Charles Aris senior associate recruiter Ryan Krumroy sat down with marketers Sydney Olszewski and Cameron Warren to discuss his executive recruiting efforts in the Finance & Accounting practice, as well as current trends he’s seeing across the space.
Q: You’re one of our longest tenured associate recruiters and a cornerstone of the Finance & Accounting functional practice. Tell us a bit about your background in executive recruiting and your specialization in Finance & Accounting within the firm.
Ryan: I joined the organization in 2006 at a time when the firm was much smaller than it is today. When I came into the organization, there were only a handful of associates, many of whom were specialized in particular areas. As a result, I was put on what I call “one-off” projects – searches that didn’t fit neatly in any particular area. It was a great blessing for me in many ways as I had to learn about a variety of different industries and understand the leadership ranks of different organizations and sectors. For three years at Charles Aris I served in a highly diversified capacity.
In 2009 I was approached by one of our practice leaders, Jim Etling, who is now a senior vice president at the firm. He asked if I would be interested in spending more of my time centered on finance and accounting leadership roles and I thought it would be a great fit for me. I enjoyed my time in finance; I learned a lot of industry verticals, which is appropriate for the finance and accounting practice as the field is very function focused. I appreciated the opportunity to partner with him.
From then on Jim and I have been heavily focused on finance and accounting leadership roles. The majority of the work I’ve done over the past nine years has been CFO focused and what I enjoy about CFO roles is that every company needs one. Food and beverage, industrial manufacturing, professional services, technology, commodities, real estate investment – any type of industry sector you can think of! The foundation that I had in earlier years proved to be helpful for me in getting my head wrapped around different industries and it allows me to find finance and accounting talent for my clients within those various verticals today.
Q: You’ve recruited across the spectrum of economic landscapes during your tenure, from periods of prosperity to downturns and everything in between. What advice would you give hiring authorities and candidates as they navigate what has been a volatile market to kick off 2020?
A: My advice to leadership within organizations is to think about where you want your business to be and what you want it to look like in the next 12 months. Economically challenging situations often bring to light gaps in leadership and talent within organizations. It’s a phenomenal opportunity to take an internal look at your performance and evaluate:
- Where are our weaknesses?
- Where are we missing the mark?
- Where could we stand to gain strong talent in our organization that may make a significant difference to the bottom line?
I would encourage you to be looking at the big picture, beyond the next 60 days and instead look ahead at the 12-to-18-month timeframe. Economic downturns and upswings always come to an end and over time we will be in a situation of growth, so it’s important to plan for that now. My final piece of advice is to drive your business intentionally and maintain strong morale and culture across your organization. Having the right people in your organization during a challenging time has huge implications. Pay attention to who you have on board, who is calling the shots, and what the cultural underpinning of your firm is. That would be my greatest recommendation.
Q: Let’s discuss recent trends across the finance and accounting space in recent years. As you partner with client organizations, are there any particular skills, competencies or cultural traits that have been increasingly in demand for candidates to possess in recent years? If I’m seeking a new opportunity, what boxes should I check as I work to join a world-class organization?
A: In recent years, finance and accounting has become more than just a back-office function for many companies. F&A now influences operating decisions that directly impact the top and bottom line of the business.
As leaders in finance and accounting think about moving closer to the CFO role, any opportunity that is afforded to round out a person’s skillset is important. Whether its budgeting, forecasting, financial planning and analysis, merger and acquisition involvement or refinancing, having a broad skillset is highly attractive and it's what our clients look for when hiring senior leaders. I would encourage you to round out your skillset as much as possible.
Additionally, it’s important to learn to have a voice at the table. Finance and accounting people tend to be more risk averse which means they tend to focus on communicating only to other finance and accounting people. The best officers are people that can communicate across every functional component of the business and speak to big-picture business issues, not just the “debits and credits”.
Q: Conversely, tell us about a few trends you’ve seen with regards to what candidates want from an organization they may join. It’s been a candidate-driven market in recent years. Have more candidates sought particular compensation structures, benefits packages or perks from potential employers than you’ve noticed in the past?
A: One of the shifts that I have seen from candidates is this greater voice at the table. With a greater ability to influence the decisions of a business, these individuals are becoming more interested in having an ownership piece within a company. The executives in those positions want to be appropriately compensated for the successes and failures of the organization.
If there’s not an ownership piece, some type of long-term incentive plan (LTIP) or success-fee scenario could be helpful. There are certain key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be built to measure the person’s impact in the business and those can be financially incentivized. Candidates are going to want to see a LTIP, an equity position, a success-fee, a KPI measurement; something they can quantify to measure the betterment of the business they are involved in.
Q: As someone who has managed thousands of candidates through the hiring process, tell us one piece of advice you’d offer to any candidate reading this today. What’s one takeaway that could help get someone in the hiring process over the finish line to land a new role?
A: I have seen multiple strong finance and accounting leaders fail to win an opportunity largely because of the lack of energy and excitement they have about the role. Finance and accounting leaders tend to be more measured and reserved in their approach and less emotional in their disposition. Those characteristics are great for a finance and accounting executive but they’re not great for an interviewing candidate. So my counsel would be to remember that the hiring manager that you’re interviewing with needs to be excited about your candidacy. While the substance, experiences and aptitude of the candidate need to come across in the interview, a genuine approachability, excitement and interest also needs to be communicated. Candidates need to have a balance of both.
I’m not encouraging F&A people to be who they aren’t, but I am encouraging them to approach the table with a little more excitement than they would normally bring by default. Often, it’s the difference between someone just interviewing and someone getting the offer.
Ryan shares additional tips for candidates in his two-part series, Interviewing with Excellence. View part one and part two to learn more.
To learn more about Ryan’s executive recruiting efforts within the Charles Aris Finance & Accounting practice, contact him at (336) 378-1818, extension 9129, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.