Craig Hudson, CA, CFA

Big 4 Accountant to Startup CFO: The Journey of Craig Hudson, CPA,CA CFA

At Clarity, when we come across great career stories, especially those that seem like large leaps and even slightly illogical on the surface, we can’t help but write about it. Enter Craig Hudson, an authentic West Coaster with a curious career journey that has taken him from a Big 4 accountant to start-up CFO.

Craig Hudson, CA, CFA
Career Journey

The Early CPA Years at KPMG

After graduating from UBC, Craig began his career at KPMG where he earned his CA and CFA shortly thereafter. Midway through his 7 years in Audit, he jumped at the chance to work in the UK to gain much desired international experience. He then moved back “over the pond” to Toronto and into Transaction Advisory performing M&A financial due diligence for KPMG’s Private Equity clients. In this role, he got to dig into target acquisition files to discover any accounting nuggets that could impact valuations and make or break deals.

At his 10-year mark with KPMG, Craig looked around and reflected that “everyone looks pretty much like me in terms of their experience set and how they think about things. I’m feeling great about what I’ve done to date, but not particularly special.” His mentor at the time countered back that “you’re analyzing incredibly large amounts of data, deriving relevant and valuable insights, then presenting it back to your client in a digestible story. Not everyone can do that.” It was this “nugget” of advice which led him over to Indigo to begin a new chapter of his career story in Business Intelligence and Operations.

Running To or Running From?

Craig jokes that he was “running away from Accounting at the time” when he joined Indigo as a Manager in Business Intelligence in 2009 in Operations, not Finance. His aim was to expand his skill set and breadth of knowledge, and his bet paid off. His role focused on using data to weigh in on every decision that needed to be made around Indigo’s eCommerce business at the time, such as “should we run this marketing campaign?” or “should we invest in this feature on the website?” This was in the pre-eCommerce boom so he was really left to his own devices to deliver valuable insights and decisions in any way that he could. He came to understand how all parts of the business were connected and was soon promoted to Director, then to Head of BI, and ultimately to VP Digital Operations, where he stayed for 5 years owning and/or influencing Analytics, Supply Chain, IT, Product and Customer Service.

Craig was thought of as the “CFO of the Digital Business” but without all the accounting. He was running all the numbers to ensure the P&L was running smoothly and investments were being made in the right places. Where did Craig go next armed with such powerful analytical and operational experience from his 8-year tenure at Indigo? Back into Finance of course, as CFO at Lift & Co.

Fundraising and Going Public at Lift & Co

With a track record of being a top performer and a learner who can adapt, organize information, and apply it to business, Craig jumped at the chance to become CFO in 2017 at Lift & Co, a growing technology start-up in the cannabis space. Lift doesn’t actually touch the plant, but can be thought of as the “Trip Advisor’ connecting the online cannabis community through reviews, industry news, and a place to discover strains that may make you giddy, sad or paranoid (to name a few). Craig quickly learned to navigate in a new industry and in a start-up culture. He was responsible for Accounting, Finance, Investor Relations, Legal, HR, Customer Service and Facilities. In the early days, he would also call Rogers to troubleshoot the internet and restock the fridge.  

The company needed funds to grow. As CFO, Craig became the financially-minded, responsible presence alongside the CEO as they fundraised through venture capital and high net worth individuals. When asked what fundraising is like, Craig explained the challenges: “Investors really want to get the story and know management first and foremost, financials are secondary, but you need to know your numbers. You need a charismatic person to tell the story in a way that is responsible and not overpromise what can be achieved.” Another key learning was that “you really need to sign up a lead investor, someone that the other investors trust to do the due diligence and legwork necessary to invest.” The result? They found their lead investor and successfully raised $10M to fund growth.

Many cannabis companies are going public and having a public “paper” is perceived to make acquisitions that much easier. Lift & Co was no exception, and Craig led the charge on making it happen through a reverse IPO (RTO) in 2018. He recalls it as, “a whole lot of work that is time sensitive and requires organization, but it’s manageable, assuming you have good advisors in place and the information is presented in the way the regulators need to see it.” Going public has opened many doors for Lift & Co, however, operating a public company adds significant complexity as you’ve constantly got the public eyes on you and need to answer to questions like “why are you changing your plans?” and fulfill reporting and regulatory requirements. This can be distracting in a start-up culture that thrives on being nimble and agile.

