A Perfect Fit

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

Dascoli has a different plan, however. Having put himself on
the job market for the first time since he was 15, he has been
working with an executive coach and mastering the art of networking.
Within four weeks of leaving Thomasville, Dascoli had
moved into his outside office; met with his coach, Dennis
Schroeder, executive director and CEO of The Center for Executive
Performance in Chicago; and sent out nearly 1,500 letters
and E-mails to retained executive recruiters, private-equity-firm
principals, and other contacts.

One of his main projects with Schroeder was to rework his
résumé. “Where I had emphasized projects I had completed,
Dennis stressed themes, like general-management and team development
skills,” Dascoli says. “Now, nowhere on the front
page of my résumé does it say I’m a finance guy.” The two also
worked on snappy answers to general questions like, “Tell me
about yourself.” “Dennis helped me put together a good story
behind that question — picking the five or six major points I
wanted to make about my career experience without repeating
what the interviewer already knows,” says Dascoli.

Armed with his enhanced job-seeking skills, Dascoli holds
himself to a rigorous schedule. His goal is to make seven to eight
networking phone calls a day, keep a written journal of everyone
he talks to, and hold face-to-face interviews whenever possible.
One day he drove six hours round-trip to meet for one
hour with a private-equity partner.

Such intensity is not unusual at the CFO level. Aside from the
fact that many have families and can’t afford to take an indefinite
leave, that search style reflects the difficulty of finding a top job
in finance. It comes down to culture. “You can check boxes on
what you want people to have done,” says Lorraine Hack, a partner
at Heidrick & Struggles, “but culture fit winds up becoming
very, very important on both sides of the equation,” since executive
teams need to work in sync with each other.

Roadblocks

As hotly pursued as these finance professionals are, there are
still some items on their wish lists that are tough to get.

For one, it’s getting harder to make the switch from private
companies to public, thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley. “If candidates
stay too long on the private side, they may be
shut out from public companies. Whether
that’s going to be at the divisional-CFO or divisional-controller level, or someplace else, I
don’t know, but at some point, we’re going to
see it,” says Radford’s Buyniski. Even though
many private companies are moving to tighten
internal controls and governance, “there’s
still a big difference between adopting Sarboxlike
rules that are self-imposed and the discipline
of a public company,” he adds.

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