When you were a bright, young, up-and-coming accounting professional, recruiters couldn’t get enough of you. If you were in public accounting, they started calling right after you passed the UFE. If you were in financial reporting, financial planning and analysis or audit in industry, head-hunters of all stripes were in frequent touch with opportunities for advancement with their clients.
Now that you’re a CFO and you’re on the market, it seems that the recruiter community isn’t quite as keen to meet up for a coffee and discuss your next career move. It’s no reflection on you—or the recruiters, for that matter—it’s a reflection on the state of the market for CFOs.
Recruiters who work in the finance and accounting markets are flush with openings for financial analysts, management accountants and internal auditors. So it makes sense for them to meet with more junior accounting professionals on spec. If they don’t have a job for that person now, odds are they will in the next few months.
However, the odds of them having a job for you in the next few months, or even the next couple of years, are pretty slim. So it’s not a great use of their time (or yours), to meet unless they have a specific opportunity to talk to you about.
Yep, networking kind of sucks. It feels needy and most of the time it doesn’t lead anywhere. That being said, you really should do it. The trick to networking is to cast a wide net and not overinvest in any one potential job referrer. If you’re actively on the market, reach out to everyone you know who you think may be in a position to run into someone who’s in the market for a CFO, send them a note and your resume and leave it at that. Obvious people to reach out to are professionals who deal with business owners on a regular basis—partners in public accounting, lawyers, bankers, private equity professionals, etc.
You may want to try a networking event, but in my experience those events are full of people who are selling and there’s usually nobody there who’s buying.
3. The Grind
As the saying goes, “it’s a hard job but somebody’s gotta do it.” Looking for a job may not exactly be a full-time job, but it certainly is a part-time job and one that requires a plan and the discipline to consistently execute on the plan. I detail what a plan might look like in my free e-book, The CFO’s Guide to the Hidden Job Market (downloadable from my website https://www.osbornefinancialsearch.com/resources/#e-books) but the big take-away is that you’ve got keep grinding away at it until lightning finally strikes. And just to manage your expectations, it can take a long time before you find your next job—anywhere from six months to a year or more.
That being the case, I recommend that if you’re unemployed, try to find a consulting/contract gig that won’t preclude you from accepting a full-time CFO position.
4. Beauty Contests
If you interview for an opportunity through an executive recruiter or a LinkedIn ad, expect that you’re going to be one of four or five potential candidates. If it’s a job that was posted on LinkedIn, you have a good chance of out-shining your competition, assuming of course that your resume is a good match for what’s on offer. LinkedIn ad responses are all over the map and the CEOs/H.R. departments who rely on LinkedIn as their sole source of candidates aren’t necessarily all that good at triaging that response. There’s a decent chance that there will only be one (hopefully you) or two decent candidates being interviewed and the other candidates won’t be in the mix once the hiring authority has given them a closer look.
If, however, you’re part of a short list presented by an executive recruiter, you can expect that each and every person on that list is as technically qualified and personally scintillating as you are. The hiring authority is going to like everyone they meet—it’ll come down to personal chemistry when it comes time to pick the one they want to hire.
5. How Long the Interview Process Takes
The reason everything takes so darn long in the hiring process is that it almost always comes down to juggling everyone’s schedule. Let’s say you’ve got five potential candidates—most, if not all of which are employed and already have fairly hectic schedules. Their calendars have to sync up with the hiring authority’s which may be one person but may be more than one person.
That usually takes quite a bit of coordination (and time) and that’s just for the first interviews. For the second interviews, there are fewer candidates to coordinate (usually two), but there are usually more people on the hiring side that are brought into the process.
Complicating matters and adding to the timeline are professional travel, quarter/year ends, sickness, statutory holidays, personal vacations, last minute crises—any or all of the above can and do add weeks and even months to the process.
Job hunting is no walk in the park. As we’ve noted above, it’s a grind and it takes a lot of time. So, let me offer you a word of advice. As soon as you start getting the sense that you’ll need to make a move in the next couple of years, start looking at the market now. Even if you’re not quite ready to pull the trigger, it’s better to have to deal with some interesting if untimely options than to have no options when you really need one.