Back to Blogs


  • Publish Date: Posted over 3 years ago
  • Author: Michael Ball

Attracting top senior finance talent is a challenge faced regularly by every organisation and for SMEs and owner managed businesses, it is vital that they recognise and understand the particular nuances of the market place – and what they can do - in order to successfully secure the right individual that will make valuable contributions to their operations.

When making a move from professional practice – or when considering their next move in industry –– many candidates are attracted by the distinctive opportunity this career step offers them to play an influential role in shaping the direction of the business and utilise and develop their technical skills, knowledge, leadership qualities and management style to support an operation’s overall strategy.

There are however, some common pitfalls which small and medium sized enterprises find themselves coming up against; and whilst many niche operations are strong, well established performers within their specialist sectors, outside of their particular industry circles, their standing may be relatively unknown. Without an instantly recognisable brand that’s on a par with the major national and regional players, it is essential that every possible step is taken to ensure that the cream of the finance crop want to seize the opportunity to come on board.

Develop a clear – and realistic - job description

It is very much understood that within SMEs there will be a requirement for individuals – particularly at a senior level – to wear different hats and to undertake duties and responsibilities outside of their core job role. It is therefore not uncommon to find that the job performed by a finance manager at one operation will vary from that of their peers even within businesses of a similar size or within the same sector. Whilst there is the temptation for business owners to try and get as much bang for your buck, it is vital not to over stretch roles and expect one person to do too much. In order to attract the right calibre of individual, ensure that there is an attractive job description which demonstrates real clarity as to what the core function and requirements of the role will be.

Understand the aspirations of the business

Successful recruitment depends on a clear alignment between the aspirations and objectives of a business and how by contributing towards their achievement, employees can attain their own personal career goals. There must be a synergy between both, particularly if the progression path is not immediately obvious in terms of a traditional route for promotion. By developing and discussing as part of the recruitment process, sensible – yet inspirational and challenging – aspirations for the business, you will be able to identify those candidates that share similar goals and ambitions and are hungry to play their part.

Understand what the key priorities and objectives are for the role

Having a clear focus on the immediate priorities of the role will ensure that during the recruitment and interview process, the emphasis will be firmly upon identifying the candidates best placed to deliver and achieve against these. For example, if the main reason for bringing somebody on board will be to drive forward a certain short to medium term project that requires a particular skill set, the priority must be to assess which candidates can deliver this for the business. In doing so, it is important to be open minded to the possibility – and not consider it a failure - that they may not necessarily see this as being a job for life and, after two or three years when they have successfully delivered the function that they were primarily recruited to achieve, may choose to move on.

Build a strong social and online business media profile

The wealth of social and online media platforms provide continual opportunities for potential candidates to learn more and come into contact with a business way before they may even consider a role with the company. Whilst smaller organisations may not have a dedicated marketing department or the resources that larger corporate businesses have at their disposal, ensuring a proactive and positive presence across influential sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and keeping a watchful eye on review sites such as Glassdoor is key to attracting high calibre candidates.

Consider the interview process

The interview process should be thorough and designed to challenge potential candidates however it is not necessarily the case that the ‘toughest’ interviews will see the best person rise to top. It is important to remember that an interview is very much a two-way process and it is as much about someone establishing if they wish to join the business as it is about identifying the right person for the role - at a senior level, candidates will want to know that there are opportunities available to bring value to the operation.

Ensure the interview process is engaging by carefully considering the style and format of the interviews and who is best placed to conduct these in order to establish the right person – and, whilst at this level it is essential that there is a strong rapport with the business owner, skills gaps that could affect a candidate’s ability to perform the role should not be overlooked because they are the most likeable.

Time is of the essence

Be sure to keep the recruitment process moving at a timely pace and don’t allow your preferred candidate to slip through your fingers; good, strong candidates will get snapped up quickly so ensure you don’t miss out by delaying making an offer whilst you wait to see if someone else will come along.

Be creative and flexible with salary and benefit packages

A competitive salary will always be important when looking to attract the top candidates but it is worth giving additional thought to the growing influence of softer benefits on a person’s decision when weighing up a job offer. Businesses that can be creative and tailor reward packages – such as offering the opportunity to buy additional holiday, provision of flexible working, discounted gym memberships – will be in a stronger position to attract the best candidates by introducing incentives that matter to them.

See the recruitment process as an investment

Making the wrong choice on who to employ can result in a significant cost to the business which will far outweigh any financial ‘saving’ made from not engaging a suitable recruitment partner from the outset. To increase the chances of longer term success, recruiting talented individuals must be seen as an investment worth making with true value attached to their ability to guide a business through and drive the process forward. Business owners must also take into account the cost of their own time – which will be taken away from running their business - which will need to be dedicated to each step of the process including perusing CVs, deciding which candidates to take forward to interview, analysing each person’s strengths and weaknesses, all of which can be hugely time consuming. Going it alone and utilising job boards will scratch the surface of who is looking at that particular point in time but this doesn’t allow for being able to reach into the market and access an established network of contacts to identify potentially ideal candidates that are not actively looking.

Sharp Consultancy specialises in the recruitment and executive search of finance and accountancy professionals. With offices in Leeds and Sheffield our highly experienced team of consultants recruit for temporary, interim and permanent roles across the full spectrum of positions throughout Yorkshire and beyond. CONTACT US today and speak to a member of our team about your recruitment needs or next career move.