The CFO'S Perspective

15 Questions to Ask an Executive Financial Recruiting Firm

questions-to-ask-executive-recruitersWhen you are looking for someone to hire a CFO for your company, who do you tap for the job? What sets a great executive recruiting firm apart from a mediocre one? And how can you even tell the difference? Going through the research stage of selecting a financial recruiter can be daunting, but we’re here to help!

Our team of executive finance recruiters has put together a list of the questions they hear most often to serve as a guide as you go through the process. We’ll tell you why these questions are important and what you can hope to glean from asking them.

  1. Have you recruited for this type of role before?

When you need to hire a CFO or Controller, look for a company that specifically focuses on executive accounting and finance roles to ensure that they will have the specialized expertise needed to find someone who is truly qualified for the role.

  1. Which types of organizations do you typically have as clients?

In the same way that a dedicated accounting/finance recruiter will be more familiar with the needs of your role, using a recruiting firm that has worked extensively with your type of organization can provide significant benefits as well. Whether your organization is a for-profit business or nonprofit entity, high-growth startup or mature-stage corporation, private or public company, or has industry-specific needs, using a recruiter that has “been there before” is extremely beneficial.

  1. What kind of search model do you use?

Some recruiters use a retained search model while others operate on a contingent search model. Ask questions to understand the differences regarding fees, exclusivity, relationships, timeframe and determine what that means for your search.

  1. Where do you find candidates?

A recruiter is probably never going to tell you exactly where they go to look for candidates and what that process looks like. (Afterall, that is the “special sauce” that their business is built on.) However, the best executive recruiters will have a vast professional network that they are able to leverage, which positions them to be able to reach out to passive candidates. This is one of the main reasons companies utilize recruiting firms, especially for key executive-level roles. They simply have access to candidates through their connections and reputation that the average hiring manager or HR professional would not have access to on their own.

  1. How many rounds of interviews will you conduct?

Every search firm will vary in how they approach the interview step. Some will do initial screenings and phone interviews and then leave the in-person interviews up to their client’s hiring manager, while others will handle the interview process from start to finish throughout multiple rounds of phone and in-person interviews to build stronger relationships with the candidates. In your conversations, aim to understand what the search firm’s process for evaluating candidates looks like and weigh that against your own internal needs.

  1. What kind of involvement will I be able to have (or need to have) throughout the process?

Some companies want to be very hands-on during the hiring process, while others would prefer to be more hands off. Make sure you understand what is expected of you throughout the process and that that fits with the level of involvement you desire. The best recruiters will cater to your specific needs to make you feel at ease throughout the process – looping you in when necessary (or requested) and working behind the scenes as much as possible to keep the hiring process moving along while you focus on your core responsibilities.

  1. How many qualified candidates will you provide for evaluation?

Obviously, the number of candidates presented will be contingent upon what the search process yields. However, top recruiters will typically provide a small pool of highly qualified candidates that they believe would be a great fit for your open role so that you have several viable options to consider. Remember, the number of candidates presented is a Goldilocks type of situation – you don’t want too many and you don’t want too few – you want just the right number to have confidence in the hiring decision.

  1. How long does the process typically take?

Given the nature of recruiting services there is never a guarantee that the right candidate will be found in a specified window of time, but a recruiting firm should be able to give you an average search timeframe based on similar recent searches so you know what to expect. If a recruiter refuses to provide any sort of timeframe as general guidance, that may be a red flag that either they do not have much experience with recruiting for that type of role or they are not confident that they will be able to find qualified candidates for it.

  1. Do you advise on the compensation package?

The best accounting and finance recruiters will assist with the compensation portion of the offer as well as the search itself. They will provide an expert recommendation on what the compensation package should look like for the role commensurate with experience and current job market trends.

  1. What makes you great at what you do?

Give any recruiting company that you are considering the opportunity to show off a little bit. Ask them why they believe they are good at what they do and listen for their passion and commitment to show through in their answer. Sure, any firm can tell you how successful they are at helping their clients hire better or faster but listen for the answers that convey a real love for what they do. Those are the kind of companies you want to work with because it will be more than just a job for them!

  1. What distinguishes you from the competition?

In addition to what makes them great, you can also ask what distinguishes them from everyone else. It is always good to hear from them directly what they believe sets them apart from their main competitors so that you can draw a comparison as you whittle down your list of possible search providers.

  1. Can you provide a list of some previous clients?

Recruiters will always have some clients that do not want anyone to know who they use to help them hire for fear of their competitors following suit, but they should be able to point to some of their client base to showcase their capabilities. If they do not provide these publicly (for instance, we have a dedicated Clients page on our website), they may be willing to provide a list upon request.

  1. What kind of core values do you bring to the process?

Before working with anyone you should ensure that their values align with your company’s values. Ask about what drives what they do. What does their corporate culture look like? What are their goals? What kind of shared values are they looking for in partnering organizations and clients? Their beliefs should reflect the approach that your organization takes with the work that it does as well.

  1. How is your pricing structured?

Virtually no recruiting company publishes their fees online, which means you’ll need to inquire about pricing in your discussions. Recruiting firms should be able to tell you upfront how their pricing is structured, even if they do not give you exact figures right off the bat. Typically, their fee will either be a set dollar amount or a percent of first year base salary. Recruiting firms may vary in how they charge those fees, with some requiring more upfront and others spreading out the cost more (like into even increments at the beginning, middle, and end of the search).

  1. Do you offer a free initial consultation?

If a recruiting company offers a free, no-obligation upfront needs assessment this is a good indication that they are as committed to finding the right fit as you are. Look for recruiters that will provide an initial consultation for free and take the time to thoroughly listen to your needs before pitching their services.

When you need an executive financial recruiting firm, please reach out to us! We have highly experienced team ready to find you your next CFO or Controller. Our professional network allows us access to candidates that are not available through traditional channels. When you work with us you will discover that our understanding of what makes a CFO or Controller successful is unmatched. Work with us today to experience the CFO Selections difference! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Topics: Recruiting

Topics: Recruiting