Ten years ago a chief executive officer said to me: “I just want to hire the most talented CFO in the market.” Those were the days. Now, most CEOs talk about hiring someone for the role that they, the audit chair, chair, investors and employees will all see as the most credible. The person with the most suitable background and experience. The obvious hire.
This is perfectly understandable. For the past decade the world has been an economic and political challenge. No sooner have we started to feel optimism return, something has happened to drag us back to pessimism. And one of the issues with pessimism is that it pervades our thoughts and actions in many, many aspects. Of which one is recruitment.
We need to be practical. It’s vital you have a plan.
If you know where you are headed and where your career path is intended to culminate, then you know what your end role is. You can therefore start to work out what roles you need along your career path to give yourself the experience to be at least as strong a candidate as anyone else.
Put simply – if you know you want to be an NED in the last decade of your life then you know you need to have been a Plc FD before then.
So on the basis of knowing you want to be a Plc FD, then you know you need the experience to sail through interviews with the CEO (looking for a business partner – operational FD experience), audit chair (wants someone in whose technical experience they can trust – group controller) and chair (wants someone who can control the CEO’s wilder thoughts, keep the audit chair content and knows the outside world a little – mix of ops and group experience).
The same is true for every stage of your career.
If the market is recruiting experience not talent, then you have to make sure you have the experience. Or as much of it as possible. Which means making sure that you have thought about all that you have achieved in your career before your interview. And making sure your CV invites the questions that allow you to demonstrate your experience. And not walking out of the interview unless you are certain that you have got all of your relevant experience across. Not every interviewer will be good enough to get that out of you, so you may need to lead the conversation.
What this also means is that the internal career option can often be the best. The external market hires experience. The internal market is far more likely to take a talent risk because the internal market has your career with them as a reference point. Seeing how good you are over three, four, five or 10 years reduces the perceived risk in moving you to a role you don’t have all the experience for. And lets you be judged on talent as well as experience.