Career advice

Hiring a CFO

Recruitment Success Stories: How we partnered with WWF to find their next CFO

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Amidst never-ending pressure to cut costs, increase revenue and sustainably plan for the future, a CFO’s tasks are more complex than ever. It is critical that companies hire financial leaders with the strategic – not just technical – acumen to drive organisational success.

With this in mind, in 2019 we partnered with WWF Kenya to recruit a visionary CFO with the ability to align people and processes to the bigger picture. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth in over 100 countries. In Kenya, WWF has worked with the government, society and private sector organisations for over 55 years to improve the lives of the communities and wildlife that call Kenya home.

As Victor Komu, HR and Administration Manager at WWF Kenya noted, there was a fine line distinguishing the successful hire from the shortlisted candidates. There were three key factors that contributed to their selection:

Culture Fit

It is critical that hires for WWF Kenya not only reflect the overall vision and mission of the company but that they also embody and contribute to company values. Hiring for culture fit is essential as this ensures that new hires effectively integrate into the workspace. Speaking on the values which they look for in individuals, Victor said: “We pride ourselves in our core values which are credible, responsive, inspiring, collaborative and innovative.”

In order to attract a great culture fit, it is important that employers invest in their employer brand, meaning the public image of their culture as an employer by former, current and prospective employees. With this in mind, in order for WWF Kenya to attract a credible, responsive and innovative CFO, these values had to be reflected in their employer brand. To achieve this, they ensured that their company values were visible on their company website, articulated in the job advertisement and discussed during the initial interview.

Besides the organisation’s personality (values and beliefs), it is also worth including aspects of the job pace (timing, dress code etc) and organisational structure. Indeed, the increasing value of companies’ employer brand was solidified in our recent survey of 1,200 employees in Kenya, which highlights key insights and recommendations tailored specifically for Kenyan companies.

It is undoubtedly important to hire for skills and experience fit. However, when you hire for culture fit as well, you’re ensuring a better chance of retention and satisfaction.

Technical competency and experience

A CFO should be able to create strong and solid policies, be both hands-on and strategic and be of added value to the senior management team. As Victor explained, the ideal candidate for WWF Kenya was “someone who has a strong grasp of global accounting standards, experience that traverses audits, financial transactions, treasury management and of course is a team leader.”

The emphasis on past experience, and in particular, international experience in this case, was important in ensuring that the ideal candidate had a detailed understanding of a range of functions, stakeholder priorities, market influences and the challenges of global business. Further, it was essential that the ideal candidate demonstrated the ability to be able to lead the accounting and financial decisions of WWF Kenya in a forward-thinking, strategic mindset. This was determined through multiple structured interviews with different stakeholders and functional-area assessments.

For an organisation as large as WWF Kenya, open roles can attract up to 900 applications. The Shortlist platform was particularly beneficial during the assessment stage, which ensured a data-driven vetting and review process. Work sample assessments helped WWF Kenya to determine candidates’ capabilities with a high degree of certainty.

Leadership and influencing capabilities 

Mary Kaigera, Chief Financial Officer, WWF Kenya (placed by Shortlist)

Leading the financial direction of a global institution demands a candidate with the ability to influence decisions. When you’re hiring a CFO, you’re hiring a leader. A 21st century CFO should be proficient in leveraging the connection between data and people, driving strategies with a strong financial underpinning and can be a trusted authority on data-driven action planning. The suitable candidate for WWF was therefore someone with the ability to positively influence others, push initiatives and ultimately have an impact on executive decision making. Within the team, a great CFO was one who could engage effectively, be responsive to changes within the workplace and encourage the growth of other team members.

The role of the CFO is multifaceted; a financial gatekeeper, a coach for the entire finance team, an outstanding communicator and a judicious visionary. After partnering with WWF Kenya to understand each of these unique requirements, we successfully identified the ideal candidate for their organisation. So far, Mary Kaigera – WWF Kenya’s new CFO and Shortlist placement – has done an excellent job in personifying all these responsibilities!

Let us Help You Hire your next CFO

Never thought of a career in Human Resources? Neither did we!

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Have you never considered a career in Human Resources? It is definitely not as sought-after as a career in engineering or medicine. We can’t blame you, given the stereotype of HR as simply a support function – it has got a bad rap for years!

