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Interview questions

Chief Financial Officer

For the interview

A positive opener to start

What do you enjoy most about working at the board level?

Why did you choose a career in finance?

Behavioral Questions

  • Name a time you changed the way a finance department functioned, which positively impacted the team.
    • This will be one of the main functions of a CFO, so knowing they have the confidence and knowledge to make decisions like this is essential.
  • Tell me about the most challenging decision you’ve had to make when leading a finance team.
    • Here, you’ll get an idea of a decision that challenged your candidate’s skills and how they overcame this challenge.
  • Tell me about a time you didn’t have the answer to a question from your team. How did you proceed?
    • When working at the board level, an entire department will look to you for leadership. You need to know that your potential CFO can lead their team, even when they don’t have answers. Here, they should mention checking data, researching, and coming back to their team member.
  • Talk me through a time when a team hasn’t agreed with your decision; what did you do?
    • As a leader, your CFO must be able to back up their decisions with facts and figures. In this answer, they should mention doing this.

Soft Skills

  • How do you prioritise requests when multiple team members require decisions from you?
    • As board leaders should lead by example, it is important that they deal with problems as they would like their teammates to. This should involve checking deadlines, assessing the impact on the company, and responding appropriately.
  • What steps would you take if you noticed your department seemed to be struggling with motivation?
    • Here, you’re looking for instant action. Low motivation levels can lead to a slip in work quality and reduced employee retention. You need a candidate who can lead a follow-up study, and create a plan of action.
  • What skills do you have that are important as a Chief Finance Officer?
    • Here, a candidate will name their relevant leadership and financial skills, whether they’re soft skills or hard skills. They may mention skills you hadn’t previously thought of!
  • When helping a line manager improve in their leadership, how do you ensure they’re understanding your advice?
    • Communication and mentorship skills are an essential part of any board-level role. Here, a candidate may mention multiple follow-up meetings, as well as one on one sessions with the manager.

Hard Skills

  • What is the largest team you have led? Were you comfortable with this?
    • Finance departments will vary in size from company to company; getting an idea of what size group a candidate has worked with helps you to better assess their fit.
  • Do you specialise in any area of finance?
    • While a CFO will need a solid understanding of most areas in finance, knowing whether they specialise in any particular area is useful.
  • Which financial tools and systems have you worked with in the past?
    • This gives you a better understanding of how a candidate will fit into your team.
  • Which people management systems have you had experience with?
    • Again, you will find out whether a candidate needs to be onboarded with any tools.
  • Do you have any experience with hiring and training a team from scratch?
    • This will be especially relevant in a start-up or small business.

Operational / Situational Questions

  • If you were required to hire for a role you weren’t fully familiar with, how would you handle this?
    • Here you’re looking for the initiative. The CFO should be comfortable getting assistance from someone else within the business, with ensuring the best decision is made for the team.
  • If you noticed when preparing to report that similar, frequent mistakes were arising, what would you do?
    • Here, time is of the essence. Tracing the steps that were taken to make these mistakes, and retraining the relevant stakeholders will help the business in the long run.
  • What steps do you take to ensure full safety when it comes to handling confidential files and information?
    • A CFO will deal with a large amount of confidential information; knowing the candidate understands the importance of this and has experience with similar situations is great. 
  • If you were to join our team as a Chief Financial Officer, what would your first steps be?
    • The CFO should spend some time familiarising themselves with current business positions and practices, getting to know the team and their needs, as well as making introductions with other stakeholders.

Best interview questions for a Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officer Interview Questions

Chief Financial Officers are key to a business’ financial success. Experts in reviewing financial records and statements, overseeing large financial deals, and preparing insights and reports for the board.

These are a few of the most important skills to look for in a Chief Financial Officer:

  • Experience leading a business’ financial department
  • Strong financial reporting and analysis skills
  • Contract negotiation skills
  • Strong understanding of local tax laws
  • Financial forecasting ability
  • Ability to create strategic financial plans at the board level

Interviewing a Chief Financial Officer

When interviewing for a CFO position, a candidate must have examples of experience that demonstrate their qualifications. The candidate also needs to be sure that they can explain how they will strategically lead and motivate people in their team, especially if this is their first time holding a C-Level position. 