The $10M fundraise and going public enabled the company to hyper-scale from 15 to 60 people and increase revenues at a greater clip. But that’s not all, it turns out these activities weren’t the hardest (or most rewarding) part of what Craig has taken away from his experience at Lift & Co. It is common for Administrative functions report into the CFO, HR was one of those functions for Craig. As startups scale in size and scope, it becomes more of an art rather than a science to preserve the company culture and keep employees engaged. This challenge was particularly rewarding for Craig. He addressed it by applying his “quantitative mind” in creative ways to increase employee engagement, which was well reflected in quarter-over-quarter employee NPS scores.

A “CA” Who Took Risks

Craig’s career story spans geographies, industries, designations, big companies and startups, and from Accounting to Operations and back. We see this as a compelling example of a “CA” who has taken calculated risks and has been well rewarded in his career progression, life experiences and a vast array of skills.

 

Are you a CPA who followed a similar or different career trajectory as Craig? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below.

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Crafting a Career Story

Crafting a Career Story that Sells

Earlier this week, we were thrilled to partner with FEI Canada to bring our popular “Crafting a Career Story that Sells” series to FEI’s network of senior financial executives across Canada. This webinar was an interactive conversation between Andrew Seeley, Head of Consulting at Clarity and Mireille Khayat, CPA, CMA, Financial Executive and active FEI member. Here we share a recap of the conversation as well as some helpful tips on how everyone can become better storytellers of their own career journey.

Crafting your own career narrative begins with reflecting on where you were born. Try jotting down three truths about the city and/or country you grew up in. What was it like growing up? Then reflect on each key milestone in your career so that you know your path. Answer why you did what you did. This will allow you to connect the dots on how the earlier truths and themes have weaved in and out of your life experiences. In Mireille’s case, she grew up in Beirut, Lebanon describing it as the “Switzerland of the Middle East” in a very close knit, entrepreneurial family. She remembers counting buttons for her father who was a wholesaler. In doing this exercise, she discovered that “Entrepreneurship” has been a core theme throughout her life, and that she gravitates to roles where she can wear a “business hat” and excel in a collaborative matrix environment that drives the business.

Beirut is like the "Switzerland of the Middle East"

Her family immigrated to Canada when she was young because of the civil war. Mireille was challenged to adjust to the new environment and culture, and to make new friends. As Andrew and Mireille continued to inspect and dissect her experiences , “Challenge” became another core theme that was clearly evident throughout as she leaped into roles in new industries from packaged goods, telecommunications, life sciences, media, payments, and then into the innovation sector. More often than not, she was challenged to “turn the business around or shutdown”, and turned it around. Mireille is clearly not gun shy when it comes to new challenges and taking risks.

Andrew hosts these workshops monthly at Clarity with a group of 10-12 people in person and manages to find at least one person who is willing to have Andrew “put their career on the board” in front of strangers. The result? Others tend to nod in agreement because they went through similar experiences and know what it’s like. You build immediate trust by being open, even if you feel a little awkward and vulnerable at first.

Deliver a powerful narrative which makes you memorable, creates trust and captures attention

How to craft your career story

  1. Know your path: write down key milestones starting from where you were born, where you went to university or college, and for each milestone in your life since then
  2. Answer why you did what you did
  3. Identify your core themes and patterns in your life
  4. Craft your story using the themes and patterns to connect each milestone that got you to where you are today
  5. Practice telling your story in the mirror, with your family, with your friends, in interviews, with your peers and/or team and at any other opportunity you get
  6. Deliver a powerful narrative which makes you memorable, creates trust and captures attention

3 Tips on Telling Your Story

  1. Avoid negative words: Negative words are more lasting. They stand out more. You need at least 2 positive words in a sentence to defuse 1 negative word.
  2. Position every experience as a plus: Map language to conscious choice in the form of “I chose to” in place of “I had to”.
  3. Don’t skip where you were born: Where you were born is powerful and it may seem vulnerable to talk about your childhood, but it builds trust.  

We encourage you craft your own narrative. Give it a try in your next interview or with your existing team. Leave a comment below to let us know what you think and how it goes for you. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to be alerted to new job opportunities, career coaching, advice on becoming a better manager, research and insights to keep you at the top of your game.


Recruiters

Recruiter vs. Machine: Our Future in the New AI Era

Recruiters What happens when artificial intelligence gets so good in the area of talent acquisition and recruitment, that most of a recruiter’s job, as we know it today, is better suited to a machine? We can begin to answer this by understanding which aspects of the job the machines will actually be replacing.

Looking back at historical moments of technological fear can help to put this situation in context. During the industrial revolution, many processes (and the labour required to do them) were made much more efficient by new technology. What the new industrial machines did best was simple, repetitive labour. Machines did not get tired, they did not need breaks, and they would perform the same job with the same quality throughout the day. This innovation forced out many individuals whose jobs were of this kind. Where a machine could do the job faster and more effectively (e.g. weaving fabric, building a car), humans were shifted into alternate jobs and careers which demanded “higher thinking” or displaced completely. This sparked the breakthroughs in invention and innovation that we associate with the Industrial Revolution today.