Some even joke that HR stands for Hardly Relevant. That may have been true for the beige, corporate cultures of the past that promoted conformity, suit and jackets and a hard adherence to the 9-to-5 clock with files, folders, punch-in-punch-out, appraisal forms, payslips leave and attendance as the main job responsibilities of HR.

Or so we thought. 

And then the world changed. With the rise of entrepreneurship, startups and a shift in existing norms, suddenly everything was turned upside down. People realised they had choices, and that they could choose not to work at places they didn’t enjoy, and where they weren’t valued. Suddenly, companies had to prove they were worthy of employees, not the other way around!

In this new age, the role of the Human Resources team – or anyone who worked on People and Culture initiatives – became very important. Previously, employee tenure normally went into double digits, but then, companies started seeing employees staying for shorter periods of time, resulting in an increased focus on hiring and retaining staff in order to meet business goals. There grew a need to find a way to make jobs attractive to top talent through a nuanced combination of engagement, learning, growth, compensation and recognition that would allow employees to see the value in staying with an organisation. This led to what many call a rebirth of Human Resources as a career, and the start of a focus on People and Culture, not just Humans as Resources.

Human Resources as career

The unofficial definition of human resources

Today, HR departments are much more dynamic, playing an essential role in a business’ long-term talent development strategy. As you’ll start to see around you, those who are able to effectively harness the power of people have the ability to transform the future of companies!

Not yet convinced? Here are five reasons why you should consider a career in Human Resources:

1. More than just hiring and firing

The field of HR has something for everyone. Passionate about data and making sense of numbers? Data scientists and analysts are in high demand to help companies take data-driven decisions when it comes to their people. Do you have a flair for communication and crafting impactful messages? Employer Branding and Internal Communications is a growing field within HR where marketing mavericks can impact company, branding and facilitate transparency within internal teams for better productivity. Help the business to identify future leaders who will ensure the company’s long term sustainability by working in Learning & Development. Work hand-in-hand with functional heads to anticipate needs and plan for effective people development strategies by being an HR Business Partner.

2. HR in times of AI and ML

With more and more industries talking about adopting Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, there is a chance some roles may be automated and eventually eliminated. However, machines still need human intervention, interpretation and analysis. As much as we can automate and outsource certain services, the Human Resources function will still play a key role in ensuring that there is meaningful interaction between the business and the technology. Adoption of technology requires extensive change management – something that HR teams will have to facilitate by demonstrating skills such as negotiation, strategic planning, resource allocation as well as conflict management to address the adoption of these technologies. This serves as a great career path in Human Resources.

3. Driven by data

Human Resources teams employ a keen mix of data, behavioural science, organizational systems design, competency frameworks and performance data to both attract, develop and retain the best and brightest talent. Today, leadership development, succession planning, training and improving performance are all driven by data points, metrics, evidence and structured programs that help track returns on investment.

4. From Business to Career in Human Resources

If you’re wondering how to make a start in HR after never having worked here before, that’s not a problem! HR needs people who know the business. One of the biggest complaints business leaders used to have about HR teams was the fact that almost everyone in HR had never had any experience in any other departments. By bringing your experience from Sales, Marketing, Product Design, Finance or even IT, you bring valuable perspective for the business on what is actually needed for employees and you’ll be more successful in designing programs, policies, initiatives and addressing employee concerns if you’ve been-there-done-that!

5. Human Resources is a training ground for C-suite

A great example of this is Mary Barra, CEO of GM Motors who previously served as Global VP of Human Resources. Closer to home, Mohandas Pai stepped down after 12 years as CFO at Infosys to head the HR function. Whereas earlier, the progression of a career in Human Resources was thought to be capped at the CHRO level, today HR experience is seen as invaluable for CEOs. In fact, an HBR article also mapped and found that leadership styles, emotional traits and competencies of CEOs most closely matched those of CHROs, compared to any other chief executive.

If you needed further proof of why a career in HR is the best thing you could take up right now, LinkedIn lists People Management as one of the Top 5 most in-demand Hard Skills this year. There’s no better place to pick up those skills and understand the nuances than working in HR!

