Straight Answers to Real Questions
Question: I’m the VP Finance of a $300mm TSX listed software services firm. My Director of Financial Reporting resigned a couple of months ago and since I don’t have the bench strength to replace her from within, I needed to go outside the firm to recruit for this position. As I was considering my options, I got a couple of cold calls from placement agencies that specialized in finance and accounting who promised that they had the perfect candidate to fill the job.
I had never dealt with these particular firms but they seemed very confident that they’d be able to produce good candidates for me so I decided to give them a shot. To be fair, both agencies have produced candidates but I haven’t met anyone yet who’s really fit my criteria. The recruiters are telling the market is tight and that I’m being too fussy. Do I need to lower the bar to fill this position?
Answer: Your question actually brings up a couple of issues that need to be addressed. First of all, if you’ve never dealt with these placement agencies, why would you entrust them with the mandate to replace your Director of Financial Reporting? You may be thinking that since these firms work on a contingency basis that it costs you nothing to give them a shot. But actually, unless one of those firms happens to have the perfect candidate on hand, you could incur quite a bit of cost.
The most obvious cost is time – it’ll take some time to go through the process with these firms. If you don’t end hiring from them, it’ll be a month to six weeks later and you’ll still be stuck on square one. The other, less obvious cost, is hiring a candidate who doesn’t really meet your criteria because they were the best person you happen to interview in the process. You get fatigued with the process, your recruiter is assuring you that the candidates you’re meeting are the best available, you’ve got quarter end coming up and so you pull the trigger on someone who ends up being somewhat less than what you hoped for.
Which brings me to the other issue I alluded to early. When a recruiter tells you that the candidates you’re looking at are the best available, ask them to prove it. If they can show you a list of all the Managers and Directors of Financial Reporting in TSX listed companies, I’d be inclined to believe them. If they’re asking you to take them at their word, you can safely assume that you’ve seen the best people available to that recruiter, not the best people that are actually available to you.