When computers came to disrupt the working world almost two hundred years later, similar fears of mass joblessness resurfaced. As we now know, computers didn’t take over the world. Just as the industrial revolution removed one part of the process - automating many repetitive, laborious tasks - making way for new and different jobs, so too did computers. What computers do best is computation - taking data and formulas for processing that data and calculating outputs. Take IBM’s computer Deep Blue for instance that beat out the world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Keep in mind that the project began in 1985, and it wasn’t until 12 years later that it was ready for prime time. So what will the coming AI revolution do for the future of work?

What AI does best is prediction. As the authors of Predictions Machines outline, AI prediction takes data that you have and turns it into data that you don’t. For example, weather forecasting algorithms take historical data about weather patterns, temperature, and other factors and create predictions for what might happen to the weather this upcoming week. As we’ve seen before with innovative disruption, where technology can do the job better, humans will likely be out of luck. Historical patterns seem to suggest that for those whose job is primarily prediction, an occupational seachange may be on the horizon.

So what does that mean for recruiters and what’s left for them to do? Choosing the right candidate for the right job seems to fit squarely into a model of a “prediction job”. Recruiters take data they have (resumes, interviews, gut feelings) and create data that doesn’t exist (how likely a given candidate is to succeed within a job). As we have outlined in this four-part series, there are a number of hurdles that AI must cross before it can make these predictions, which are based on incomplete data, changing processes, and ambiguous outcomes. But that’s not to say that AI won’t be able to overcome these barriers. As with natural language processing in Google’s translation services, things that were once thought difficult or impossible for AIs to do are being achieved by rapidly improving machine learning algorithms.

But prediction is not everything. What remains for humans and their biggest occupationally-relevant competitive advantage is judgment. Judgment is the process of using prediction data to make decisions. It relies on understanding the reward functions of a given action and using prediction data to inform decisions toward those actions. For example, a candidate may be an 85% match for a given job as compared to another candidate who is only an 80% match, but if that candidate is considered much more risky (higher return, but higher risk of quitting, upsetting team members, or disrupting the balance of business), recruiters must consider whether the company can handle the disruptive potential of the candidate. This process requires understanding the risk/reward profiles of companies and candidates and judging how those two will fit.

Recruiters must learn how to use prediction data in order to inform their decision-making. They must understand how to build reward functions for their candidates and clients, a complicated process involving diverse and wide-ranging considerations, in order to fully understand how to use the prediction data that AI will soon provide about candidates. The future of their careers will depend on becoming experts in judgments.

This concludes our 4 part series on the future of artificial intelligence and recruitment. Check out the full series below.

Part 1 - Dear Recruiter: AI Is Coming for You

Part 2 - Coming Soon: AI Recruiters

Part 3 - Better Data Wanted: The double-edged sword of hiring data in AI recruitment

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Better Data Wanted: The double-edged sword of hiring data in AI recruitment

In last week’s blog, we discussed some of the difficulties that AI will face on its road to bettering and, potentially, replacing human recruiters. Thankfully, the news was, on balance, good for the future of humans in the recruitment industry.

Though AI will make leaps and bounds in many areas of prediction, particularly when outcomes are well-defined and data is plentiful, the same cannot be said when we don’t know exactly what we want or when data is unavailable, uncertain, or ambiguous. In these domains, humans will always be required to filter the signal from the noise.

As we summarized last week, a lack of consistency in resume data and poorly defined “good hire” criteria are the norm in recruitment. But these norms, limiting as they are, also create a scenario in which humans will be at the centre of decision-making for the foreseeable future.

That being said, to think that humans will always outperform machines in prediction quality in candidate selection is not only naive but will open the door for you and your firm to miss out on the benefits and advantages of algorithmic decision making, particularly when coupled with machine learning and AI-assisted selection. Even without AI assistance, human judgment leaves much to be desired in terms of effective decision-making, as evidenced by a brief look at litany of biases to which our thinking can fall prey (Wikipedia’s “Cognitive Bias” page).

So what can we do? How can we both improve our decision-making in the present and create an environment in which we can benefit from AI’s advantages in the future?

