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Case Interviews Uncover the Best Finance Candidates

It’s hard to hire a great candidate. The process requires judgment, experience, effective HR processes, good partnerships with line and functional heads, and good screening mechanisms to filter out ‘bad’ candidates. Sometimes, you need to define what is meant by ‘great’ – which competencies should the individual excel in?

Through a detailed survey of more than 700 managers and 2200 finance staff at more than 80 global organizations, we found that finance departments overweight technical skills or functional expertise during hiring processes. They default to traditional interviewing and screening techniques to test technical competence.

This focus is misplaced because these are not the competencies that really drive individual high-performance or department effectiveness. Our survey and quantitative analysis found that the competencies that matter most in driving department effectiveness are communication, persuasion, business acumen, team management and collaboration. Traditional Q&A techniques are not adequate in testing for these competencies.

Close the finance talent skill gapSo, we explored what the most effective finance departments do (those that provide strong business support and influence business decisions), what they hire and how they hire.

The findings are striking. Our research found that the best companies employ case interviews, especially those that simulate real-life data analysis and presentation requests. Case study interviews assess hard-to-teach and hard-to assess competencies, such as simplifying and communicating complex ideas, influencing stakeholders by adapting communication style, and explaining insights in a compelling manner to the business. However, less than a third of finance departments we surveyed actually use these during their hiring process, as the graphic below shows.

Hiring Tools Used by Finance Departments

As you look to hire a good fit candidate, explore using case-based interviews to test the candidates’ non-technical competencies – softer skills like communication, leadership, team collaboration, etc. This interviewing technique is where the best companies are heading and truly helps them find candidates that will over-perform in the long run and serve as your future leaders.

What constitutes a strong interview case study? Keep in mind seven key imperatives of a strong case:

  1. Forces consideration of qualitative evidence (customer behaviors, feasibility, core competencies, labor, and geographic location of case
  2. Brings in market dynamics (customer segments, competitor analysis, pricing pressures and control)
  3. Can have more than one correct answer. Cases without obvious solutions truly test the candidates’ thinking skills, not their speed to answer.
  4. Forces the candidate to make a recommendation based on more than data and financial analysis
  5. Can be completed in a reasonable amount of time
  6. Are abstract and unique. Cases on topics unrelated to your industry or function ensure that you are evaluating behavior strength, not knowledge.
  7. Have detailed guidance for interviewers to ensure fair and objective assessments. Partner with Human Resources to create an objective scale for interviewers to easily map candidates’ answers and behaviors to the corresponding influence scores.

To learn about more ways to assess the competencies that matter most in driving department effectiveness, CEB will be hosting a free, 60-minute webinar on Tuesday, May 28, 2012 at 12:00pm ET, Assessing Your Finance Talent.

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