managers especially tend to hire from their own industry so the more detailed you are, the better.
- Try to network with public accounting partners, bankers, lawyers etc. who specifically deal with small and mid-sized enterprises. These are the first people owner-managers tap when they’re on the market for a new CFO.
- Talk to appropriate headhunters but don’t expect to get a lot of action from them.
- If you have a network of industry peers, make sure you plug into it so that you hear about any jobs they get called on by headhunters.
- When you apply to jobs on LinkedIn, don’t assume that your profile in and of itself will be enough to get a response. Always include your resume when you respond to a posting (a surprising number of people don’t).
- Play the numbers. You need to reach out to dozens (or more) potential employers to have a decent chance of getting some traction.
- Prepare for every interview individually. Research each prospective employer from A to Z so you understand their particular issues and challenges. Then determine how you’d go about addressing them.
- Have a plan and consistently execute on it. Most people at the CFO and VP Finance level can expect to be on the market for at six months to a year or more. A lot of job seekers’ activities tail off after the first couple of months of intense activity. This is a marathon, not a miler, make sure you have some meaningful job hunting activity planned for every week.
I get it that some of what I’m suggesting above is easier said than done. And if you’re currently in a fairly good spot and don’t actually need to make a move in the next little while, only a few of these pointers will resonate with you. If however, the need to find a new position is more pressing, you should make sure that your job hunting strategy includes all ten of these basics.