Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters:

The 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 context, and more. If you rely on outside capital (e.g. fundraising), they should also be able to seize capital opportunities.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that they are in touch with relevant economic, industry, and marketplace context and trends.
  • A facility for drawing insights from data, especially sales data.
  • Top answers will draw from past experience.

Why this matters:

Budgeting and forecasting are two key components of a CFO’s job, helping companies to anticipate revenue and plan expenses for an upcoming quarter or fiscal year. Top CFOs understand how to prioritize  the resources and tools available to them, often working cross-departmentally to gather what they need to develop strong models.

What to listen for:

  • Proven experience creating realistic budgets and forecasts.
  • Listen for references to gathering and analyzing relevant data from both internal and external sources.
  • Top answers may mention using predictive modeling and business intelligence tools.

Why this matters:

This question tests your candidate’s tax expertise, while also giving you insight into their ability to help your company navigate any future mergers, acquisitions, or sales. Even if a candidate hasn’t advised on an M&A transaction in the past, they should be able to confidently explain the tax considerations that go into one.

What to listen for:

  • A description of how assets are valued differently from their book value during M&A deals, resulting in changes to a company’s tax obligations.
  • An ability to discuss technical financial concepts in a clear, concise fashion.
  • Past experience with M&A deals is a plus.

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, taking both risk and potential profitably into account.

What to listen for:

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

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.
  • Great answers may mention seeking feedback from employees about which processes could be better.
  • Candidates should cover how they measured the results after implementing a change.

Why this matters:

Dealing with a company’s finances on a daily basis, CFOs must be bastions of ethical behavior. They are not only responsible for acting ethically themselves, but 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.
  • Top answers may mention strategies like encouraging employees to speak up about suspected misconduct.
  • A vague answer may indicate that the candidate doesn’t 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.
  • Candidates may mention providing space 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 out the input and perspectives of their team.
  • 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 they act empathetically and seek to get to the root cause of problems.
  • Great answers may stress speaking to the employee privately.
  • If a candidate indicates they’re quick to let employees go, rather than working toward a mutual win, this could be a red flag.