As an executive search firm, we help place CFO’s at nonprofits and social enterprises. The recruiters here at Y Scouts try to understand a number of things about a CFO candidate – their purpose, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements a CFO has had in their career – and a lot more. (Note: if you’re looking to hire a CFO, contact us and we’d be happy to share our recruiting process with you)
Chief financial officers in the Y Scouts Leadership Community have given us some of their favorite CFO interview questions. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Please tell me what we do in your own words.
This question easily demonstrates how much research the candidate put into the company prior to the interview. We’ve noticed that the best hires usually put a lot of research into the company and our goals, so this question gives these candidates a chance to demonstrate their knowledge.
2. What are your goals?
This question helps me see what a candidate’s motivations are. Since a person’s motivation can show whether or not they will fit in well with the company and its goals, I think this question is important. By knowing their motivation from the get-go, it’s easier to start a successful relationship.
3. What is the key to a successful budget?
I like this question because it gives the candidate a chance to really demonstrate their knowledge of the industry. I can also use their answer to evaluate how they would apply their idea of success within our company.
4. Pitch our company as you would in a sales meeting.
An executive must be able to represent the company inside and outside of the workplace. If they can effectively describe what your company does and how they do it, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not they can represent your business professionally.
5. Ask questions that determine cultural fit.
Someone who fits in with the company’s environment will likely share the company’s goals. Whether or not a candidate fits into a company’s culture can determine how successful they are in the position. It’s important to analyze your company’s culture and ask questions about it while interviewing a CFO or any executive.
6. Describe a time where you identified a problem, considered your options, and picked an effective solution.
These situation-based questions allow a candidate to draw on their own experience. It also shows me how they use problem-solving skills inside the workplace, which is important for any chief financial officer.
7. What is the one thing you would change about the company today if you could?
I like this question because it shows how much thought the candidate has put into my business. It also shows where they would like to take the company in an executive role. The thoughtfulness of this answer is more important than the answer’s content.
8. Teach me something I don’t already know.
A friend of mine once said the heads at Google often ask a similar question during interviews. It gives the candidate a chance to demonstrate their knowledge and personality, along with one of their unique skills.
9. What long-term plans did you make in your last job? How did you reach your long-term goals?
This question helps me figure out how the candidate prepares for the future of a company. Do their long-term goals coincide with their short-term goals? What issues do they see the company or industry having in the future that we should start preparing for now?
10. What are your 3 biggest accomplishments?
This question gives me a lot of answers, because I can see what the person considers an accomplishment. Do most of their accomplishments happen in the workplace, or from their life experiences? Do they value teamwork, achieving a desired end result, or monetary success?
11. What 5 personal characteristics describe you the best?
This question teaches me lot about a person. It shows which personal characteristics the candidate values the most, and which of these attributes they would use to describe themselves. It’s a great way to evaluate how they would fit into my company and if they would be happy in this position.
12. Tell us 3 Likes and 3 Dislikes you have at your current job.
This will show you a lot about a person’s work personality. If they only have bad things to say about their current job, it could be a red flag. However, if the things they like about their current job are important for your company, they could be a good fit for the position.
13. Explain the rationale behind each of your career moves.
I ask job candidates to explain each of their career choices following their college graduation. The answer can help me decide how they use strategy to make big decisions when they have an end goal in mind.
14. How do you keep up on industry news?
I like to know how a potential executive stays in touch with changes in their area of expertise. Are they constantly trying to learn more about the industry, or are they fine with stagnation? How they consume knowledge can also tell a lot about their personality.
15. How do you utilize communication skills?
Someone in an executive position must be able to communicate with direct reports, their coworkers, and myself. I have to know that their communication style will be effective in my company.
You might be interested in these other posts about hiring a CFO:
– When to Hire a CFO
– What to Look for in a CFO
– How to Hire a CFO
– What to Pay a CFO
What CFO interview questions have you been asked? Leave your questions in the comments below.