If you’ve ever spent a month or more recruiting and interviewing accounting and finance candidates, you know what a time-consuming process it is. If you want to know how to hire employees who start out strong and stay that way, keep reading.
After all, if your new finance manager, business analyst, internal auditor or compliance officer doesn’t work out, your time will have been wasted, and you’ll have to do it all over again.
Knowing how to hire employees right the first time is a matchmaking skill that a surprising number of organizations don’t have.
What are their shortcomings? To find out what hiring managers encounter with hiring failures, Robert Half Finance & Accounting recently conducted a survey of CFOs. Their responses revealed four ways companies and new hires might find themselves at odds.
See survey details in our Top Reasons for a Failed Hire infographic.
1. The skills stumbling block
Nearly four in 10 CFOs interviewed (38 percent) cite mismatched skill sets as the leading contributor to hiring failures.
Every job has its own qualifications, from education and experience to certifications. There’s also a full range of skills requirements, such as data entry and account analysis. And then there are soft skills — must-have abilities with regard to adaptability, leadership, communication, collaboration or technology.
The divergence occurs when people are offered — and accept — roles they aren’t really qualified for.
How can you avoid a mismatch in skills and know how to hire employees who fit?
- Make a list of essential skills required for the position, and clearly define them in your job description and interview.
- Develop a system for identifying the key skill sets you need in candidates.
- Conduct detailed reference checks with specific questions about the candidate’s skills.
2. Hazy performance expectations
The No. 2 reason CFOs in the survey gave for failed hires is that the new employee has unclear performance expectations. This is a communication issue.
It’s difficult for new hires to meet performance goals when managers haven’t set clear expectations and regularly checked in with them to make sure they understand what they should be doing. Ideally, employees also need to know what their part is in the company’s overall strategy.
How can you prevent this cloud of communication?
- Set specific and measurable standards of performance from Day 1.
- To the degree possible, tie the job responsibilities with company or departmental priorities. Explain this to candidates during the interview and repeat for the new hire.
- Touch base with the new hire by the end of the first week to discuss his or her chief responsibilities and the specific outcomes that you expect.
- Have a process in place for goal setting, feedback and holding employees accountable.
Looking for more advice on hiring finance and accounting staff?
3. Personality crash-and-burns
One of the factors that gets overlooked in the hiring process is that personality counts. And while skills and performance can be developed on the job, you can’t expect personality or attitudes to change.
The ideal is to be able to read a person’s character before you make the job offer. Tough to do, yes, but it is possible. Look for candidates whose outlook and passion matches the role and complements your other team members’ approach to the work. Similar personalities as well as different ones can enhance your team’s dynamics. Just remember: Diverse personalities are important to creating good teams, but bad chemistry is bad chemistry.
How can you hire someone who will be compatible?
- Conduct a behavioral interview with questions that ask what the candidate would do in certain situations, such as conflicts with coworkers.
- Ask open-ended questions that prompt creative, thoughtful answers and allow candidates to talk about their motivations and frustrations.
- Probe for deeper answers that might raise red flags, such as an unwillingness to change, impatience, apathy or negativity.
4. Company culture misfits
In the survey, 15 percent of respondents said a failure to fit in with the company culture was the top reason for a poor hire.
The key to putting company culture at the heart of your hiring is to make sure you’re selling your company and what it’s like to work there. You want candidates to know ahead of time what to expect, with no surprises. Is your office more about team or individual efforts? Is management top-down? What defines success? You should be able to communicate those workplace characteristics and find out how they correspond with the person you want to hire.
Find out more about organizational culture, the make-or-break factor in hiring and retention.
How else can you know how to hire employees who match your company culture?
- When conducting reference checks, learn about the candidate’s work styles, strengths, areas for improvement and work ethic.
- In interviews, be strategic with your questions and ask about the type of work environment where a candidate might flourish — or struggle.
- Ask others on your team to meet with the candidate during the interview process, and consider their opinions.
Last piece of advice? Don’t rush the process of assessing a candidate. First impressions don’t always pan out.
Finally, if you want to know how to hire employees who make the perfect fit, tap the extensive networks of a specialized staffing firm, which gives you access to a larger talent pool. A recruiter can also help you evaluate candidates based on the required skills, performance expectations, personality and company culture fit.
Kathleen Downs, a senior vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, started with the company in 2000. Before that, she was CEO of a recreation/retail/education organization in Bonn, Germany. Kathleen is actively involved with a number of professional organizations within the finance and accounting field and sits on several not-for-profit boards.