Why this matters:

The chief financial officer (CFO) is in charge of making sure your company remains well capitalized, with healthy topline growth, strong margins, proactive tax planning, and other factors. They must be able to forecast revenue using precise financial modeling — informed by sales trends, economic and industry contexts, and more. If you rely on outside capital (ex: fundraising), they should also be able to seize opportunities for obtaining it.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate is in touch with relevant economic, industry, and marketplace contexts and trends
  • An ability to draw insights from data — especially sales data
  • Answers that draw from experience

Why this matters:

The CFO oversees the accounting and administration functions for the company. Their role may include directly supervising staff, developing and enforcing systems, and signing off on financial reports at all levels of the organization. Excellent management skills are required to succeed in all areas.

What to listen for:

  • Day-to-day approaches and overall strategies that keep their team motivated, productive, and aligned with the company’s needs
  • Answers that highlight a commitment to strong collaboration and communication

Why this matters:

Budgeting and forecasting are two key components of the CFO job, helping companies anticipate revenue and plan expenditures for an upcoming quarter or fiscal year. Top CFOs understand how to prioritize the resources and tools available to them, and often work across departments to gather what they need for developing strong models.

What to listen for:

  • Proven experience creating realistic budgets and forecasts
  • References to gathering and analyzing relevant data from both internal and external sources
  • Mentions of using predictive modeling and business intelligence tools

Why this matters:

Your next CFO will play a vital role in helping the executive management team and board of directors make major financial decisions, including assessing prospective investments. A good CFO uses their financial acumen to make strategic recommendations that take risk and potential profitability into account.

What to listen for:

  • A thorough approach to research and evaluation
  • A proven track record of recommending smart investments
  • Examples of times the candidate has acted as a strategic advisor to the business, if they’ve not been directly involved in making investment decisions

Why this matters:

The best CFOs don’t just maintain the status quo — they’re always looking for ways to optimize processes and improve efficiency. Whether that means eliminating an unnecessary extra step or modernizing a process by implementing new technology, they’re dedicated to helping the accounting and finance teams function better.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate takes an innovative approach to their role
  • Mentions of seeking feedback from employees about which processes could be better
  • Descriptions of how the candidate measured the results after implementing a change

Why this matters:

Dealing with a company’s finances on a daily basis, the CFO must be a paragon of ethical behavior. They’re responsible not only for acting ethically themselves, but also for ensuring that their direct reports do the same. Candidates should have a clear understanding of what constitutes ethical behavior and what doesn’t — and recognize their role in preventing misconduct and fraud.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence that the candidate leads by example
  • Mentions of strategies like encouraging employees to speak up about suspected misconduct
  • Specific answers that indicate they take an active role in promoting ethical behavior

Why this matters:

As part of your executive team, your next CFO will regularly have to engage with the company’s board of directors. This requires strong communication skills and an ability to disseminate information in a clear, objective, and honest manner. Nobody enjoys delivering bad news, but you need to know your new hire won’t try to gloss over challenging details.

What to listen for:

  • A commitment to transparency and building trust
  • A focus on straightforward communication that aids comprehension, especially when complex financial information is involved
  • Mention of providing opportunities for the board to ask questions

Why this matters:

Chief financial officers don’t operate in a vacuum — nor should they. Since your next CFO will work closely with other members of the finance department to plan and manage the company’s financial activities, you need to know that they can foster healthy working relationships with their direct reports and collaborate effectively to solve challenges.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate values teamwork and actively seeks the input and perspectives of their team members
  • An emphasis on “we” language rather than “I” when talking about collaboration
  • Evidence of keen collaboration and problem-solving skills

Why this matters:

This question can help you assess a candidate’s leadership skills and empathy. You want to know that your new executive hire will create a team culture in which employees are empowered to do their best work. That means leading with empathy, while still driving high performance and addressing issues when they arise.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence that the candidate behaves empathetically and seeks to find the root cause of problems
  • Emphasis on speaking to the employee privately
  • Preference for working toward a mutual win
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