How to recruit a Finance Business Partner

Uncategorized Jan 06, 2023

I get asked this question a lot

It is one of the most important roles in the finance team as they cross over many functions and are the first face the other department see and hear from the most

Often they are the brand of Finance.

So getting it right is critical

And getting it wrong can cost a lot – even excluding the $25k recruitment fee!!!

I am very lucky and get to spend a lot of time with various Finance Business Partners and various levels of them in our training programs.

And within my first 5 minutes with someone I can identify the ones that are destined for greatness.

And the ones that are not.

And it comes down to three things

-       Are they solution/commercially focused?

-       Are they curious?

-       Are they likeable?

But how do you measure it and determine if they have what it takes.

And avoid non finance saying in 3 months time, “we can’t really work with this person”

In this article I will discuss why these things are so important and then provide a couple of ways you can identify it when hiring.

Are they Solution Focused?

Great Finance Business Partners are always looking to solve problems and fix things for people.

Yes they will want to understand why something happened and what caused it.

But once known they will quickly turn their attention to sorting it and fixing it. And spend more time on that

Poor finance people point the finger and are backward looking - pretending they are "driving performance"

“What are you doing about this issue it looks like performance is behind?”

Which doesn’t help anyone? In fact at its worst it makes people actively avoid you and retreat.

Great Finance Business Partners identify the issue, find out the drivers or source of the problem and then are passionate about solving it and fixing it.

If you are unable to help the other functions and solve real business problems you are useless to them. You will actually become a hassle for them.

But if you are able to help them, they will invite you into their world regularly and get you involved in some of their trickiest issues.

So how do you spot this talent in an interview?

Ask them directly…..take me through a non finance business issue you have helped to solve.

Listen carefully around how they were involved. Did they lead it or were they asked to be involved.

What was the outcome?

Poor Finance Business Partners will talk about process, reporting and implementing a spreadsheet to help do things a bit quicker

Great Finance Business Partners will talk about real commercial issues and what the improved process led to and the spreadsheet identified that they then executed and captured.


Are they Curious?

Great Finance Business Partners have an appetite to understand what is going on. It is one of the 6 key principles or mindsets I talk about in my book (which you can download here)

They ask great questions, and they listen effectively.

But the way you ask a question is often more important than the question that is asked

Poor Finance Business Partners ask questions for explanation and justification. And that can come across as combative

If asked poorly people will deflect, avoid or not provide the relevant information you are looking for

Great Finance Business Partners explore things via their questioning techniques and probe to elicit information

So how do you spot this talent in an interview?

Listen to the questions they ask in the interview.

A poor Finance Business Partner won’t ask any questions, or they will end the interview with one or two generic pre prepared questions……that are often closed questions - you only need to give a short one or two word answer.

A great Finance Business Partner will be asking questions throughout the interview as much as answering them.

And will be asking questions that were relevant to the role and what was discussed in the interview.

You will see it on their face that they are interested in what you are saying, rather than trying to impress you with their answers.


Are they Likeable?

Great Finance Business Partners are likeable. People want to be around them and enjoy their company, feel safe and comfortable and accordingly share lots of information

When you are around someone you like, you open up and are more transparent.

When you don’t like them, you withhold information, feel threatened and aren’t as open.

Poor Finance Business Partners use authority and their position to attempt to get people to do what they want them to.

Great Finance Business Partners leverage the relationships they have.

The first requires no thought and is a burden to others.

The second requires some effort but is a lot lot quicker.

You get the information you ask for, the answers to the questions you ask and sometimes you even get access to things you didn’t ask for

So how do you spot this talent in an interview?

First 5 minutes. This is the time you are deciding would I feel comfortable around this person

Would I feel safe?

Do they pass the pub test. Would you freely spend social time with them outside of work.

If the answer is yes, they are likeable.

If its no, then they are not.

And a great Finance Business Partner will need to establish this quickly with the other functions so if they don’t do it in the interview, then forget it in your organisation.

So next time you are looking at hiring a great Finance Business Partner ask yourself these three questions:

-       Are they solution focused?

-       Are they curious?

-       Are they likeable?

If they are bring them back for a second interview.

If they are NOT, hire them for a role in finance, working with finance.

And if you don't know.....send them my way, I will give you a read pretty quickly.


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