A Perfect Fit

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

Alix Nyberg Stuart is senior writer at CFO.

The Finer Points

Finance may be a revolving door, but it still behooves job
seekers to hone their search skills so that the door doesn’t hit
them from behind.

Take interviewing skills. Brushing up on them before the
search starts is crucial, says Dennis Schroeder, executive director
and CEO of The Center for Executive Performance. He says
many clients, even the most senior ones, are initially
unprepared to answer the two most basic questions:
“Why are you leaving?” and “Tell me about yourself.”

The right answers? When describing themselves,
finance people should avoid “trying to sell their financial
brilliance” and instead focus on their broader leadership and
strategy skills, with finance as a bonus, says Schroeder. As for
departure descriptions, “you need to tell the truth, but keep it
short — one or two sentences — and move on,” he says. Belaboring
problems at a former employer will generally backfire.

The next step, of course, is getting the phone to ring.
Schroeder sends his clients’ résumés out to about 1,400 retained
availability. Recruiters are generally amenable to this approach — with a few
caveats. “If you’re going to do a blanket mailing, don’t make it look
like it,” says Lorraine Hack, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles. Address the recruiter by name, show some knowledge of his or her
specialty, and keep it short, since “long shows desperation.”
Aiming at multiple recruiters within the same firm is generally
taboo. E-mail is preferred, because it’s easier to respond to. The magic words to ensure a callback? “Please let me know if
I can help you on any other searches even if I’m not a candidate.” Says Hack:
“It’s just natural that you’ll keep someone in mind more if they’ve helped you.”

The same holds true for networking with peers, says Robert
Gold, a Schroeder client and recently appointed Insight Pharmaceuticals
CFO. He says his biggest takeaway from past searches is
that “a good networking call is not so much about what someone
can do for me.” Instead, he says, ask what you can do for them,
and then add, “By the way, I’m in transition.” — A.N.S.

Name:

Scott Whitehurst

Previous Jobs:

CFO, animal-health division, Novartis;

VP of finance, PC division, Hewlett-Packard

Reason for the Switch:

Tension between division and corporate bosses

Current Position:

Interviewing for jobs in diverse industries

Quote:

“I’m prepared to take an offer, but only if it’s exactly the right company, in exactly the right place, doing exactly what I want to do.”

Name:

Adam Luger

Previous Jobs:

Finance manager at Pfizer;

Accountant for San Diego Padres

Reason for the Switch:

Companywide layoffs

Current Position:

Senior business analyst, Ledcor

Quote:

“Now I know what I’m working for: early retirement!”

Name:

Paul Dascoli

Previous Jobs:

CFO of Thomasville Furniture Industries;

VP of financial operations, Revlon;

Two divisional CFO roles, PepsiCo

Reason for the Switch:

Reorganization at Thomasville would have shrunk his role

Current Position:

CFO and VP of VF Corp.’s jeanswear unit

Quote:

“If I land a role that could continue to expand, I could retire there.”

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