What machines excel at, and what they will continue to improve upon, is prediction. Prediction entails taking data that we have (e.g. weather patterns, previous purchases) and creating data that we don’t (e.g. this week’s weather forecast, recommended products). So in order to improve this process, machines need two things:

1. Better Hiring Data

  • For example:
    • References and past performance reviews accessible from trusted sources
    • Personality assessments that are supported and universally accepted
    • Technical skills assessment closely matching the requirements of the new role in question

2. Better Definitions of Hiring Success

  • For example, considering a candidate a success when:
    • They remain in the job for more than one year
    • They score 8/10 or better on an annual review
    • They can successfully complete a system implementation

As the data gets better and prediction outcomes match what we want, algorithms will continue to train and learn from these data-outcome matches. This training will eventually lead to better predictions from machines than from humans about which candidates have the best chance of job success.

But, these two areas, as it turns out, are also areas in which improvements will dramatically aid human judgment and reduce bias in decision-making, in other words, they are also crucial for humans hoping to stay relevant today.

To quote the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, “What stands in the way becomes the way.”

And what currently stands in the way to improved decision-making and to a future-proof / future-ready kiosk is a process of data collection that makes candidate data available, comparable, and meaningful as well as a database of how clients define success. Building some metrics, however rudimentary, will substantially improving recruitment decisions, and more importantly, provide data with outcome-measures against which we can score and compare candidates in an objective way, and eventually, train an algorithm to outperform our objective judgments.

It may seem ironic that for humans to stay relevant, they must focus on making the improvements that could give machines the ultimate advantage in candidate prediction. Thankfully, prediction is only one part of the hiring equation. Judgement, or how we incorporate prediction data into decision-making, for example deciding whether to take an umbrella with us on a day with a 66% chance of rain, will always require humans to determine reward functions and balance predictions with the litany of requirements for any given decision task.

Stay tuned for next week’s post on how judgment, not prediction, will be where recruiters set themselves apart from their peers while leveraging the inevitable advance of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this, salary guides, research and insights to keep you at the top of your game.

This is Part 3 of 4 in our series on the future of artificial intelligence and recruitment. Check out the full series below.

Part 1 – Dear Recruiter: AI Is Coming for You

Part 2 – Coming Soon: AI Recruiters

Part 4 - Recruiter vs. Machine: Our Future in the New AI Era

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Coming Soon: AI Recruiters

In last week’s blog, we asked:

“Are you going to lose your job to A.I.?”

To which we answered: “Yes… but not yet.”

In this week’s installment, Part Two of Clarity Recruitment’s four-part series on Artificial Intelligence in the hiring process, we examine the challenges faced by AI in its attempt to change the recruiting landscape and outline a few reasons why AI isn’t ready to take your job just yet.

So, why hasn’t AI taken over recruitment as we know it?

Where AI sets itself apart from human decision-makers is in its ability to understand and solve repeated problems in environments with lots of clean data and well-defined outcomes. For example, mapping the fastest route from Point A to Point B (ZDNet) or predicting which translation best fits a particular word or phrase (NYT).

Anyone who has spent more than a week in recruitment, at least in its current state, knows that it is not one of those environments. To understand why recruitment doesn’t match the profile of an environment ripe for AI predictions, let’s start with the “clean data” requirement for better AI prediction.

More data improves prediction. The better the data, the better the prediction and the more a machine can learn from that data. Unfortunately, data in the recruitment industry is often less than stellar. Even for firms who compile information  in applicant tracking systems, this data rarely provides the accuracy, validity, or reliability required to make sound predictions.

For example, quantitative data (e.g. 3 years at Firm X) often isn’t alignable or directly comparable with similar data from others (e.g. 4 years at Firm Y). These issues are compounded when looking at qualitative data (e.g. communication skill, teamwork, or culture fit). Take “leadership”, for example. In order for an algorithm to better understand leadership, it will require data on leadership that is quantifiable (e.g. 7/10), reliable (e.g. my 7/10 is the same as your 7/10), and accurate (e.g. 7/10 reflects the candidates actual capability regardless of situational constraints).

Now we admit that it is possible, even likely, that AI will find better routes to understanding candidate success through its own analysis of whatever data is available (e.g. using “big data” to discover that owning a dog is highly predictive of job success), but this will require that we can unambiguously define the outcome of that prediction data, in other words, what makes a good hire. But, as any recruiter knows, clearly stating a well-defined outcome in hiring is equally, if not more, fraught with ambiguity than the data going into that decision.

As we can see, issues with the data going into the machine as well as with the outcomes we are asking it to predict stand in the way of AI making better, faster predictions than human recruiters. In order for AI to improve on human prediction, it will require “cleaner” data and well-defined hiring success outcomes. Where there is ambiguity, there will be room for humans - you - in the decision-making process.

Stay tuned for next week’s post on how we can work with algorithms, where we will discuss how we can help machines improve so that we can benefit from their predictions and improve our decision-making as AI gains ground in the recruitment race. Subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this, salary guides, research and insights to keep you at the top of your game.

