Let the Right One In

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Straight Answers to Real Questions



Question: I’m the Director of Financial Planning and Analysis for a big box retailer with stores right across Canada. I haven’t had occasion to hire for a few years but recently we’ve needed to recruit a Senior Financial Analyst to replace someone who’s been promoted out of my department.

I’m actually pretty happy with how the search has been going. We’re getting a decent response from our online posting, we’ve had a number of internal referrals and the placement agency I’ve been working with has produced a few good candidates as well.

My problem is I don’t know how to separate the really good candidate from the pretty good candidates. Maybe I’m getting a bit long in the tooth, but all of these bright young people I’ve been interviewing seem awfully similar. They all have their CPA, work in retail, are all fairly personable and articulate and they all know their way around a spreadsheet.

How I do I know which one of these candidates will turn out to be the best fit for the job?

Answer: Since you mentioned that all of the candidates were articulate and personable, I’m going to have to assume that you like all of them equally in terms of a personality fit. And since they all seem to have the sort of experience and technical chops you’re looking for, it looks like they’ll all be able to competently perform the job you have on offer.

So that leaves you with one criterion that you can use to tease out who’s going to be the best candidate for the job – potential.  Every time you hire someone you should be looking beyond the job you’re hiring for and take into consideration what the next job for the person might be and the probable time frame before that person is ready for that next job.

If you’re looking for someone to be in your Senior Financial Analyst position for the next five plus years, then the best candidate for that job won’t be the brightest, most ambitious person on your short list. Conversely, if you need someone you can promote someone within the next eighteen months or so, the obvious high-flyer will be your best choice.

A good yardstick to gauge someone’s potential is their track record to date, even if it’s a relatively short record. Since at the Senior Financial Analyst level there probably won’t be much of a history of promotion, you can get a sense for how valued they are in their current and past positions by the variety, complexity and visibility of the work they’ve been assigned. As a general rule, up and comers get the positions that interact with stakeholders outside of accounting such as sales and merchandising managers, so find out where they sit on the org chart and who they interact with.

Once you have a good handle on the career trajectory you want your new hire to follow, take a look at the trajectories your current crop of candidates are on and pick your best fit accordingly.

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 [email protected]

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