It’s axiomatic in executive search circles the quality of the hiring authority’s decision is a direct function of the quality of the short list they interview, which in turn is a function of the number of candidates canvassed. If you use an executive recruiter to recruit your next CFO, you will be accessing a very large number of candidates who could be a good fit for your position. If you decide to do-it-yourself, you’ll only access a very small percentage of the candidate pool available to you. But if you do decide to DIY the recruitment process, you have three basic avenues you can explore: networking, posting the job online and direct recruiting on LinkedIn.
Step One: Networking
The first person you should reach out to is the partner you deal with at your public accounting firm. Partners in public accounting are nonpareil networkers and will inevitably know one or two senior financial executives who are looking for a new home. You may also ask your banker or lawyer for referrals. Professionals who deal with owner-managers are often approached by unemployed executives looking to be referred. You can also tap into the various networking groups catering to finance executives such as The Finance Network or HAPPEN. Their memberships are usually comprised of people actively looking for new positions.
Job Boards – Sometimes You Luck Out, Most Times You Don’t
As much as job boards are the most popular option for companies on the market for new talent, they aren’t nearly as effective a recruiting tool as most people think. There’s no question that job postings result in receiving a lot of applicants. But hiring authorities shouldn’t assume that just because they’ve received 50 or 75 responses to their CFO posting that a fair number of them are going to be a good fit.
Quantity Doesn’t Equal Quality
The number of responses to a job posting can be misleading. Job boards are the number one resource for active job hunters, many of whom are unemployed. Since it costs nothing to respond to a posting, people tend to respond to anything and everything that may be in their particular ball park. So even though the hiring authority may receive 75 resumes, most of them will be on a spectrum ranging from kinda/sorta qualified to not-at-all qualified. Only a relatively few resumes will actually be in the ballpark the posting was hoping to attract.
But since job boards only give you access to candidates that are actively on the market, the response you get doesn’t represent a fair cross section of the candidates actually available. It’s entirely possible that you’ll get no qualified responses at all to your posting. In which case, don’t change your criteria to suit the candidates, keep looking for the candidates that suit your criteria.
LinkedIn: Facebook for Grown-Ups
LinkedIn has two main avenues available to you to source candidates. The first and most obvious recruitment tool available is the job-posting feature, which we’ve just discussed. Postings are relatively inexpensive and are good for a period of 30 days. Job postings will capture the active candidates who have up-to-date resumes, time to actively pursue opportunities and no issues with confidentiality.
The other way to use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool is to run searches yourself (or have human resources do it) and send InMails to the people you think may be a good candidate for your position. Just be aware that unless you have a relatively expensive LinkedIn Recruiter license, this approach will only give you access to the people that are within one or two degrees of your own (or HR’s) LinkedIn network, and the number of search filters available is quite limited. This approach will let you target some of the “passive” candidate pool of people who might be willing to entertain other opportunities but are not actively on the market.
Are Some Candidates Enough Candidates?
There’s no question that networking, job boards and social media will net you some candidates. You may end up hiring someone from your DIY efforts, but the odds are against you hiring the best possible candidate. You’ll end up hiring the best of that particular pool of candidates. You’ll be overlooking about 85% of the other candidates that could and should be available to you. This approach may work out for you if you’re going to be satisfied with someone who ends up being an adequate hire.
Who Wants to Hire an Adequate CFO?
In over thirty years of recruiting financial executives, no-one has ever given me a mandate to find them an adequate CFO. They all want a great CFO, and that’s not something you should be willing to leave to chance. If you want to play the odds and try to avoid the time and expense of a full-blown search, by all means give the do-it-yourself option a shot. But before you do, have a clear idea of what the ideal candidate looks like and don’t settle for less. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, it doesn’t mean they’re not out there; it just means that you’re going to have to hire someone to go looking for them.