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Fully Vetted: How to Hire the Right Finance and Accounting Professionals

Mar 21, 2017 / by Michael Burdick

This blog was contributed to Paro by Tiffany Meyers at Built In Chicago. Built In is a network that allows people to get connected to local startup communities in Austin, Chicago, Colorado, and Los Angeles.

Hiring a financial services professional is complicated. That’s in part because the decision is driven by two imperatives: The candidate must make a good fit culturally and simultaneously meet highly technical prerequisites.

Problem is, those two considerations don’t always align. So we spoke with Michael Burdick, co-founder and CEO of Chicago-based Paro, which helps businesses find the finance and accounting talent they need. Burdick demystifies the process, sharing vetting strategies to make every hire a successful hire. 

Don’t go it alone. Rule number one: Bring in a functional expert — an internal or external partner — at every turn in the hiring process, including the interviews you conduct. 

“As founder/CEO/owner, you will know if a candidate makes a good culture fit,” said Burdick. “But unless you come from the world of finance, it’s not likely you have the expertise to accurately assess a candidate’s technical prowess.” 

Do what you’re good at, in other words, and rely on experts for what you’re not.

Check references the right way. The reference check is a must for any new hire, but Burdick notes a few ways to structure this process for financial services in particular. First, devise a list outlining the roles and responsibilities of the position, and present it to the candidate’s references. 

Ask them to speak to the candidate's capabilities around this scope of work. If you need your candidate to manage KPIs and budget forecasts, for instance, ask how proactive they were with regard to KPIs in their previous role, how much oversight they needed and how accurate their reports were.   

Ask the candidate to solve real problems. So you’ve narrowed it down from 50 candidates to a list of top five. Good work. 

“At this point, the best way to understand this candidate’s problem-solving style is to see it in action,” said Burdick, who recommends a one- or two-hour “practice project.” 

For instance, if your budget forecast has not been updated of late, ask a candidate to share their thoughts on how they’d tackle it. Or you might ask them how they’d simplify your chart of accounts. 

(Pro tip! Engage your functional expert in devising and leading the practice project.)

Do a test drive. Congratulations — you think you’ve found the financial rockstar you need. But before you pull the trigger, propose a test drive, asking the candidate to work with you in a consultative capacity for a week. Burdick recommends compensating them on an hourly basis according to their salary ask. 

This trial, more involved than the test drive, will solidify your decision by allowing you to explore if they do in fact have the necessary skills and if the chemistry feels right. Remember, this time is also an opportunity for the candidate to assess you.