Top tips for the nuances that separate the good candidates from the great...
A Financial Controller is often one of the most crucial figures in your business, acting as a leader, a conduit between the senior and junior levels, and adding value across the board.
Finding the right candidate for the role, therefore is crucial.
But how exactly should you approach interviewing one? After all, there is only so much a CV can tell you, and a wrong hire in a well-paid position such as this one can be an expensive, time-consuming mistake.
So here are the top things to consider when interviewing an FC:
Culture fit and management/stakeholder skills
Arguably the most important quality to assess that is not covered by a candidate’s CV is their social disposition and how this relates to a professional environment.
Of course, it is important that any candidate fits into the company’s culture and shares its ethos. But this is even more vital for senior candidates, as these are the people who you want to not only abide by these values but also set an example to junior employees.
In recruitment, the culture is likely to be dynamic and the workplace filled with big personalities. Thriving in such an environment is not a given.
Use the interview to size up their confidence, communication skills and ability to answer difficult questions.
This consideration of culture should form a key part of your assessment of their ability to oversee a team and engage in stakeholder management.
After all, while a candidate may have plenty of experience managing direct reports, their management style may have been molded the culture of their previous workplaces and be incompatible with your own.
Similarly, if you are seeking a proactive, value-adding candidate who is experienced in offering genuine opinions to senior management and pushing back when they feel it is necessary, someone who has worked in strictly hierarchical businesses dominated by top-down decision-making may not be best suited this.
To discern these nuances in experience, you should be asking questions about how culture in their previous roles interacted with their team and stakeholder management.
Good examples include:
How have you found the culture in your previous roles? What, if anything, would you change about them?
How does the ideal manager-employee relationship work?
Tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager.
It is no secret that ambition is a desirable trait to employers, and so typically candidates will want to present themselves as an ambitious individual during interviews, particularly at the Financial Controller level where the right, driven candidate can bring real value to the business.
At the same time, not all candidates want to progress beyond Financial Controller level, as this position usually provides a comfortable salary.
It is also worth considering that it may not always be in a business’ interest to bring in an ultra-ambitious FC - they may move on quicker than you’d like, if you cannot offer them rapid progression. Think in terms of these two questions:
Are they as ambitious as they say they are?
Is this the right level of ambition for your business?
Ask them to explain how they have demonstrated their ambition in previous roles, and where this led them to. The best candidates will be able to give specific examples of where they have gone beyond the bounds of their job description or brought in a new idea that added value to the company.
Skillset and remit
An ideal fit for either of these, from both a candidate and employer’s perspective, will vary considerably, and the interview process is an important opportunity to clarify each other’s preferences.
For example, if your company is an SME looking for an FC to manage a small team and be hands-on with day-to-day finance, this may not appeal to someone who wants a more commercial and strategic focus to their role.
By the same token, someone with an SME background may not have the skills required for an FC role that is centred around commerciality.
If you are looking to bring in someone to contribute to strategy and growth, you will need someone who is confident, ambitious and with the experience to back this up.
Good questions to ask to locate where candidates are on this spectrum include:
What does an ideal set of responsibilities look like for you?
How much would you want to be involved in transactional finance?
What are your ideas for how you can expand and improve this role and the company?
Camino Partners works with some of the highest-calibre candidates on the market. Our specialisation in back-office placement for the recruitment industry means we have an unrivalled network of contacts and deep understanding of the technical nuances that go into finding great finance candidates.
Speak to one of our consultants today and find out how we can help you: