Ideally the candidate to appoint as financial manager must be qualified for the post in terms of sufficient knowledge and relevant experience. There is, however, a third consideration which is often overlooked or not considered to be of the same importance as knowledge and experience, and that is soft skills. The rest of this article will discuss each of these three considerations in more detail.

Qualifications required

A formal financial qualification e.g. a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for a financial manager. Depending on the level of complexity of the busniness’ finances, a post graduate degree or a professional qualification e.g. Chartered Accountant, might also be necessary.

Being a member of a professional organisation related to a candidate’s financial qualification can help to ensure that his/her knowledge is up to date with current financial standards and legislation.

Experience required

Appropriate work experience is usually a requirement but it’s not always possible to find someone with the ideal experience. If a candidate does not have ideal experience, try to determine if he/she has any relevant theoretical knowledge, is eager to learn and able to absorb new information quickly.

Soft skills required

Being a financial manager requires you to work with people in order to reach the business’ financial goals. If a candidate does not have the necessary soft skills, he/she won’t be able to manage the people below them successfully.

Consider testing of candidates on the shortlist by a psychologist to determine which of them have the best fit for the job in terms of personality and soft skills before making the final decision on who to appoint as financial manager.

Ultimately, you probably won’t find the ideal candidate with exactly the right knowledge, experience and soft skills you are looking for. It is highly likely that you will have to compromise on something with each candidate. If you have to choose between two people where one have the knowledge and experience but not a positive attitude, and the other one lacks some of the knowledge and experience you want, but have an excellent attitude, it might be better to hire the person with the right attitude as they can always get training to gain knowledge, but you can’t really train someone to have a better attitude. In short, appoint for attitude and train for knowledge.

To determine a candidate’s general attitude and handling of situations involving, amongst other things, conflict, pressure and staff problems, ask how he/she handled these kind of situations in the past. It is widely accepted that past conduct is in general a good indicator of future conduct.

Other basic soft skills that would be required in the role of a financial manager are:

  • Communication skills: Good listening skills and can explain complex information in a way that other people can easily understand
  • Organizational skills: Able to manage time, people and money
  • Attention to detail
  • People and leadership skills: Is assertive but kind and sensitive towards employees and able to motivate people
  • Problem-recognition and problem-solving skills: Ability to identify and overcome unexpected issues

A word on following up of qualifications and work references

If possible, go to the trouble to confirm that a candidate indeed have the qualification(s) and membership status he/she claims to have by following up with the relevant tertiary institutions and professional bodies.

It is extremely important to follow up on the references supplied by candidates. You can gather valuable information about a candidate’s general work habits and attitude that might not be available through other sources.

Appointing a financial manager can be an expensive and time-consuming exercise and have a significant positive or negative influence on the future of the business. Take the time to do the homework and make sure you pick the best possible candidate for the job. If none of the candidates is a good fit for the post of financial manager, it could be worth your while to advertise again and conduct a new round of interviews until you find the most suitable candidate.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or ommissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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