Therefore, having a variety of questions prepared for a CFO role is essential. That’s why we’ve put together these example CFO interview questions to ensure you’re making the right hire.

How to open the job interview

Even at a board level, the interview process can be daunting. So, to get an accurate overview of your candidate, why not put them at ease with the following laid-back, icebreaker questions?

For the interview

A positive opener to start

What do you enjoy most about working at the board level?

Why did you choose a career in finance?

Behavioral Questions

  • Name a time you changed the way a finance department functioned, which positively impacted the team.
    • This will be one of the main functions of a CFO, so knowing they have the confidence and knowledge to make decisions like this is essential.
  • Tell me about the most challenging decision you’ve had to make when leading a finance team.
    • Here, you’ll get an idea of a decision that challenged your candidate’s skills and how they overcame this challenge.
  • Tell me about a time you didn’t have the answer to a question from your team. How did you proceed?
    • When working at the board level, an entire department will look to you for leadership. You need to know that your potential CFO can lead their team, even when they don’t have answers. Here, they should mention checking data, researching, and coming back to their team member.
  • Talk me through a time when a team hasn’t agreed with your decision; what did you do?
    • As a leader, your CFO must be able to back up their decisions with facts and figures. In this answer, they should mention doing this.

Soft Skills

  • How do you prioritise requests when multiple team members require decisions from you?
    • As board leaders should lead by example, it is important that they deal with problems as they would like their teammates to. This should involve checking deadlines, assessing the impact on the company, and responding appropriately.
  • What steps would you take if you noticed your department seemed to be struggling with motivation?
    • Here, you’re looking for instant action. Low motivation levels can lead to a slip in work quality and reduced employee retention. You need a candidate who can lead a follow-up study, and create a plan of action.
  • What skills do you have that are important as a Chief Finance Officer?
    • Here, a candidate will name their relevant leadership and financial skills, whether they’re soft skills or hard skills. They may mention skills you hadn’t previously thought of!
  • When helping a line manager improve in their leadership, how do you ensure they’re understanding your advice?
    • Communication and mentorship skills are an essential part of any board-level role. Here, a candidate may mention multiple follow-up meetings, as well as one on one sessions with the manager.

Hard Skills

  • What is the largest team you have led? Were you comfortable with this?
    • Finance departments will vary in size from company to company; getting an idea of what size group a candidate has worked with helps you to better assess their fit.
  • Do you specialise in any area of finance?
    • While a CFO will need a solid understanding of most areas in finance, knowing whether they specialise in any particular area is useful.
  • Which financial tools and systems have you worked with in the past?
    • This gives you a better understanding of how a candidate will fit into your team.
  • Which people management systems have you had experience with?
    • Again, you will find out whether a candidate needs to be onboarded with any tools.
  • Do you have any experience with hiring and training a team from scratch?
    • This will be especially relevant in a start-up or small business.

Operational / Situational Questions

  • If you were required to hire for a role you weren’t fully familiar with, how would you handle this?
    • Here you’re looking for the initiative. The CFO should be comfortable getting assistance from someone else within the business, with ensuring the best decision is made for the team.
  • If you noticed when preparing to report that similar, frequent mistakes were arising, what would you do?
    • Here, time is of the essence. Tracing the steps that were taken to make these mistakes, and retraining the relevant stakeholders will help the business in the long run.
  • What steps do you take to ensure full safety when it comes to handling confidential files and information?
    • A CFO will deal with a large amount of confidential information; knowing the candidate understands the importance of this and has experience with similar situations is great. 
  • If you were to join our team as a Chief Financial Officer, what would your first steps be?
    • The CFO should spend some time familiarising themselves with current business positions and practices, getting to know the team and their needs, as well as making introductions with other stakeholders.

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