Jo’s tips for a successful finance recruit

Recruiting for accounting and finance roles has its own unique challenges.  Within the finance/accounting department there is always month end, year-end, budget time, auditors coming and taxation requirements.  When the finance area is a staff member down, it can take its toll on others in the area.

With all this in mind, it’s important to recruit the right individual – both in skills and culturally as quickly as possible. If you take the time to prepare upfront, you can save yourself the pain-staking exercise of having to replace an unsuitable person down the track.

Here are my top 5 tips to ensure you recruit the right person for your finance role, the first time around.

  1. Know your ‘hard’ skills vs ‘soft’ skills.

Hard skills – are specific teachable abilities that may have been learnt in a previous role or at university. It includes things like; accounts receivable experience, previous experience using specific accounting software.

Soft skills –  are also known as people skills and are more related to personal traits eg team player or dependability.

‘Soft skills’ are equally as important as ‘hard skills’ when looking for your ideal candidate – they can also be harder to determine in a potential candidate. You can have a person with all the right experience, but if they can’t get along with people or don’t have other ‘soft’ skills you’re seeking it’s likely they won’t be the right fit for your team long term.

  1. Establish your wish list

Take the time to create a ‘wish’ list of the skills you’re looking for in this person and then divide your wish list into negotiables and non-negotiables.

Remember, when recruiting in finance and accounting, if one of your non-negotiables is accounting qualifications, it’s likely these candidates will be seeking career progression (or at least a certain level of responsibility), so you have to ask yourself, “Am I able to offer career progression?” And if you aren’t then perhaps ask yourself if qualifications are really more of a ‘nice to have’ and your focus should actually be more on the candidates experience.

Compare the resumes to your ‘must-have’ list and this will assist you in determining your shortlist for interviews.

  1. Ask the right interview questions

Interview questions should be written in a way that encourage the candidate to reply with a detailed answer ie rather than asking “Can you do a bank reconciliation?”  The question should be, “Talk me through how you would go about completing a complex bank reconciliation?”  Let them explain.

When it comes to ascertaining a persons ‘soft skills’ the same approach applies. Ask questions that require the candidate to tell a story drawing from their previous experience ie “describe a situation where you had to show flexibility in your previous role”.  Their answers will give you an insight into whether they fit your expectations and the work culture.

Remember that while it’s your job to ‘pitch’ the role to them, you also need to make sure you ask the right questions so you can make a thorough assessment of their suitability for the role, and environment.

  1. Let them interview you

Allowing your candidate plenty of time during the interview to ask you questions gives you a really good insight in to how they’re feeling about the role. If their questions are purely about annual leave, the pay cycle or where they park their car, this could be a red flag.

Alternatively, if they’re keen to find out more about the team and what each person does, or seeks further information about the role, this signals genuine interest in the team and the job overall.

One tip is rather than asking whether the applicant has any questions, let them know that now is the time allotted for them to ask you questions about the job or the company.

  1. Get a second opinion.

Although you personally might be strong in determining if a candidate has the right skill and ability for your accounting position, perhaps you aren’t so great at assessing a persons ‘soft skills’.

Play to your strengths and seek assistance from a colleague who is particularly strong in the area you’re not. You can either do this by both attending the initial interview, or you might want your colleague to conduct the second interview if you’re comfortable with how your candidate performed in the first interview.

If you’re still not 100% confident your candidate is the right fit, it might be worth considering taking on a temp until you’ve determined this. What you don’t want is to rush in to making a  hiring decision in such a critical area that you regret in a short space of time. Temps are great for keeping things ticking along!


Getting the right person for any job can be tricky but recruiting accounting and finance roles brings extra challenges – and this isn’t even factoring in the relatively small pool of skilled and experienced candidates in this space. But if you take the time to prepare, you’re well on your way to making a great hiring decision!