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Recruiters need to think again to win in the recovery

Sussex Argus - February 2010

Alex Gregory, director at Grafton Banks Finance

As we edge out of recession, the start of the recovery is a chance for local businesses to get a head start on rivals. But capitalising on the upturn means making the right decisions and making them quickly – from when to invest more in R&D and marketing, to training staff and recruiting new people.  Some of the region’s businesses will find making these decisions easier than their rivals thanks to the critical role played by switched-on and strategic thinking finance people. But finding these commercially astute accountants is not always as simple as it looks.

Whether you are talking about an individual or a team of top accountants, finance people operate at the heart of strategy-setting in successful organisations. The new generation of accountants doesn’t simply act as a support to other departments, but challenges strategic and operational decisions and offers alternatives. They are, if you like, the glue that holds the whole process together.

As a recruitment business specialising in placing senior finance people in businesses across Sussex, we see many organisations successfully recruiting the people with the skills to take on this commercial role. However, businesses that are more recent converts to the pivotal role played by commercially minded finance folk find recruiting the right finance brains a lot harder.

The challenge is how to recruit finance people that really can make a big difference to the organisation – not just those that look good on paper. We are seeing an increasing demand for top accountants with the sort of strategic planning, problem solving and leadership skills that put the finance director at the commercial heart of the business. But finding the people that really have these competencies – not just the ability to put a CV together - means changing the way businesses recruit.

  • In HR circles the solution is known as competency-based interviewing. It’s an approach routinely used by large employers, but smaller organisations can effectively use the techniques too. Competency-based interview questioning allows the interviewer to get beyond standard CV claims to assess how a candidate’s past activities can predict future performance. Sometimes call structured interviewing – a clue to the fact this is a lot of common sense rather than HR wizardry - competency-based interviews give information about a person’s past behaviour and experience so recruiters can score and compare candidates. This helps recruiters make hiring decisions based on evidence rather than gut feeling.
  • The financial talent is out there to ensure Sussex businesses make the best of the recovery. Employers just need the right approach to finding it.

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