Interviewing Finance Professionals for High-Performance

We’ve all been there. That forehead furrowing, stomach sinking moment when you come to terms with the reality that the person you’ve hired isn’t a fit for the job. Three months of training, coaching and, often, fire fighting, and still, you’re no further on.

But they performed well at interview, didn’t they? They definitely had the skills?

The truth is, that most organisations are ill equipped to effectively conduct interviews that really measure performance, rather than just skills. Let’s face it, recruitment is tough, and it can be time consuming. It’s difficult to find people with the right “skills”, and the temptation is, when you find one, you want to grab them with both hands and ask when they can start.

As the interviewer, it is imperative that you develop an interview framework that will really help you find out what you need to know. It’s about digging deeper; way beyond skills, academics and job titles to really establish how, in simple terms, this person will perform in conducting the work you need them to do.

Prior to interviewing, identify 2 challenges or critical experiences you need your hire to have experienced and overcome in order to be able to succeed in this job.

If, for example, you have a project to reduce month end close, you need your new finance hire to be successful in process improvement and have overcome the pressures of stakeholder management and tight deadlines. If you need to implement a new accounting system in a change adverse environment, a demonstrable record in leading projects while developing productive business partnerships and securing cross-functional engagement is key.

Explain the context of your challenge to the interviewee and ask them to share an accomplishment that is most comparable.

Their answer should be achievement focused, not just situational. Judge their answer by assessing their personal contribution and if and what they achieved using SMART questions. If the interviewee relies heavily on “we” or talks in general or unspecific terms, probe further to understand their real responsibility level. What was the end result, how long did it take and how did that measure against the objective set?

Ask them how they would go about overcoming the specific challenge or solving the explained problem.

Don’t be tempted to feel that you are labouring a point – gaining an insight into past behavioural patterns and future thought processes will provide you with a deep understanding of an individual’s performance capability.

Above all, keep it focused. Don’t be tempted to use competency based interview templates that aren’t fit for your recruiting purpose. Taking ownership for your interviewing strategy will reap rewards in future years, not to mention time in the short run.

Tailor, target and test thoroughly – it’s your call.

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At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future.
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