A Perfect Fit

The demand for finance talent may be soaring, but candidates refuse to settle for just any job.

Relevance has taken on a new meaning for Whitehurst. It
wasn’t quitting as much as taking a break that has made him
realize how disconnected he had become, particularly from his
family, after working abroad for nearly 15 years. Being out of
work “has allowed me to focus on things I didn’t have time to do
before,” he says, in this case, helping a sister navigate the paperwork
for a house she was building, working on race cars, and
taking his father to cancer treatments. While Whitehurst has
responded to recruiters’ advances, taking another opportunity
comes with some intangible costs.

Aiming for the Moon

More typically, candidates do focus on financial rewards in their
job searches. The best bet? Growing companies or industries,
which offer much more compensation upside. But, as Dascoli
points out, conditions at a firm “where the margins aren’t paper
thin and you have a chance to invest back in the business” also
make the finance department more important.

Opportunities for development are also crucial, says Steven
Ehrenhalt, a principal with Deloitte Consulting’s financial-management
consulting group. To help clients boost their hiring rates,
he is working with them to “target people who will be successful
two or three levels above the job they’re hired for.” That, combined
with job-rotation programs (including nonfinance roles), tends to
make firms more desirable, he says. Not surprisingly, Spencer
wants a company where she will find CPA mentors to help keep
her skills sharp, and where she won’t get pigeonholed.

The ineffable “culture fit” is also one of the first priorities jobhunters
target. While it’s hard to pinpoint the clues to a good
culture, many point to office design. “I want to work with a senior
team that treats people as well as they deserve,” says Dascoli,
“and you can often see that just by observing a facility.” One company
he liked, for example, had an open-cubicle environment,
where the CEO could often be seen holding meetings amid the
other employees. Whitehurst also takes note of how “deferential”
lower-level employees are. If they insist on calling him “Sir”
or “Mr. Whitehurst,” he senses more hierarchy than team.

Other applicants are specifically looking for more responsibility
and autonomy. Luger wants to be part of a company “where
I can have an impact,” and “the more senior level, the better.” A
newly created position, which his previous two jobs were, would
be ideal because “you have the ability to create your own destiny.”

Full Speed Ahead

Of course, destiny’s path is never the same for everyone. About
eight weeks after leaving Pfizer, Luger sends out his résumé to
several recruiting firms. “I could pound the pavement all day,
but will it really pay off?” he says. The response is fairly quick:
recruiters line him up with interviews at about 10 companies
within two weeks. Spencer and Whitehurst also go the recruiter
route: Spencer lands five job interviews for intermediate
accountant positions, also within two weeks, while Whitehurst
interviews for, among other things, business-unit CFO roles at
Pitney Bowes, Cigna Insurance, and Bausch & Lomb, plus two
corporate-level positions at smaller companies.

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