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Frequently Asked Questions About Executive Recruiting Of Accounting/Finance Professionals

An Executive Recruiting firm should be thought of as an additional resource. Deciding which firm to hire can make the difference between a steady stream of qualified candidates and consistently interviewing candidates that may not have all of the qualities necessary for the job. A search firm can save a company time and money. And in the end, a good search firm becomes a valuable partner. Here are some questions to ask if you are considering the use of a search firm.

Q. Is the executive recruiting process the same for every company?

A. Not really, every Company is different. Two companies can be in the same industry and of similar size but their corporate culture is different in the areas of communication, work ethic, their use of outsourcing for various functions and the way they work in teams. One should pay attention to the different cultures and recruit accordingly. There’s a huge waste of time and money if the right person isn’t hired the first time. If a Recruiter gains a good understanding of a client’s culture and what makes them good at what they do, the Executive Recruiting firm will save the company time, money and potential frustration.

Q. Do companies ever go through the process of hiring more than once until they find the perfect candidate?

A. There is no such thing as the perfect candidate for a specific position. If a company makes a mistake in hiring, they may have to go through the process all over again. Depending on the level and needed skills of the person they are seeking, the process may take anywhere from 2 to 4 months – maybe even longer – before a successful candidate starts work. After several months of the new executive’s coming on board, if it is decided that he/she is not a good “fit,” and the process has to be restarted, it’s possible that six months or more may have passed. This disruption of starting, stopping, and starting again is not only very wasteful, but is also extremely frustrating to all involved.

Q. When working with an executive search firm, what qualifications should the recruiting firm have?

A. It’s helpful if the person doing the search knows accounting/finance, and possibly has a degree in the field. Specific accounting and/or financial experience is helpful as is having the credentials of a CPA/MBA etc. It is also useful to evaluate their success in placing accounting and financial executives and what level have they completed successful engagements.

Q. What makes accounting and finance positions different from similar positions at any other organizations? 

A. In many areas, the people needed to fill these positions can be similar. The best candidates are leaders, good communicators and proactive problem solvers. They have the ability to understand the needs of an organization and help them grow. However, accountants, controllers & CFOs are different; they have different skills. The same is true for Engineers, IT, Sales & Marketing, Project/Program Managers & CEOs – each are unique. Accounting and finance professionals bring different viewpoints to solving a company’s problems. Depending on the issue, they may lead the solution or be part of a team providing guidance and support to solve a problem.

Q. How long does a search generally take?

A. Each search differs depending on the circumstances, but in general, a retained search typically takes between 2-4 months from the start of an engagement to the time when a successful candidate starts work. The circumstances that may affect that time line include:

  • Level and complexity of the position to be filled
  • Availability of candidates and management for interviews
  • Number of interviews required
  • Change in job specs or requirements during the search or interview process. It’s not uncommon for a company to change their focus.
  • Amount of “notice” the successful candidate has to give his/her current employer

Q. What are the top 3 things you look for in a candidate?

A. That question largely depends on the job, but I feel there are three questions that every company needs to get answered before making a candidate an offer.

  • Can the Candidate do the job?
  • Does the candidate want to do the job?
  • Can we tolerate the way the candidate will do the job?

Q. Does a search firm normally work with HR departments? And if so, what is that relationship like?

A. Many times a search firm seeking candidates for executive accounting and finance positions work directly with the CEO or CFO of an organization. Other times a search firm works directly with the HR group. There are some HR groups that look at Search firms as competitors. If that’s the case, the HR group can be very defensive. In reality, it shouldn’t be that way. No ONE person can be an expert in hiring all of the various disciplines that must be filled within a company. Accounting, Finance, IT, Engineers, Sales & Marketing – these positions require different skills. An HR group should look at an executive search firm as an additional resource that will help them find the right person.

Q. Does it ever happen that you fill a position, only to find a better candidate later?

A. It can happen. When it does, it can open other possibilities. I once had a CPA firm who had hired a candidate who was working out well. When I came across an even newer candidate, I convinced the firm to interview this person. This newer individual had more tax experience, but also had a unique ability to identify and bring in new clients to their firm. After a lengthy screening process, they also hired the second individual, who ended up opening their first office in No VA.


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