Meet Accounting, finance and strategy recruitment specialist, Gavin McDonald

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Gavin McDonald

What do you enjoy most about your career?

As an experienced, senior accounting and finance recruiter, the most satisfying part of my job is getting to know people and placing them in roles where they can thrive and make an impact. Recruitment is about far more than just being concerned with the quick win, so I’ve built up a network of highly skilled people I always look forward to connecting. In addition to finance I also enjoy recruiting specialist roles within the energy sector.  It’s rewarding to have broad and deep knowledge– it keeps me on my toes.

How has the senior finance market changed in recent years?

 The CEO/CFO relationship is increasingly becoming key in terms of taking a business forward, and finance has been more successful than many other disciplines in maintaining a seat at the strategic table.  As more aspects of finance operations are automated and digitised, the finance offering has to be even more astute and insightful. At all levels, finance has to keep current and understand the trends within business to continue to deliver valued insights and high performance.  For example, an analyst may have great technical skills, but they need to be able to anticipate the business issues behind the data and make it meaningful to the audience.  A case of answering the questions before they are asked, if you like.

What’s your view on how generational change is impacting the finance team?

I’ve placed people between the ages of 18 and 67 during my 20-year career so I’ve heard a lot of different perspectives.  I think switched-on leaders are embracing modern working patterns for people at all levels. There can be an old-school mindset about working your way up and paying your dues, but the new generation doesn’t often think that way. They value flexibility, variety, personal growth and they want to know that their employer has a sense of purpose beyond commerce. You may not keep a millennial in your team for a very long time, but their contribution can be considerable.

What one piece of career advice would you give finance professionals?

The benefit of senior finance professionals having gained experience across a variety of industry sectors should be well regarded, and in turn lead to the adoption of best practise as people bring their expertise to new roles. However, in many industries it can be extremely difficult to short-list a candidate without them having prior experience within that same industry.  The whole point of being a CPA or CA is to have a bag of tricks you can pick up and take with you to any industry, but the job market doesn’t always work like that and this trend has been building over many years. 

CFOs who may have been pigeon-holed themselves now have the chance to pay it forward, by hiring people with diverse industry backgrounds and recognising the value of cross-sector experience. And before you ask, this isn’t my way of asking for an easy recruitment brief, but allowing me to supply you with the most talented profiles regardless of the sectors they have worked in.

Has a candidate’s online profile ever stopped you putting them forward for a role?

I don’t think I’ve ever discounted someone purely because of their LinkedIn profile, but I can certainly get more excited about putting a candidate forward based on a good one. Finance professionals don’t always excel at self-promotion, so when I see they’ve taken the time to think about how they’re seen publicly it’s always a good sign. It tells me they know how to manage their professional reputation among a range of stakeholders and, increasingly, that’s a key part of a finance professional’s job.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Back in the day in the UK I studied psychology, and managed to secure an academic year placement at Melbourne Uni -  secretly and strategically aligned to coincide with the Cricket World Cup in ‘92 – which presented the opportunity to frequent the Clyde Hotel in Carlton.  Out of the blue I was challenged to a game of pool by my future wife, Rachel.  Who won? She did of course!  And I came to call Australia – and Melbourne - home.  Perfect for a food, wine and sports nut like me. 

Connect with Gavin here