Attention CFOs: You Won’t Get Your Next Job Through A Recruiter


I recently attended a networking event for financial executives. Most, if not all of the people attending this event were Controllers, Directors of Finance or VPs of Finance in smaller or owner managed businesses and many of them were actively on the market for a new position. This group meets every other month or so and the evening I attended was billed as “Recruiter Night” and I was part of the panel that fielded questions from the crowd about the job market.

How Do I Make Myself More Marketable?

Of course, this being “Recruiter Night”, one of the questions I was asked was about how financial executives can make themselves more marketable to outside recruiters. In as much as there are a few things you can do heighten your appeal to a headhunter, the real answer to that question is that there isn’t a whole lot you can or should do to impress headhunters. If you’re the CFO of a small or medium size enterprise, the odds are very much against you getting a job through a recruiter. This isn’t a function of your actual marketability; it’s a function of this particular market.

Most CFO Jobs Aren’t Listed with Recruiters

I go into this subject in some detail in a previous blog, The Invisible Job Market for Financial Executives, but the main reason you won’t find your next job through a recruiter is that only one in ten, or one in twenty positions available at the Director of Finance or CFO level in small and mid-sized companies are listed with a recruitment firm. The majority of SMEs that are recruiting for their top financial position use networking, internal recruitment resources or job boards to source their candidates. Whether or not this is the way to go is a matter of some debate (see my blog, The Recruitment Process: Inspect What You Expect) but the fact remains that this is how most smaller companies conduct their recruiting.

And If They Are Listed with a Recruiter…

If a VP Finance position search is being conducted by a recruitment firm, there are still a number of barriers to be overcome before you get a shot at the job. First and foremost, the recruiter needs to find you. So you need to already be in their database of available candidates or hope they run across you in the course of their research and recruitment efforts. But even on the off chance that you’re approached on the position, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be presented to the client. After all, a headhunter’s job is to present the best possible person for the position and that entails triaging all available candidates to a short list that best meets the client’s criteria. Even though you happen to be a strong candidate and make it through the screening process, if the recruiter is any good, they will ensure that their client is looking at least three or four other candidates who are just as qualified as you are.

Be Proactive

If you are actively on the job market, you should ensure that you cover off all the obvious bases when it comes to talking to recruiters. However, don’t assume that just because the headhunter community knows that you’re looking for a new job that this will be your main source of new opportunities. The reality is that calls from headhunters will range from few and far between to nil and you should be proactive in finding your next opportunity through your own efforts.

If you think you may be in the market for top financial talent in the next few months, call me direct or email me, for a no obligation consultation.

(416) 567-7782

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