CFOs take wait-and-see approach to recruiting

For years, top executives have lamented a lack of available talent. In a 2012 Deloitte report, a hefty chunk of executives said that recruiting hard-to-find skillsets was among their most pressing concerns. A PwC report of global CEO sentiment that year showed that 53% were concerned about recruiting and retaining high-potential middle managers, a key element in creating a leadership pipeline.

Earlier this year, Manpower Group’s annual Talent Shortage Survey showed that 40% of employers globally reported difficulty filling jobs. The percentage has been creeping up since 2009 and is the highest in the survey since 2007. The most common reason cited in the survey of 42,300 employers is a lack of available applicants or no applicants.

Based on those data, executives and HR departments must cast a wider net, or cast more often. Another survey shows that the majority of US CFOs don’t actively recruit; instead, according to staffing firm Robert Half, most finance chiefs prefer to post a job opening and wait for applicants.

Employers should build a deep roster of qualified candidates, according to hiring experts. That means seeking out “passive” job candidates – ones who are not actively seeking work. Passive candidates are likely to be a better fit for a job because they aren’t under pressure to take it.

A separate Robert Half survey shows passive candidates are worth getting to know. Workers in the survey said they’re more likely to consider a job offer from a recruiter who contacts them, even if they are not actively looking for work: 45% said they were somewhat likely to consider the offer, and 22% said they were highly likely. Fifteen per cent of workers said they were very unlikely to consider an offer when not looking for work.

Executive recruiter David Wu, CPA, said passive candidates are regularly targeted by his firm, GMPTALENT in Shanghai.

“We reach out to what we call passive candidates who are not in the job market,” Wu said. “They are doing very well at their job, and we approach them, and we present the job opportunity to them. … We believe that most of the good candidates are passive candidates.”

Searching networking sites, attending relevant industry events, and acting on referrals from other professionals are among several ways Wu recommended to identify passive candidates. Technology enables companies to search for candidates who have the right skills, but the old-fashioned phone call is still a common way to get to know a potential new hire. Wu said his firm often will do a short screening by phone to determine fit before scheduling an in-person meeting.

“When we go to meet a passive candidate, we will listen more than we talk,” he said. “We don’t just go in and present the job opportunity. We will first, casually, try to understand more about them as an individual. Then we will ask them what they like about their current job and what they don’t like about their current job.”

In the Robert Half survey of CFOs, 27% were either somewhat more likely or much more likely to actively recruit candidates, while 65% were more likely to wait for applicants. Given the hiring climate, a change may be in order. Companies that can’t address talent needs can struggle to reach business goals or properly address customers’ concerns.

“The same old recruitment and workforce practices won’t yield different results,” the 2015 Manpower Group Talent Shortage Survey report said, “so it is time to harness new people practices and explore untapped talent pools.”

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.