I have come across many companies over my career that, when looking to hire their CFO, require that they have not only CFO experience, but experience as a Chief Financial Officer in their industry.
How would you recommend that I position myself to be hired into an industry that I do not have direct experience as a CFO?
Denied in Denver
When decision makers hire (or make any decision) they choose the path of least resistance. This usually includes making decisions based on their belief system.
Many people making these hiring decisions have the belief that their industry is so specialized and unique that no one coming from outside the industry will be able to learn quickly enough about their industry and will therefore be at a disadvantage.
From what I have seen, decision makers that are able to hire key people from outside their industries usually do so because they have a more convincing factor in making the decision – trust. In these cases, the one making the hiring decision knows and trusts the person that will be coming into the role, even if they don’t have the industry experience.
When companies face ‘change management’ considerations, they are more open to hiring executives from outside their industry to shake things up.
So how do you get hired into an industry you don’t have direct experience in? Use your connections. People that trust you know what you are capable of and will overlook your lack of industry experience.
Thanks for writing,
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Cindy Kraft says
Networking is definitely key, Samuel.
And I would add two additional points. First, a clear and compelling value proposition. Second, visibility. Because of that visible clarity, many of my clients actually get calls from recruiters for non-industry opportunities through Linked In.
david k waltz says
This is a great topic because there are so many “threads that go into the weave” so to speak. Among them:
One, a fresh set of eyes is sometimes the best way to jump start innovation, so if that is an objective it might be advisable to establish an “absoolutely no industry experience required” criteria instead!
Second, there is a branch of management gurus (Strangthsfinders, Jim Collins) that contend that the right people with the right talents are more important than skills and knowledge, which can be taught. If the industry experience requirement comes from the employer desiring the applicant to already have a skill and knowledge base, they might be depriving themselves of the opportunity to get the best person.
Third, in addition to folks thinking their industry is very specialized, the industry skills requirement provides a certain amount of CYA for the employer – it reduces risk of a really bad hire, appears sensible, etc. As you note, a strong degree of trust is imperative if this is to be overcome.
Fourth, my sense is that with the advent of job boards and automation of the application process, where it is now possible to get thousands and tens of thousands of applicants, people are desparate for logical and reasonable criteria that can help get the candidate pool down to manageable proportions.
Samuel Dergel says
Thank YOU for your insight on the subject.
I see you’ve brought up Strengthsfinders, which is the key foundation for my CFO Coaching program (you can read more about it here: Introducing: The Strong CFO Program – 1st session FREE http://wp.me/p1DGd6-1m )
All the best,