Interested in applying for positions in HR after reading this? Head to this link to apply for openings with Shortlist.


Performance appraisal prep

Six steps to help you prepare for your performance appraisal

6016 4016 Brenda Akinyi

The end of the year brings many seasonal workplace traditions, like holiday parties or Secret Santas. In addition to these fun events, there’s another annual occurrence that you can definitely expect in December – your end-of-year performance appraisal.

While the thought of sitting down with your manager to take stock of your individual contributions may sound stressful, with some preparation and the right attitude, your review could be a motivating and rewarding way to finish out the year strong.

Here are six steps you can take to prepare for and make the most out of your performance appraisal:

#1 – Review feedback from your previous performance appraisal

This will give you a great starting point to prepare for this year’s review. Take out your notes from your last appraisal, and try answering the following questions on paper:

  • What were the main topics discussed during your last review?
  • What goals did you set for this quarter or year? Did you meet them? Why, or why not?
  • What did your manager identify as your strength?
  • What areas of development were noted?

These notes will help you get a sense of how much you’ve grown and developed since your last performance appraisal.

#2 – Note down your key accomplishments

What projects are you most proud of from the last year or quarter? Where have you seen the most growth? During your performance appraisal, be sure to highlight, not just the “what” but also the “how” that led to attaining the goals.

A great way to showcase each accomplishment is by using the format below:

  • Goal
  • Action taken
  • Result

Aside from reaching your established goals, go a step further to describe accomplishments that you initiated such as tasks that you took upon yourself to improve your performance and that proves you’re a valuable contributor to the organization.

#3 – Be honest with yourself about tasks or behaviors that feel challenging

What are the things that hold you back from performing at your best? Have a discussion with your manager on how they can support you to improve in these areas, which could range from technical performance to time management to listening skills. Remember, the goal is to help your manager help you!

Tips on getting ahead on this:

  • Take note of what these “blind spots” are.
  • Have a list of what you could do to get better – It could be anything from wanting to take on more projects in an area you’d like to grow in, taking up a professional development course or simply seeking advice from someone who does it better.
  • Present your options during your performance appraisal and talk through how you’d like to be supported.

#4 – Identify your goals for the next year

Once you take stock of your past performance, take a moment to create goals for the next year and articulate how you plan to achieve them.

While drafting your goals, look for opportunities to:

  • Expand your duties
  • Broaden your knowledge
  • Take on more responsibility

Be as specific as possible with your goals (e.g., “Double engagement on the company Twitter posts” instead of “Improve on social media”) so that you can accurately track your performance over the year. You can refine these during your performance appraisal with your manager.

#5 – Prepare for the performance appraisal conversation

You may be looking forward to getting a promotion, a raise or an annual bonus. Your performance appraisal also serves as an opportunity to get feedback from your manager on areas they feel you have excelled in as well as any areas of improvement that you may need to focus on in the next year. In each of these cases, the conversation may feel difficult or emotional in other ways.

Remind yourself that these conversations exist for your own growth and development, and try to approach the meeting in a calm and collected state. Use your performance appraisal as an opportunity to also share constructive feedback.

#6 – Have an open mind

While the feedback you receive may be the opposite of what you expected, it’s important to look at it with an open mind. With the right mindset, you can view feedback as a gift! This article from The Muse also shares great insights on how we can stop taking criticism so personally (and make it easier to move on).

After a performance appraisal, we often overlook the positive feedback shared and exaggerate negative reviews. Celebrate your success and set yourself up to make progress in your growth areas!

What gets you through this time of the year? We’d love to hear from you. Tag us on your twitter post using the hashtag #performanceappraisal

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​Not sure about that sales job? Go for it – your career will thank you!

1280 861 Brenda Akinyi

Have you ever considered taking a sales job? No doubt, the art of selling comes a little easier to certain people than it does to others. But if you’ve never considered yourself the “sales” type, you may be missing out.

An opportunity in sales can turn into a lifelong career or simply a stepping stone towards a different path, as Alice Mbori-Mwalimo, Head of Sales at GlaxoSmithKline Kenya, noted recently at a Shortlist panel discussion. She observed that sales professionals are more likely than any other function to progress to a General Manager, due to their deep understanding of the product and customer, and the other valuable skills they’ve developed over time in a sales position.

