An excerpt from Accounting Today’s article by Richard Stanger and Carolyn Carlson, Winning the War for Talent.
There are two components to hiring great experienced partners and staff: sourcing and interviewing. Staff referral programs can be a good source for experience partners and staff. However, in today’s market many times experienced staff come from recruiters.
You can hire your own recruiters, outsource recruiting to dedicated contract recruiting firms or use headhunters, either on a retained or contingency basis. Each route has its advantages and most firms use a combination of approaches, reserving retained headhunter searches for senior leaders and partner level recruits.
Irrespective of the mix you choose, it’s important to manage these activities carefully. Recruiters, in-house or outsourced, need to be staffed with the right people who are given compelling information to use with candidates and are measured with proven metrics. Headhunters need to be vetted carefully, making it clear to them that successful firms will get more of your business. Doing this effectively takes a combination of science and art.
When interviewing experienced candidates, the key is to get a good grip on their abilities to solve problems—for clients and internally—as well as to show the agility to learn and adapt to constant change.
Here’s an example of an interview question with this focus:
“We’re interested in increasing our focus on making clients more successful. What are your thoughts about how to move in this direction?”
This question forces the candidate to think about a problem without any preparation. Look for an answer that shows a thoughtful, forward thinking approach that will take time, focus and culture change. Recognition of the challenge and the team effort it will take is what you would like to hear, in contrast to a quick formulaic or “I can do that” response. A great candidate will ask you questions to better understand the context. As the discussion proceeds say things such as “tell me more” frequently to get further thought and depth.
The bottom line: Great sourcing channels lead to great candidates and great interviewing lands exceptional hires.