Straight Answers to Real Questions
Question: I’ve just joined a $600 million retail company as their CFO. Among other things, I was given a mandate to sort out the finance department. To make a long story short, I’m going to have to get rid of a lot of driftwood at all levels and bring in some fresh blood to get this place back on track.
The purge is going to start at the level that reports directly to me and will continue right down to the accounting supervisor and accounting clerk level. I’m going to need some help recruiting and plan on engaging some recruitment firms. I know that some firms work on a contingency fee basis and some firms work on a retained fee basis. Who do I use for what?
Answer: For your “plug and play” roles like A/P Clerk, G/L Accountant and Accounting Supervisor, contingency firms are your best bet. Placement agencies that specialize in junior accounting positions should have a ready stock of tested, qualified candidates at hand. I recommend that you only work with one firm at a time and give them a week or two to really give it their best effort to fill your position. If you don’t get what you’re looking for from the first firm you decide to deal with, open it up to some other firms.
For positions at the Controller or Director of Finance level, you should work with a retained firm that specializes in the finance and accounting market. Some placement agencies have controller or director of finance types on file, but this kind of search requires a recruiter to go beyond who they know today and conduct a thorough search of the market. In addition, senior level searches require a much higher degree of technical sophistication to properly assess and triage potential candidates.
Beware of placement agencies that purport to be executive search firms. As much as they may protest that they will do a thorough job for you, if they work primarily on a contingency fee basis, they’re a placement agency. Which means that they’re in the business of placing the people they have on hand; they are not in the business of executive search.