The 5 Questions Every CFO Needs to Ask Job Candidates

Finding top talent is important in every department, but when hiring the people who will handle the company’s money, it’s essential. To hire A-listers, you can’t rely on your HR director alone; you need to be personally involved with the process and vet candidates carefully via interviews. It’s not just the answers that matter; you need to ask the right questions to reveal your rock-star hires. Here’s how to uncover the gems among the candidates you’re considering.

“When Were You Last Promoted?”

No matter where they worked previously, talented people move up. Promotions are a signifier of talent, but they also tell you a good bit about a candidate’s goals. Listen closely to someone who was recently promoted at a prior position yet is already looking to move on from it; why is he or she seeking a new opportunity? If a candidate has never been promoted but is not an entry-level worker, dig a little deeper and find out if that’s due to a lack of motivation or because the previous position was already at the ceiling.

“Which Major Projects Have You Directed?”

Heading up projects is a sign of trust, and if previous employers trusted the candidate, you probably can too. Trust is paramount when looking for personnel in finance, and this question lets you address that in an indirect way that doesn’t put prospective employees on the defensive. It’s a dual-purpose question too, giving you insight into how your candidate has shown leadership ability in the past.

“Is This Position Equivalent to Your Last One?”

Rock-star employees rarely make superficial changes. Instead, they challenge themselves and look for opportunities that lead to growth. They’re hungry for more responsibilities and new goals, which they find by stretching themselves to fit new roles. What you’re looking for with this question is someone whose prior work overlaps or fits within the scope of the position you’re offering, not duplicates it precisely.

“How Do You Commit to Ongoing Learning?”

Top employees are constantly learning and improving. Ask a candidate about whether he or she wants to learn, and of course you’ll get nothing but yes; instead, ask about the ways in which candidates learn. Do they have a voracious appetite for job-related reading? Do they attend conferences and events germane to your industry? Are they constantly curious and capable of relating what they learn about a diverse array of subjects to their role in finance? Some of the most creative people go far afield in their search for knowledge, so don’t limit curiosity to finance-related goals.

“What Do You Like Here – and What Would You Change?”

This question has two parts, but it reveals three answers. First, you’ll see who’s done the right homework; someone who stumbles over this question hasn’t done sufficient research on your company to formulate a cogent answer. You’ll also find out about your candidate’s priorities: What does this prospective employee consider most important, and does that align with your organization’s goals? Finally, you’ll get a glimpse of how your prospective hire intends to contribute by telling you where he or she sees growth opportunities.

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