Today's labour market is still showing a huge shortage of financial talent. Since it is a challenge for organisations to find the perfect finance professional at short notice, it is recommended for employers to select candidates primarily based on human skills. "Finance is a specific field and indeed requires certain hard skills. However, these can be learned with the right motivation and capabilities. This does not apply to human skills," says Jens Spittael, Associate Director at staffing specialist Walters People.

What exactly are human skills, and which ones are important when selecting finance professionals?

Human skills have everything to do with personality traits and character. It includes the qualities that make candidates or employees who they are. Previously, the term 'soft skills' was used for this purpose. However, we prefer not to use this expression anymore, as it carries a rather negative connotation and can result in the importance of these skills being underestimated.

"When looking for finance professionals, proactivity is often at the top of the wish list - besides accuracy, of course," Jens knows. "Jobs today are much less task-related than they used to be. Organisations want people who take initiative, who want to learn and grow. 

In addition, collaboration and communication skills are interesting human skills to select on. Finance professionals must be able to transmit financial information in an understandable way. They also work closely with their teammates, but at the same time with colleagues from different departments within the company.

Flexibility and adaptability are also valuable skills. Companies are rapidly automating and digitising. As a result, working methods in certain financial functions are also changing at a fast pace. It is important that candidates can keep up with organisational and process changes, and anticipate them."

So how exactly do you select for those human skills?     

Jens: "By asking targeted, behavioural questions during the interview - the so called 'competency-based questions'.

"Ask about concrete work situations in which the candidate has applied this human skill."

A role-play can also be useful to gain insight into how the applicant reacts to realistic work scenarios. Here, you should also pay attention to non-verbal communication: this can tell you something about social skills and stress resistance, for example. Finally, also make sure to check the references provided: former managers can tell you perfectly how the candidate works, how this person behaves in a team, and so on. References are of course only a part of the selection procedure, but they can help complement your overall picture of the candidate."

Are employers already applying human skills selection sufficiently?   

"Employers are increasingly realising that the silver wolves they are looking for are very hard to find," says Jens. “If they do find them, the salary expectations are often not compatible with what the organisation can or wants to offer. As a result, employers have generally already become more flexible in selecting on human skills and are gradually becoming more open to out-of-the-box candidates. The growing automation within finance contributes to this mindset: automated processes replace part of the operational tasks and help reduce the likelihood of human error. This reduces the weighting of hard skills in the selection process."

What can employers do to attract finance professionals?

"For many employees, including generation Z, training opportunities and a clear growth path are high on the wish list. It is important to have regular dialogue with your employees about their ambitions and the growth opportunities that fit them.  

In addition, it is essential to regularly check in with your employees: What makes them happy? What motivates them in their daily work? By being an engaged manager yourself, you increase the well-being and commitment of everyone in your team. 

Furthermore, flexibility is tremendously important today. This can take the form of sliding working hours, for example, but flexibility is broader than that. Employees find liberties like working from home and a good work-life balance crucial terms of employment.  

By meeting these needs, in both new and current employees, you'll make yourself a lot more attractive as an employer," Jens concludes.


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