The Value of a CPA Credential

Nothing generates responses – positive and negative, mostly the latter – like the discussion of the CPA credential. So here goes.

Perception is Everything

Perception is Everything

Perception is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of the hiring process, the beholder is the company who is hiring. The ONLY eyes that matter in the HIRING process are those belonging to the beholder (company). The company is hiring you so it has the right – good, bad, or indifferent – to decide what it perceives as necessary and required in its next Finance hire.

You, the Finance Candidate, do not have the right to determine what a company needs. You might like to have that right. You might believe you have that right. The reality is, you do not.

You can choose to get a CPA and make yourself more competitive –or– choose not to get a CPA and forever fight the perception that candidates with a CPA are more valuable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing not to pursue a CPA. In making that decision though, one needs to accept the reality … it makes competing against CPA Candidates much more challenging when companies list a CPA credential as a requirement of the position.

It sounds harsh and I don’t mean to be. It is a reality. The belief system of the candidate that CPA Candidates are not better than non-CPA Candidates does not matter IF a company – who is hiring – perceives otherwise.

Why, you ask, is she bringing up this painful, hotly contested, very controversial, emotion-producing topic again? Here’s why.

A recent article in Crains Detroit says …

The competition to hire CPAs in metro Detroit has heated up, and accounting professionals are in enough demand that in some instances, salaries are rising and sign-on bonuses are possible.

Where do “most” Chief Financial Officers cut their accounting and finance teeth? This article points to the reality that the CPA is far from dead and gone, replaced by other finance and accounting credentials … and I don’t think this reality is geographically limited to metro Detroit.

Let me be very clear. I do not personally believe CPA Candidates are superior to non-CPA Candidates as a general rule. I have worked with accomplished Finance Chiefs on both sides of the fence.

What I am saying is that if you don’t have a CPA, you may not be competitive for positions requiring that credential (from the company’s viewpoint). Should you successfully network your way in and find yourself with a fighting chance, you are going to have to prove your value far beyond what the CPA Candidate must do.

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Value, not Data

I saw an article on CFO.com come through my email box this week, and a quick scan made me think about my constant evangelizing about career positioning from value rather than responsibilities. Addressing his finance staff, the CFO of Kimberly-Clark, Mark Buthman, said

a CFO “delivers insight, not data ….”

In very much the same way, from a career perspective…

A top-notch Finance Chief showcases value, not responsibilities.

What you do (responsibilities) only matters in the context of how it positively impacts a company (value). If you really want to distinguish yourself from the myriad other candidates, don’t talk about the what (responsibilities), wow them with the how (value).

- Where were you able to mitigate or eliminate potential risk?
- How did you slash costs and what did that mean to the company?
- What problems did you solve that got a company unstuck?
- What can the company now do that it couldn’t do before?

That’s value! That sells! That makes you competitive! Showing how you can take away a company’s chief pain point is power positioning!

Power Positioning

Power Positioning

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The Credible CFO Candidate

Are you as credible as a CFO candidate as you think you are? I ask because I’m genuinely concerned about your online credibility and positioning.

I run a CFO Careers group on Linkedin and since it is exclusive to CFOs, I always check profiles of those requesting to join the group. Most of those profiles lend absolutely no credibility to their claim of being a Chief Financial Officer.

This month’s Futures in Finance column details my thoughts on those things that can derail your credibility on Linkedin.

- Having an incomplete profile

- Not having a branded headshot

- No network, a miniscule network, or one that does not reflect your executive status

There are others, but these are key. You can read my thoughts here.

Credible CFO Candidate

Credible CFO Candidate

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Short-term Actions Impact Long-Term Positioning

Lou Adler wrote an insightful post for Linkedin recently around the consequences of taking short-term actions without thinking about how those tactics impact one’s longer-term career decisions and positioning.

Of course, making strategic vs. tactical tradeoffs isn’t new, but most people tend to overvalue the short-term benefits, rationalizing, ignoring or minimizing the long-term impact.

Most CFOs and Finance Executives only think about their careers when forced to … they’ve lost a job; they are going to lose a job; or they are desperately unhappy and want to make a move, quickly. The mindset in each of those situations is almost always around executing a short-term strategy to relieve the pain, without thought of the longer-term consequence.

“Your short-term tactics are determining your long-term strategy. You have it backwards. Your strategy needs to drive your tactics.”

