According to an article in Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal by Maxwell Murphy, it took Illumina 2.5 years to hire their Chief Financial Officer, Mark Stapely. (Illumina’s CFO hire was reported in our CFO Moves blog).
Now that, my friends, is a long search.
From my perspective as a CFO Search specialist, 2.5 years is a very long time. There were many reasons cited by the CEO as to the reason that it took that long, but in reality, they sound like excuses, not reasons.
Let’s put it this way. If a company is serious about hiring a CFO, then they will make hiring their CFO a priority. They will retain an experienced executive search firm, create appropriate assessment of the specifications needed for the role together with the search firm, and work to identify the potential candidates that could be appropriate for the role.
Why did it take so long?
Here are some (potential) reasons:
They weren’t serious about hiring. To hire a CFO, you need to be serious. CFOs are smart people. CFOs know when a company that is going through the motions of looking for a Chief Financial Officer, but don’t mean it.
They had a CFO. According to the article, the CFO spot was covered, even though the person covering it was happy to move on to an operational role now that he is relieved from his CFO duty.
There was no pain. Illumina was growing rapidly, cash was coming in, and they didn’t need to raise financing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So what made Illumina finally get serious and hire their CFO? Good chance that it was beginning to feel the pain of not having a top quality CFO at the helm and they had to make it a priority.
For the CFO – just because a company says they are hiring a CFO, you should evaluate how serious they are about hiring the best person for the job.
For a company needing a CFO – before you tell the world you are looking for a CFO, make sure you are really ready to go through the process and make the decision. Otherwise, you may have a credibility problem when people know that it took you 2.5 years to hire your CFO.
How long should it take to hire a CFO?
If a company is truly serious about hiring their next CFO and is willing to make the search a priority, it shouldn’t take more than 3 months to complete the search.
How long did it take to hire your CFO?
david k waltz says
Isn’t the timing somewhat dependent on the extent of the criteria? I once had an executive recruiter tell me that the person you want or the position you want is out there, but depending on the definition of “you want”, it will be harder or easier to find.
For instance, tracking down that rare individual who has 10 years of history as a CFO, with a CPA, top-ten MBA, and CFA, coupled with deep experience in Alpaca sheep herding, Himilayan expeditions, and an interest in stamp collecting might take awhile!
I realize that a good recruiter will work with the client and attempt to develop criteria that is truly relevant, but ultimately if the customer wants some unusual and perhaps frivilous criteria, that will end up being in the scope of the search.
Samuel Dergel says
Yes, the client has to be reasonable in their search. It is the search firm’s responsibility to educate their client on what is possible/reasonable and what isn’t.
If a company is serious about hiring a CFO, then frivilous or impossible requests will be minimized, and they will be able to hire the best CFO that match their real needs.
When I started in search, I learned that there were A clients, B clients and C clients. I also learned that there were A candidates, B candidates and C candidates. The challenge for a recruiter is to be honest enough with a C company that wants an A candidate.
A good recruiter has to realize that just because a company wants to hire XY&Z, maybe they should not accept a mandate that is difficult or impossible to fill. It doesn’t help the client, and it doesn’t help the search firm either.
Thanks for your feedback.