What exactly are those skills? Read on to learn more:

Clear and persuasive communication

The key to a great salesperson is their ability to communicate persuasively and succinctly, so taking on a sales job can help you cultivate those qualities. With consistent practice and engagement with different customers, you will learn how to adapt to different communication tactics depending on the individual you are interacting with.

In a sales job, you’ll learn how to deliver an effective elevator pitch, a hallmark of great communication skills. In a fast-paced environment, you will find that the ability to succinctly communicate your value proposition is essential.

Communication and presentation skills will be valuable to you both in personal and professional areas, no matter your chosen field. After all, every day you are explaining an idea, process or feeling to others around you – why not hone that skill in your job, too?

Active listening

One of the most significant outcomes of a sales job is the cultivation of excellent listening skills. It’s no secret that people love to talk – especially about themselves, their achievements and their needs – and customers are no exception. It’s crucial that you listen and make them feel that they are heard. You learn how to take a step back and prioritize listening to those around you rather than focus on the hard sell. This will be helpful in any role, especially as a manager.

Flexibility and adaptability

As you gain more experience in your sales role, you will face some uncertain situations which have the potential of throwing you off course – these can range from meeting schedules, locations, or changing client needs. In a sales job, you will learn how to navigate these and ensure that you can adapt to whatever setting you find yourself in.

 Resilience and grit

It’s no secret that a sales role will have its tough moments- unmet targets, demanding client needs, and tiring days full of meetings and demos. But each time you find a way to get past these challenges, you build your resilience. Learning how to manage setbacks and stressful situations will go a long way in helping you push through hurdles until you succeed.

In a sales job, Sealing the deal is crucial!Confidence

Walking up to someone and starting a conversation is certainly not an easy task. Every cold-call or client meeting will be scary in the beginning. However, it gets easier with time. As you learn how to interact with different people in diverse situations, you ultimately build your confidence in selling and presenting yourself. In turn, this will be key throughout your career, especially when networking during a job search.


For your product to have value in a potential client’s eyes, you need to be solving a problem for them. As Salesforce sales expert Aaron Ross said, “Customers don’t care at all whether you close the deal or not. They care about improving their business.”

Other times you may encounter challenges with the functionality of a product sold to a client. As a salesperson, you need to understand the customer’s needs. In addition to this, understand your product functionality from end to end to troubleshoot appropriately.

Research skills in your sales job and beyond

To be a successful salesperson, you must understand what your potential customer does. With a sales job, every day you will be conducting research into an organisation’s operations. You will also prepare questions you will need to ask to get the most useful information. This skill will benefit you in the long run as ultimately, you learn how to make decisions based on facts.

The beauty of the skills you gain from a sales role is that they are transferable across different fields and industries. So next time you get an opportunity to take up a sales job, go into it with an open mind and see where you can go! Oh, and did we mention the flexibility in work hours? 

In conclusion, whether you are new to sales or are already working within the field, developing these eight skills will help you advance to the next level. For all, you book lovers, a great one I’d recommend is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In this book, he shares simple rules on how to achieve success with people. All these, illustrated from his own and others’ experiences.

For more job opportunities in sales, sign up to take a look at our current openings with our partner organizations:

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Have you had the opportunity to take on a role outside your field of study? Please share some of your key learnings with us in the comment section.

how to find a mentor

How to find a mentor who is perfect for you

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There are many potential paths to take on the quest for professional growth, including on the job training, pursuing a graduate degree or professional certification, and seeking mentorships. At one of our recent candidate events in Nairobi, we invited three experts in finance to hear their take on career growth. Mentorship was one of the primary areas they emphasized including how to find a mentor who is perfect for you.

Why learning how to find a mentor is important

“Mentors are supposed to help you make the right decision at the right time to enable you to grab the rare opportunities, “ said Job Muriuki, the CEO of Momentum Credit. Job noted that the pivotal decisions young professionals make in their twenties can make this the most crucial phase in their personal and professional lives (no pressure!). One thing we all can agree on is that we don’t necessarily have all the experience it takes to make these massive decisions on our own.