Urgent, short-term focused actions are rarely grounded in strategy; rather, they are driven by overwhelm and desperation. Making strategic decisions with tactical information can derail your future career goals – and – leave you dissatisfied while forcing you to jump right back into another short-term tactic known as job search chaos.

The only way to ensure your strategy drives your tactics is to act before you need to act, and then execute those actions consistently and constantly.

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Resume Writing

It’s a hot topic over in the Proformative community these days. Is it cheating to have someone else write your resume? Is a resume writing service worth it?

Here’s my two cents on both questions.

Is it cheating?

Cheating?

Cheating?

I have to confess that I laughed when I read the question regarding whether or not it was “cheating” to have someone else write your resume. If putting your best foot forward means you get a haircut, purchase a new suit, whiten your teeth, and/or color the grey in your hair – aren’t all those things also cheating?

When it is time for the interview, is the due diligence one conducts also cheating since it is trying to uncover a company’s need in advance in order to tailor your message to meet that need?

Are athletes on the playing field cheating because they have a coach on the sidelines helping them play their best by identifying changes they need to make in order to perfect their moves?

Your career drives EVERYTHING else in your life including your ability to care for your family. If it is cheating to have an independent person as an advocate in order for you to step outside your own limiting paradigms and unearth, polish, and message your value … then maybe I don’t understand the definition of “cheating.”

IF – and I do mean IF – a resume writer is fabricating your value message, then yes … that is cheating. And you will fail. That should never be the outcome of working with a resume writer or career coach.

Worth it?

The consensus on Proformative is no, it isn’t worth paying a writer. How sad that so many have chosen to go the cheapest route and then come up dissatisfied. The truth is … you do get what you pay for.

If you are a Chief Finance Office or other Finance Executive and you want to pay $350 for someone else to write your resume, save your money and write it yourself. The result will be the same. If that’s the value you place on a marketing document (and ultimately your messaging) that differentiates you through value positioning, then you must not place much value on who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

Not everyone needs a third party writer. In my experience though, most do. The same way you go to someone else for a haircut and purchase rather than make your suit, those other people have a gifting and a talent you don’t … and you recognize that fact and act accordingly.

Your dream position hinges on beating out the competition with a message that flows from your ability to solve problems and deliver value. Unfortunately for many, a message founded on responsibilities – here’s what I did – is often a huge stumbling block. When you change your perspective; you change your messaging. When you change your messaging; you open doors that were otherwise closed to you. That … should make hiring a reputable writer or coach very worthwhile.

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Your Brand and Your Email Address

Good, bad, or indifferent, the fact is that today, more than ever, perception is everything. The good news is that you can choose to drive that branded perception. The bad news is few executives choose to invest the time to do so.

Your email address is a great example. What does it say about you? Many would argue it doesn’t matter. In the world of branding, it really does matter. In fact, I would say (and even have said) it matters greatly.

Dinosaur boneyard

Dinosaur boneyard

As CFOs increasingly face a younger and very tech-savvy workforce, your email address can speak volumes. It can help to validate that you are in the 21st Century -or- that you are hanging out in the dinosaur graveyard just biding your time. It can show your willingness to embrace technology -or- your stubborn refusal to embrace change. Remember, perception is in the eye of the beholder.

In a recent FENG newsletter, Dave Morgan of the Detroit Chapter, provided some very interesting insights on email addresses from his perspective as a CFO in the technology industry. With his permission, I am providing an excerpt of his article.

Recently I was the CFO at a software company looking to hire a director of FP&A. Our company’s practice at the time was to roundtable the resumes of all final candidates for senior management roles with all current members of senior management. Any member had a blackball right. (Whether you agree with it or not, that was the company’s practice. Different subject for a different time.) My preferred candidate had a personal email address with a domain name of “earthlink.net.” Our CTO mentioned this in the roundtable and everybody quickly shot knowing glances at each other when this fact was surfaced. It was the look of death. No words had to be spoken. (Every member of senior management had a strong tech background.) The candidate was now dead on arrival.

If you have any of the following domain names in your personal email address, your candidacy is probably dead on arrival at any technology company or any tech-aware company: prodigy.net, compuserve.net, earthlink.net, and, yes, even aol.com.

You’re on life support if you have any of the following domains: comcast.net, hotmail.com, yahoo.com, and even msn.com.

