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The Resource for the Global Finance Profession

Finding Finance Potential Beyond the Résumé

  • By Patrick Sweeney and Herb Greenberg, Ph.D.
  • Published: 2014-05-07

As a treasury and finance leader looking to acquire top talent, there is something you must consider: Do you want to hire a person with treasury and finance talents to fill a spot that requires completely different traits? You need to know if the person you will bring on board will be driven to succeed and work seamlessly inside your company’s culture. This won’t happen unless their strengths are identified and put to use.

That’s why it’s critical to understand a candidate’s potential and their talents (sometimes latent) so that your risk of making a hiring mistake is minimized. By following these four steps, you can hire top people—and keep them around.

Define successful behaviors for the role. For an employee to succeed on your finance team, you must first define the traits and behaviors you consider most important for the role. What is it about the position that would make someone a top performer? Is it the interpersonal aspect—do your top performers have a keen ability to think strategically? Are they empathic and assertive? What are the traits of your top performing finance professionals and what do their behaviors look like?

Measuring and analyzing your bench strength is the starting place. Then, it’s a matter of implementing a structured process that keeps those desired competencies in mind as you recruit internal and external personnel. But before you do that, you must first define your company’s culture.

Understand and build your culture. Leaders need to understand and build the company culture. It’s not enough to say you have a culture, or post its key messages in the break room—companies must live and breathe the corporate ethos as well as consistently enforce it. Culture feeds behavior, so ensuring that culture is aligned exactly to the vision and goals of the company will ensure that your team is more able to live the company’s values. It will also help you determine the kind of employee that will best fit within your environment.

For example, if your company’s values are centered on innovation, entrepreneurship and autonomy, you’ll want to look for people whose traits are predominantly high in the areas of flexibility, self-motivation, interpersonal dynamics, and a desire to engage in creative projects. If, however, your culture is predominantly structured and rule-based, that candidate might not be a great fit.

Find the right fit. When your culture and desired competencies are defined, you will be in a much better place to hire the right talent for your company.

This can all start and be built during the interview process. Many view the interview process as a formalized ritual where the candidate puts his best foot forward to come across in the best possible light. Rather than asking canned interview questions, pulling experiences from the employee and asking them to elaborate on specific events in their career will be much more beneficial in sifting through the interview stars.

Once a finance candidate seems viable, administering a validated workplace personality assessment can ensure that you get insight into their motivations, strengths, and areas of development. Then you can take those results and use them to craft an even better follow-up interview. For example, if your culture is collaborative and team-oriented, you can do the following: Rather than asking finance candidates about themselves and how they work with others, you might want to investigate how well they collaborate. So you could rephrase a question such as, “Tell me about your experience around budget planning” to “Tell me about a challenge you came up against around budget planning. What resources did you call upon to alleviate the challenge? How did you go about obtaining those resources?” The latter dives well into a person’s potential to collaborate, problem-solve, and perhaps come up with creative solutions on the fly.

By understanding the motivations of each potential candidate, treasury and finance leaders can then probe further into areas that might be of concern through these follow-up behavioral interview questions. It can often reinforce what happened in the original interview as well.

When looking for top talent, beware also that sometimes your next manager or leader might be right under your nose. Assessing your internal talent by doing a talent audit can uncover potential that you may have never known you had.

Develop for success. All companies who hope to hire and retain top talent should have a development program in place. Helping employees develop their strengths and talents—by taking on stretch assignments or mentoring new employees, for example—will encourage the behaviors you hope to achieve as well as foster employee engagement. The development should be ongoing and integrated into your culture as part of what your company does for its employees. Once a development program becomes part of the culture, it weaves into the company’s fabric and spreads to all areas, resulting in productive employees and, ultimately, high retention.

Showing that you’re interested in an employee’s development will also help them feel valued. As a manager, you can enhance this perception by supporting and coaching new employees along the way.

Bottom line: The key to a successful hire in treasury and finance is lowering your risk. Implementing a structured hiring process, the integration of a workplace personality assessment, and an employee development program will enhance employee satisfaction and passion—and make your job much easier.

Patrick Sweeney and Herb Greenberg are president and CEO, respectively, of Caliper, an international management consulting firm.
A longer version of this article appears in the May edition of Exchange.

Copyright © 2015 Association for Financial Professionals, Inc.
All rights reserved.

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