This is Part 2 of 4 in our series on the future of artificial intelligence and recruitment. Check out the full series below.

Part 1 – Dear Recruiter: AI Is Coming for You

Part 3 – Better Data Wanted: The double-edged sword of hiring data in AI recruitment

Part 4 - Recruiter vs. Machine: Our Future in the New AI Era

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Dear Recruiter: AI Is Coming for You

In recent years, news headlines such as “Half of Canadian jobs will be impacted by automation in the next 10 years” (Global), or “42% of Canadian jobs at high risk of being affected by automation, new study suggests” (CBC) may have caught your attention and spurred you to question: “Am I going to lose my job to AI?” The answer, in short, is not yet.

Though artificial Intelligence will most likely surpass human capability in hiring and recruitment, total job replacement is at least a few years away. This doesn’t mean that recruiters can afford to wait complacently or continue business-as-usual until the technological sea change strikes. We believe that recruitment is already in the throws of a technological revolution. In order to keep pace with these fast-moving changes, recruiters must actively work to understand the new realities of how AI will impact hiring - the promises, pitfalls, and potential for cooperation and support - before it is too late.

Welcome to Clarity Recruitment’s four-part series on Artificial Intelligence in the hiring process. Over the next few weeks, we will cover all aspects of AI in hiring from current to ideal state. In this installment, we cover where AI stands today in the hiring process.

Currently, AI is mainly utilized primarily on the front end of the hiring process. Originally created for large scale HR operations, the functioning AI processes assist in recruiting and screening. AI companies have developed tools to aggregate hundreds of job boards to provide personalized job alerts, source candidates, screen resumes, and schedule interviews. The common thread? Saving time. In the hiring process, these areas tend to be the most labour intensive and time consuming. As AI takes over these tasks, human jobs have begun to shift, affording hiring managers the opportunity to build psychological and emotional connections with candidates and strengthening the employment brand (Deloitte).

But here is where the wave of AI use slows; where we have gained substantial value in efficiency, there is still much to be improved on in terms of effectiveness (Forbes). Many of today’s basic recruitment algorithms are built to perform a repetitive task and have not benefited from advances in machine learning. Due to their simple nature, these tools require both human training and auditing. This training may cause algorithms to select candidates based on a set of factors that are inadequate compared to those used by actual recruiters (who are not creating simplified metrics for an algorithm). This may cause the screening of a resume to rely on a narrow set of skills or keywords that will often leave out capable candidates that would make a perfect culture fit or have the attitude and aptitude to succeed in a role. Amazon, for example, began work on an AI recruiting tool to further automate the hiring process, but it was found to have bias embedded in its algorithms from those who created it. The tool was found to give preference to male candidates and resumes that pointed to privilege rather than job fit (HR Technologist).

Don’t, however, be fooled by the current state of AI; it is coming for your job… At least as your current job stands. Maybe not tomorrow, but the next decade promises significant changes to the recruitment industry. These changes will create significant challenges for those who fail to keep up, but will provide great opportunities for those who can navigate the changing landscape. If you would like to know how to adapt to the evolving industry environment and position yourself accordingly as AI begins its takeover, follow Clarity’s Head of Behavioural Science, Alex Kaju, as he maps out the future of AI in recruiting and answers all your questions about surviving and thriving in a changing landscape.

Stay tuned for next week’s post on Why the Machine Won’t Win. Subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this, salary guides, research and insights to keep you at the top of your game.

This is Part 1 of our 4 part series on the future of artificial intelligence and recruitment. Check out the full series below.

Part 2 – Coming Soon: AI Recruiters

Part 3 – Better Data Wanted: The double-edged sword of hiring data in AI recruitment

Part 4 – Recruiter vs. Machine: Our Future in the New AI Era

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Stress Interview

Less Stress, More Success: Coping in a “Stress Interview”

Stress Interview
Stress is an inevitable part of the job interview process, but what happens when a candidate’s stress tolerance is pushed too far?

An example of this occurred in the UK, as reported by the BBC. A young woman had interviewed with a tech firm, where she says she was degraded and humiliated about everything from her music taste to her parents’ marriage during what is referred to as the “stress interview.” She later shared her experience on Twitter where her post went viral.

Interviews generally consist of a mix of the following types of questions:

  1. General e.g. Tell me about yourself
  2. Behavioural e.g. Describe a time when you had to explain a complex accounting issue to someone without an accounting background. How did you help your audience understand the situation?
  3. Technical e.g. I buy a piece of equipment, walk me through the impact on the 3 financial statements.