This may seem harsh, but it is a reality. Knowledge is power. If you don’t know something is working against you, you can’t fix it. Now that you know, maybe it is time to fix it!

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Evolution of the Interview Process

Gerry Crispin of CareerXroads literally rocked my world at my annual Career Thought Leaders conference in Baltimore, Maryland with his information on the way technology is evolving – and maybe evolving isn’t even the right word – the interviewing process.

If you haven’t really given thought to how technology might impact your next interview, you might be shocked to learn what “could” be awaiting you. Here are a few of his most notable comments. My thoughts on his comments can be found in this month’s column in Futures in Finance.

- The next wave of technology innovation will destroy more jobs than it creates.

-   HR data will be collected, analyzed, and the results deployed in real time, most often poorly.

- Video interviewing will create seamless conversations via technology that will dramatically change the hiring landscape.

-   And what about Sophie?

There are a lot of issues that technology brings into the search and interview process; and certainly at this point, we have more speculation and questions than answers. Here’s a given. Video interviewing is only going to increase in popularity if only because, once again, it gives the interviewer the upper hand and lowers recruiting costs.

Interview Evolution

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Maximum Return for Minimum Effort

Does it ever really work that way? Maybe on occasion, but never as a rule.

Recently I saw this post on Facebook …

“I want a really good guitar but I don’t want to pay very much for it.”

It made me think about the career management / job search process as most candidates view it. Even though your career is “the” thing that funds everything else in your life … provides housing, clothing, and food for your family; a vehicle to get to and from your employment and the ability to pay for the gas it guzzles; the means by which to get away from work, a/k/a vacation; the over-priced coffee on the way to the office … the reality is that a career is given little thought until it is threatened.

Career management should be in place in order to minimize and perhaps even permanently eliminate job search. In this economy is that a certainty? It sure is not. But it is certainly a great strategy to minimize the risk, and the associated financial impact, of finding oneself amongst the unemployed-and-desperately-seeking crowd. You not only lose income, you lose power and positioning.

At the Chief Financial Officer level, 9-to-12 months is still a realistic expectation for making a move. And that, is much more realistic as a passive candidate.

Expecting maximum results for minimum effort can turn out to be very costly.

The CFO-Coach

The CFO-Coach

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Career Trends for CFOs

There are some very interesting trends in a recent academic study among Fortune 100 companies. They are trends that could impact your career trajectory and therefore, might be worth understanding.

The percentage of executive women is growing which means, among other things, more competition for executive-level positions.

That said, competition for those coveted senior positions will remain about your value. It is not about what you’ve done (responsibilities). Rather, it is about how you solve problems and deliver impacts. Value has become the great mitigator of all things negative while greatly leveling the playing field for future senior-level finance candidates, male and female.

You can read the trends I’m noticing and my comments about them in my April column of Futures in Finance.

CFO Career Trends

CFO Career Trends

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The Value of Being Referred

Cindy Kraft, Career Thought Leader

Cindy Kraft, Career Thought Leader

In processing the incredible thought-provoking information from the speakers at the Career Thought Leaders Conference (#CTLconf2014) last week, I could not wait to share this insight with you. I know it. I evangelize it. But oftentimes, the information is received intellectually but without action. Now, it’s time to act on what we know.

While I hope that Chief Financial Officers do NOT play the “posted position game,” at least not as anything remotely resembling a primary search strategy, the reality of these statistics points to the necessity of understanding the role networking plays in managing your career -or- conducting a job search.

For every posted position, 75-150 (and that top number could actually top 250) will apply. For purposes of this exercise, we’ll use an average of 100 applicants per position.

Of that 100 average, four will come in through an employee referral. Of the four, two will not be qualified. Now, just think about that a moment before reading further.

It gets worse for the non-networked candidate.

Of the 100 who apply, half will not be qualified. No employer will ever see 100 candidates. They won’t even see 50. Nor 25. In fact, they will search the system for five candidates. FIVE.

Going back to the employee referral statistic, that means two referrals are now part of the five finalists and will often be the first three on the short list. Hiring managers will look at the referrals before they look at anyone else.

That means, if you are a referral you have a 1-in-5 chance of getting an interview that leads to a job. If you are not referred, your chances drop to 1.2%. An employee referral gives you a 14X better chance of securing a job-procuring interview than without a referral.

That is exactly why you should not play the posted position game, but rather, continue to ramp up your networking efforts! Do you really have time not to?

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