John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
Gallatin, TN 37066

In BV, it’s not enough to merely do the analysis or run the model. You have to explain what you did and how you got that number. It’s called writing skill, and employers are right to want to assess it at time of hire. Some practices are getting creative in how they do it.

When the time comes to evaluate a candidate’s writing skill, simply asking for a previously completed report can seem like the path of least resistance. It may not be the smartest move, however.

As a practical matter, it’s probably not possible to expect a candidate to deliver a completed report without breaching confidentiality. Written permission has to come from too many parties. Beyond that is the question of whether the work is truly the candidate’s. Reports can sometimes incorporate boilerplate, and more often than not are the result of review and editing.

From yet another point of view, Michael Molder, Sr. Mgr. at Marcum in Philadelphia, suggests that “much of what goes into a standard BV report is driven by the Reporting Standards of the profession. In many ways, a standard BV report is as much a demonstration of an appraiser’s writing skills as an audited financial statement would be for a CPA.”

Being creative doesn’t always mean being complex. Ask candidates at lower experience levels to do a write-up on an industry with numerous data sources, located in a market small enough to be tackled (e.g., restaurants in Des Moines). Assign an element (e.g., a discount study) of an engagement with enough real-life aspects to enable you to gauge your candidate’s writing capabilities.

If your practice does a variety of engagements (litigation, estate & gift, financial reporting), you could ask particularly experienced staff to develop a case study in each of those areas. You could pick and choose your assessment based on your candidate’s existing skills, and the engagements you expect to be assigning.

Some practices use a single assessment for all candidates, making allowances in the grading process for differences in experience level. This assessment is typically completed under a time requirement in order to measure the ability to translate thinking into language.

FMV Opinions has had success with a case-study type assessment that lets them see if someone can think outside the box. Can the person take open-ended questions and make a convincing argument in response to a question that doesn’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer?

Pellegrino & Associates provides candidates with a set of facts and asks them to write, on the spot, an interpretation and summary of the facts. They also have the candidate write emails/letters on difficult interpersonal subject matters and other real-world situations. The writing samples go to their in-house, certified editor for review and critique. Going the extra mile, Pellegrino puts new hires through a day-long, in-house writing workshop.

Assessing writing skills is a key step in your hiring process. Don’t just follow the path of least resistance. Make it effective!

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John Borrowman
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