The Struggle is Real: Finding and Hiring FP&A Talent

  • By AFP Staff
  • Published: 11/1/2022
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The struggle to find and secure FP&A talent is real. How do employers identify the FP&A talent they want — and improve their chances of hiring them? How can applicants identify quality employers — and increase their chances of landing a great role?

Below, experts from Michael Page International, one of the world’s largest talent placement firms, address the struggle of the current war for talent.

What most companies get wrong about attracting and hiring FP&A talent

There is a disconnect between what companies think is most important to FP&A job candidates, and what is actually most important. Most companies place a lot of emphasis on technological advancements — RPA, improving automation and data analytics — in order to attract talent. That’s great, but what candidates find most important is having an opportunity to serve as a partner to the business. They value being close to the business, understanding operations and having an impact when it comes to decision-making.  

During the interview, candidates appreciate it when potential employers involve other business partners in the process. This allows them to become familiar with how FP&A partners with leaders and functions across the business. For senior hires, this information is particularly important.

Technical skills versus personal attributes

Personal attributes should complement a candidate’s technical knowledge. We know companies differ in structure, complexity and revenue size, so it is essential for both sides of the hiring process to determine the level of maturity or development of the FP&A team. Every new hire is an opportunity to upskill and improve the team, so articulate how the candidate can do that.  

For example, when hiring for a new FP&A team, technical skills may be more critical to establish the right foundation. By contrast, when hiring for a seasoned team, hiring managers may be more open to less technically skilled people who improve the team through eagerness and relationship-building, or different experiences that add new perspectives and practices to the team.

That said, every organization and hiring manager is different. The approach you take should be that which works best for the team, business partners and direction of business strategy.

When it comes to the candidates, they should demonstrate agility in understanding the nuances of the business, adaptability to different leaders’ styles, and be proactive in sharing best business practices from their previous organizations. This covers both the soft skills aspect — how well they fit into the organizational culture — as well as the competency and technical skills requirements for the specific role.

The impact of an economic recession

During an economic recession, hiring generally slows down across most functions. Within the FP&A space, we expect hiring would maintain headcount and business continuity, with a lower demand for new hires or expansion.

Recently, we saw during the coronavirus lockdowns that FP&A professionals faced challenges in the form of longer working hours stemming from the demand for more accurate forecasts and rigorous budgeting plans. The pandemic also saw greater needs in cost savings, improvements in operational efficiencies, and achieving more with less.

We would expect similar outcomes with any looming recession, with lean FP&A teams supporting business needs. The ones who remained and thrive were, in general, the innovative thinkers, those who are more agile in how they partner with business, with a good track record of implementing cost-savings initiatives and revenue-generating strategies. These individuals excel in moving beyond from the basics of “just” reporting the numbers and managing financial consolidation, to seek more commercial, business-partnering opportunities.

Standing out when bots run the search

First impressions are important, even with bots. The content and presentation of a candidate’s résumé should reflect quantitative achievements and highlight involvement in projects or initiatives that generated a positive business impact. Examples include increases in revenue, improvements in efficiencies or margin improvements — and always include the percent increase.

FP&A technology has evolved to the point where data analytics help generate impactful financial insights to improve business performance. Candidates should be sure to include systems knowledge such as Power BI, Tableau and Tagetik to help them stand out. Besides relevant skill sets, highlighting industry relevance and performance review ratings can help too.  

Hiring core versus senior talent

The foundation for hiring both levels of professionals is essentially the same. The main differences would be:

  • Core: Apart from scope, hiring managers should share information about the organization’s culture, flexibility of work arrangements, inclusive hiring practices, career development and learning opportunities in order to connect with candidates and help ensure talent retention.
  • Senior: Focus on macro-level aspects including the leadership team, business objectives, and strategic organizational roadmaps for the next 3-5 years.

To attract top talent, no matter what level of professional you’re hiring, hiring managers have present compelling facts and unique selling points for the company. And don’t skimp on the work-life balance initiatives or mental health and well-being practices and programs. In Michael Page International’s Talent Trend Report, 65% of respondents reported these factors as more valued than salaries, making it an important consideration as you look to hire — and retain — FP&A talent.

Gain more insights and tips for hiring and retaining top FP&A talent from the experts at Michael Page International in the AFP FP&A Guide: Get Your Talent Right, underwritten by AARP.

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