While the UK example is an extreme case, the “stress test” is additional interview technique used to assess how applicants deal with pressure by taking them out of their comfort zone of expected questions and answers. An innocent question like, “Tell me about the recent ERP implementation you were involved with” could be morphed into more aggressive questioning such as, “Sounds like your ERP implementation was a nightmare - what did you do wrong?". Asking “How do you handle stress?” can be very difficult from inducing real levels of stress in the moment to gauge how the candidate responds under pressure. Other ways that interviewers may create stress is by seeming disinterested in the candidate and/or purposefully interrupting them while they are providing an answer.

Stressful workplace situations are inevitable due to a number of factors, such as tight deadlines, addressing errors in financial reporting, conflicts among team members, or other root causes. Attempts to evaluate how a candidate responds under pressure during the interview process may be beneficial for jobs that are high stress by nature; however, it is the responsibility of the employer to always treat their candidates with respect and ensure that they have a positive overall recruitment experience.

What if you find yourself in the candidate seat during a high stress interview, whether it is intentionally planned or not? According to The Balance Careers and Wisestep, here are some tactics you can employ to keep your composure and ace the interview:

  • Carefully listen and understand the questions before you attempt to provide an answer. It is totally acceptable, and often expected of you, to ask clarifying questions or for more details. This will also buy yourself some time on how to respond.
  • If you’re presented with a brainteaser such as “How many rats are there in Toronto”, focus on your methodology to solving the problem rather than attempting to come up with a definitive, correct answer. You can state some assumptions if needed to guide you through the process.
  • Leave emotion out of it and refrain from getting offended. Remain calm and professional, while responding to all of the hiring manager’s questions.
  • Prepare in advance how you will speak to handling stress. Identify a couple of examples of stressful work situations from your past and be able to recall how it resulted in a professional development opportunity for you.

Key Takeaways

For employers, help candidates have the best interview experience possible by taking the time to plan out your interview process and only adding the element of a “stress test” if it is appropriate for the role you are hiring for.

For candidates, know that some interviews are intentionally structured to induce stress. Prepare yourself to respond carefully and professionally to all of the interviewer’s questions.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Frank Wdowczyk, CPA, CGA

Inside Clarity’s Career Accelerator: Going Above and Beyond

Frank Wdowczyk, CPA, CGA
Often in a candidate pool, there exist many unqualified applicants. Of the tens to hundreds who apply to a job, only 5-10 are a suitable fit. It’s not that many of the others aren’t great candidates; they simply don’t possess the qualifications for that specific role...yet. Often, it’s because they haven’t fully developed the necessary skills, come from another geography without transferable work experience, or are re-entering the workforce after an extended absence. What can be done to help these soon-to-be great candidates?

At Clarity, one of our core values is “Help Others Realize Their Success.” Part of how we apply that is through our unique Career Accelerator service, which is designed simply as a way of giving back, no strings attached. The focus is not to find jobs for these candidates, but rather to help them get more control over their search through targeted guidance and coaching to get them several steps closer to landing that next great assignment.

We treat candidates the same way we treat clients. Through a positive experience, we know that someday our candidates may become our clients too.

Quick Facts

  • When did it launch? Early 2018
  • How many candidates have we helped? As of Feb 2019, 195 candidates
  • What does the service involve?
    • Coaching and Guidance on your Resume and LinkedIn Profile
    • Personal Branding
    • Job Search Strategies
    • Networking and Mentoring Opportunities
    • Referrals to Other Agencies and more
  • Who is service for? Designated Finance and Accounting professionals, mostly CPAs, currently residing in Canada who are struggling to find their next job

We had the opportunity to sit down with Frank Wdowczyk, CPA, CGA, who heads up our Career Accelerator to learn more about the service, how it helps, and what others can do to accelerate their own careers.  

Why do you do it?

Something that was stressed upon me on one of my first days in the recruiting world over 10 years ago was that, “you can’t help everyone.” Regardless of this advice I was still able to become a top recruiter while also being able to help candidates when possible. I’m excited that Clarity Recruitment is breaking new ground by carving out this dedicated role that isn’t necessarily focused on the bottom line but more on helping the individual. The reality is that this position is exciting because of what it can teach us about a new candidate pool. Clarity is truly standing behind its mission to “help others realize their success.”

How does the service differ from other coaching services out there?

Well for one, it’s a free service. It’s also focused vertically within the accounting and finance industry and run by industry experts with decades of experience in recruitment.

What advice do you commonly give?

A lot of the candidates I work with have limited networks and no prior Canadian work experience. I encourage them to use their recruiters but use their time to apply to jobs directly and network. In order to acquire that Canadian experience, you may need to be flexible and take a step back, maybe two. The ones who do well are the ones who say, “I don’t care about the compensation, just get the experience.” They take the gamble on themselves. A lot of the time you have to take that risk and make that sacrifice. It isn’t fair but it’s how it is.

