Hiring a Top Financial Controller: What to Look For

September 24, 2021 Sarah Dameron

Controller reviewing new company's financial reports

If you’re set on hiring a controller, you probably know that recruiting and retaining a person in this position benefits the company in more ways than one. You can already imagine what it will be like to have a director take on much of the day-to-day accounting and finance tasks - and people-management - while you focus on strategy.

But if you are going to hire a controller, you definitely want to do it at the right time, and with the right candidate. Most importantly, you want a controller who can take your business to the next level, not just fill the chair.

To help you navigate these considerations, we’ve outlined why you should hire a controller, what to look for when hiring a controller (including the key qualities), and how partnering with an outsourcing provider can make the process simple.

Why (& When) You Should Hire A Controller

CFO hiring controller

Your company has scaled so rapidly that you need adept financial leadership and oversight. And as a CFO or finance leader, you wear many hats - financial planner, advisor to the executive team, liaison for external vendors and partners, and project manager. But as your organization grows, so do your responsibilities - this can make balancing a myriad of tasks even more challenging. Take a look at a few factors that would warrant adding a controller to your team:

  • Your company is growing. Expanding a business is no easy feat. In fact, operational issues are bound to arise when your focus is elsewhere. By adding a controller, you alleviate the would-be problems that happen from a lack of day-to-day management.

  • You need financial and people oversight. There are many functions in the accounting department. However, an accountant’s role is vastly different than a controller’s role - a controller can aid in supervising the team (including hiring new team members) as well as oversee the daily accounting processes.

  • You and your team are bogged down by tasks. If you don’t have a controller, you’ve probably felt the effects of that vacant position. A controller can ease the workload that you - a CFO or finance leader - have been struggling with, especially if you’re torn between juggling your role as a strategic key contributor to the CEO and being the accounting supervisor.

Read More: When Should A Company Outsource? How To Decide What Time Is The Right Time

Before Hiring One, What Does a Controller Do?

We talked about the need for a controller, but what exactly is the role of a controller in the accounting department?

A controller can be likened to the general manager of a store (or in this case, a department). They manage the accounting teams’ daily operations, including payroll, bookkeeping, accounts payable and receivable, and taxes. Furthermore, a controller’s job is to ensure that everything is accurately reported and running smoothly. Additionally, they continuously monitor each financial transaction for errors. Based on the size and nature of your company, your controller’s responsibilities could include:

  • Keeping organized financial records

  • Creating budgets

  • Managing accounting staff

  • Managing accounting operations

  • Developing policies and procedures to streamline operations

  • Supporting the CFO

  • Setting financial KPIs

… and more.

What To Look For When Hiring A Financial Controller

When hiring a financial controller, it’s important to find a candidate that not only has the necessary technical skills and experience, but also demonstrates the ability to lead a department successfully. In fact, hiring the right controller takes time and it’s vital that you look for the right skills and qualities.

Key Qualities Of A Financial Controller

Accounting Experience

A controller’s job is seasoned - they should be able to delegate tasks and make sure the department is running smoothly across all functions. That being said, most candidates should have at least 10-plus years’ worth of experience accrued in some sort of finance and accounting management role. However, this requirement might fluctuate depending on the size and nature of the business. Moreover, most controllers have graduate degrees in accounting or business administration, and many have become CPAs.

Technical Skills

Not only do they need to have longevity in an accounting leadership position, but they need the skills to back up the experience. A controller should have a firm understanding on the ins and outs of each role in the accounting department, including accounts payable and receivable, payroll, bookkeeping, and more. A large part of a controller’s job is to ensure the accuracy of each financial transaction, including relaying the data to internal and external stakeholders.

Management and Soft Skills

A controller leads teams of financial and accounting professionals. Leadership skills are not a nice-to-have, they’re a necessity; a controller should be able to instill respect amongst the team and make sure that their actions back the company’s mission and values. Along those lines, find a controller that can:

  • Communicate effectively

  • Stand firm under pressure

  • Think critically

  • Offer cutting-edge solutions

  • Put out fires (solve conflicts)

  • Stay organized

How To Hire A Controller With Outsourcing

cfo and controller analyzing financial metrics

Hiring a controller is a crucial step towards pushing your business forward. But it’s not a decision to take lightly. After all, a controller oversees the daily operations of the accounting department. That’s why it’s imperative to find a candidate that checks off your wishlist - someone who not only has the experience and leadership skills, but also the technical skills to back them up. That said, it’s not easy to find a leader that meets the above criteria - at least not on your own. Fortunately, that’s why we’re here to help.

Here at Personiv, we know that finding and hiring the right talent can be painful. We get that growing a business takes time and manpower, and sometimes that manpower can be hard to find. No matter where you’re at in the process, we can help you hire a controller that fits your perfect bill. So if you’re placing ads on job boards or relying on word of mouth recruiting, and coming up short, it’s time to let someone else take the reins. Get in touch with one of our experts to explore how hiring a controller can be effortless with outsourcing.

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