Learning how to find a mentor can provide you with someone to guide you in making the right choices, since they have been at the phase you are in and know what you should put more effort in and what to avoid. “Opportunities are not as easy to get — especially in a market like Kenya. It’s therefore important that you meet someone to help you make those big decisions,” added Job.

We acknowledge that mentorship is an excellent way to develop skills we don’t have yet, tap into new networks and improve both our personal and career goals. So what are the characteristics you should look for in a mentor?

Do you have a genuine connection with your potential mentor?

Some companies or training programs assign young professionals a mentor within a formal system. But according to Sharon Olende, Senior Advisor at Lendable, mentorship ideally shouldn’t be a match-up programme decided by a third party. Instead, it should be a natural relationship that evolves from shared interests and a genuine accord. “You have to have that relationship with someone; you will later come to a mentor/mentee relationship, but I think a natural fit with your possible mentor comes first, and it might be with several people,” she said. “It’s important to have that natural camaraderie.”

Many people think that they ought to ask the most senior or impressive person possible to be their mentor. However, it is more important to choose someone you are comfortable spending time with. Being relaxed will allow the two of you to easily communicate and guarantee a long-lasting, mutually enjoyable relationship. It will also allow your mentor to feel comfortable occasionally giving you constructive or difficult feedback, along with the positive.

What are you looking to gain from your potential mentor?

Next, you should think about what you are looking to achieve from this mentorship. For example, do you want to grow in your current function or are you hoping to switch to a different industry? Peace Osangir, COO of Kopo Kopo, suggests asking yourself, “Am I looking for career advancement? Am I looking to shift fields? Am I looking to move up? And who in my network can help successfully navigate that? Do we gel?”

“It may not necessarily be someone above you, it could be your peer, but they’re really good at something you need support in. It’s important for you to know what you’re looking for,” she added.

Once you’re clear with yourself about what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to understand how to find a mentor by defining the type of person you should seek out. Further, laying down clear expectations with your mentor not only helps to keep your meetings productive but also shows your level of seriousness with the relationship.

how to find a mentor

Panellists at the event; L-R Sharon Olende, Peace Onsagir, Job Muriuki and Ariane Fisher, Managing Director at Shortlist moderating the panel

Are they trustworthy?

You may end up sharing a lot with your mentor. For example, you may come to them if you’re having issues with your manager, need advice based on a not-yet-public development within your company, or are considering leaving your job. It is therefore vital to ensure that you pick a trustworthy mentor who will respect the confidentiality of your discussions.

Peace noted, “it should be someone who knows how to keep confidential information confidential — that’s important. You don’t want to have a private conversation about your family or your life and next they’ve repeated it.”

“My mentor is like my brother. We talk about family, business, life, faith, everything,” said Job.

how to find a mentor

A section of attendees at the event

Have they succeeded in a field(s) you are interested in?

It is essential when focusing on how to find a mentor you reach out to someone who has excelled in the areas you are interested in. This does not mean focussing only on the years of experience or title of your possible mentor though. You should go for an individual with the expertise to help you with your journey and bring the best out of you. This will ensure you are able to learn new perspectives to incorporate into your current routine to get better.

Is your mentor different from you?

While commonality could be great, it could be useful to have a mentor who comes from a more diverse background for various reasons such as learning skills you don’t have yet or to get different perspectives on ideas. According to Sharon, one guide for learning how to pick a mentor is selecting someone diverse. “Look for a mentor who is different from you. Check-in your community, it could be someone you go to the same church with, look everywhere!” she said.

Do they have time for you?

It’s crucial to ensure your mentor is not too busy for you. Are they able to set aside some time in their schedule to help you get where you need? “They may be fantastic, check all the boxes, but they’re just very busy. It’s a balance of time,” said Peace.

Remember that this is a two-way street; you also have to ensure you are not too busy to be mentored. Show up to the meetings on time, attend events your mentor invites you to and complete any tasks assigned to you in good time.

Learning how to find a mentor who is perfect for you, does not have to be hard. Lay down the areas you need help with and pick someone who can give valuable advice throughout the journey. Ensure that you gel, they have time for you and that they are trustworthy. And yes, you can have more than one 🙂

How did you pick your mentor? Let us know!

In the meantime, here’s another article that might interest you: Two HR leaders weigh in on building relationships with mentors

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