A common resume and LinkedIn tweak is to place your designation right next to your name. Canada is very designation oriented. Also for those coming from outside of Canada, hiring managers may gloss over work experience where they don’t recognize the company. By providing a frame of who the company is (e.g. “They are the like the Walmart of India”) and including the company’s revenue size, you give the reader context of where you’ve been.

Lastly, I spend a lot of time on what they are doing in their search. People are spending too much time on job boards. Apply to the job you’re excited about and get over it - 97% of the time you aren’t going to hear back. Don’t waste your time. Look into LinkedIn for common threads. Look for people in HR and reach out to them directly by sending them a short note saying, “I’d like to connect with you and get 3-5 minutes of your time.” Take control of your search.

Can you share some recent stories from the Career Accelerator?

Out of the hundreds of conversations I’ve had in the last year, one of my favorites was with an MBA from India who recently moved to Canada. He was in a job that he referred to as his survival job. I coached him on where he should be putting his efforts and he eventually landed a job at Accenture. Six months later, I was connected with a candidate with a very similar background and introduced the two of them purely as a networking opportunity. He ended up recommending her to Accenture, and she joined shortly after.

Another candidate with no prior Canadian work experience landed a role through his persistent networking efforts. He recalls, “I could reminisce [Frank’s] words: I was just at the right place at the right time and one can not do that by sitting inside your home.” Prior to working with Frank, the candidate had approached over 1,200 people on LinkedIn. A mere 60 responded, and just 10 agreed to meet with him. Through the Career Accelerator, he was encouraged to expand his network by asking to meet with friends of friends and actively attend social and industry events. He was randomly introduced through a mutual contact at an event to his soon-to-be-boss.

Your Next Step

Are you a designated CPA who is in transition and struggling to find your next opportunity? We can help. Get in touch with us at accelerator@findingclarity.ca today.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Conceptual image of career management

Making Career Moves in a Recession

Conceptual image of career management
With the unemployment rate dropping to the lowest Canada has seen in decades, ending 2018 at 5.6% according to Statistics Canada, those seeking work have found themselves in a power position over employers. While this statistic is a combination of many factors, and may not be entirely reflective of what job seekers find in each field, the general consensus reflects a larger abundance of positions, affording seekers the opportunity to be picky.

In the recruiting industry, this has shown through the attitude of candidates. With this new-found power in the employee-employer relationship, candidates are less likely to commit and instead enjoy the luxury of shopping around for positions with multiple recruiters. Relieved of the stress to snag one of the few good opportunities available (notably in specialized fields), time is no longer of the essence.

The forecast for 2019, however, may look quite different for job seekers. The winds of change bring a whisper of recession that will reverse the power imbalance currently held by employers and job seekers. Before you find yourself caught in the eye of the storm, however, understanding how this dynamic will affect job seekers can help prevent consistently losing out on desirable positions and ensuring the best decision is made in regards to your career.

Depending on how you view an economic downfall in regards to your career, there are a few ways of approaching a job search. First, the most obvious answer would be to make the change now. Human resources are generally the greatest asset of an organization, but also the greatest cost to the bottom line. So, naturally, in a situation of recession where companies are tightening their belts, the first area they will look to save is within the employee pool. For example, can our team of three Financial Analysts sufficiently operate with just two?

Additionally, a recession often results in lower voluntary turnover. When the job market is tight, people tend to hold on to the security their job holds. As Willis Towers Watson explains, “workers who managed to stay employed tended to remain where they were, especially older workers who couldn't afford to retire.” This means that while companies are offering fewer opportunities, the lack of turnover creates a greater deficit in what could normally be expected of available jobs. With these two key factors in mind, it would seem logical to make a move before this happens and look for an available position while there is still a surplus. This is not, of course, a fail-safe way to progress your career while standing face-to-face with economic decline. If you were waiting for the other shoe to drop, here it comes.

Recall the anecdote of three Analysts. Now, come recession, a company believes they can get along with two. The easiest decision would be made by last one in, first one out - meaning, of course, you. Adding this phenomenon to the equation, it may now look like making that move before an impending recession may not be such a good idea after all. You put at risk the job security you currently hold for lower seniority and a high probability of being the first out the door if your new company is making cuts. How, then, would you make a decision? How would you know if you should make a move or not? The answer lies in context. In all areas of job searching, context is king.

Let’s say you have decided to look for a new job. An interesting role is available at a reputable company and you believe this would be a great move for you. To add context to this situation, you would look closely at what a recession means for the company and industry in question. Taking a page from previous recessions, there are industries that are more recession resistant or even thrive during a recession. Some notable examples include Consumer Staples with grocery stores (people still need to eat) and discount retailers such as Walmart, as well as Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare. In contrast, there are certain industries that generally see significant volatility during recessions including Consumer Discretionary “luxury goods,” Information Technology and Financial Services.  

But most importantly, what is the context for you? What is this job selling, and what does it mean for you? How does this move fit into your story?

These are not always easy questions to answer. If you’re considering a career move and wish you had someone to help you navigate the murky waters of job hunting, reach out to Clarity Recruitment today. Our recruiters are committed to helping you write your next chapter.  

 

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


woman holding white mug while standing

How to Ask for a Promotion in the Finance Industry

woman holding white mug while standing
With a new year underway, you may be thinking about some of your short and long-term goals, both personal and professional. Maybe you’ve been wanting to ramp things up in the career department, and a promotion with new responsibilities and opportunities would help you do just that.

If you’re interested in asking for a promotion, but are a little apprehensive about doing so, that’s completely understandable. Asking your boss for a promotion can be nerve-wracking, as it’s a situation that can leave you feeling vulnerable. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the risk.

Here are some ways to build your confidence and improve your success when it comes to having that important conversation with your boss.

Understand Your Motivation

Before you discuss a possible promotion with your boss, take time to reflect on why you want the promotion in the first place.

Are you genuinely interested in being more involved with manager-level responsibilities? Keep in mind that, according to the Journal of Accountancy, “to be promoted to manager, a CPA needs to show that he or she can handle any of the work being done by employees below him or her on the pyramid while also displaying the nascent skills needed by those above.”

Or is it that you’re more interested in earning a higher salary and having a title that you feel will be more impressive? Perhaps you’re feeling dissatisfied with your current position and believe that a move up the ladder will solve that? There are a whole host of reasons why you could be seeking a promotion. Inc. Magazine describes some typical motivators for asking for a promotion including Ambition, Money, Opportunity, Dissatisfaction, and Boredom.

Understanding your motivation for wanting a promotion will help you determine whether taking steps to get one is the right path forward for you as well as your timing and how you go about it.

Pave the Way

Before you approach your boss about a promotion, consider whether you’ve already been doing the legwork necessary to prove to him or her that you are serious and prepared to take on more responsibility. Some great ways to build your case for why you deserve a promotion include:

  • Gradually asking for more responsibilities – this can include taking some things off your boss’ plate, if possible. Familiarizing yourself with higher-level responsibilities now will set you up for being able to successfully tackle them if you’re promoted in the future.
  • Making time for professional development – taking additional courses, attending relevant conferences and workshops, and seeking out an appropriate mentor all show that you are committed to growing your knowledge and skill set.
  • Honing the right skills – do your research and determine which skills are required for the job you want, then figure out which ones you have and which ones you need to sharpen or acquire. Managers need to have strong technical skills, training skills, the ability to multitask, exceptional interpersonal skills, and a knack for generating business.
  • Asking for feedback – in order to know whether you’re on the right track, be sure to check in regularly with your boss to find out what you’re doing well and what you could be doing better. This information can help with timing your promotion request appropriately.
  • Keeping track of your achievements – you’re in the finance and accounting industry, so you know the importance of clear data and being able to quantify what’s been accomplished. Use this knowledge to your advantage by creating a memo outlining your successes that you can present to your boss when you’re ready to discuss your potential promotion.
  • Finding solutions to problems – being able to identify current problems with systems, procedures, or staff and coming up with actual, executable solutions that you can present to your boss will show initiative and a keen ability to problem-solve.

Find A Good Time

When it comes to approaching your boss for a promotion, it’s unlikely you’ll ever find the perfect time. However, if you’re strategic about when you broach the subject, you might find your boss more open to the discussion. Just ensure you avoid these common promotion-request pitfalls that Forbes has outlined such as “Asking for a promotion or raise simply based on length of time employed”.

If your boss is dealing with tension and problems in the workplace, it might be best to hold off on asking about a promotion until things are running smoother. That type of situation does provide a great opportunity for asking how you can help out, though.

Look for a time when there are positive things happening and the atmosphere is more relaxed. Schedule a meeting with your boss and be sure to come prepared with notes and clear, quantitative examples of what you’re bringing to the table and how you plan to make things even better.

While it’s natural to feel a bit intimidated about asking for a promotion, don’t let that hold you back. Take a deep breath and go for it. After all, if you don’t ask, how will your boss ever know that you’re interested in taking the next step in your career?

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.