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

While most financial controllers stand near the top of the company hierarchy, they typically report to the CEO, CFO, or board of directors. Their work directly influences the financial trajectory of your company, making it vital to hire someone who is comfortable disclosing sensitive information to the appropriate people when the situation demands it.

What to listen for

  • Discussion of upholding compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Top candidates will stress having a strict code of ethics, and will highlight the importance of trust, accuracy, and honesty.

Why this matters

Management of your margins is where a controller adds the most value. Their expertise and guidance can help you avoid making bad decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information. A skilled controller will serve up timely data and targeted insights that can help you meet profitability targets.

What to listen for

  • Advice involving the economic value you receive from increasing revenue by each dollar, the costs and cash required for growth, and how quickly you can realize the benefits.
  • Evidence that the candidate is flexible, responsive, and forward-looking.

Why this matters

This question not only reveals whether your candidate has done their research, but also tells you a lot about their philosophy on financial management. Great controllers have the foresight to recognize where changes can be made, and they’re comfortable taking initiative and challenging the status quo for the good of the organization.

What to listen for

  • Past experience recognizing opportunities and successfully implementing new processes or procedures.
  • A willingness to present recommendations to management shows the candidate will be effective in a senior role.

Why this matters

While we all make mistakes, financial controllers are entrusted to avoid them as much as possible, as they can have a significant impact on your company’s finances and future success. Every successful controller should have a process for quality control to ensure issues are caught early—or avoided entirely.

What to listen for

  • Candidates should discuss their experience with preventative and detective controls.
  • Experienced controllers may speak to corrective controls, used when preventative and detective controls fail.

Why this matters

One of the major challenges within change management is assessing a company’s readiness. A competent controller is able to identify specific issues and plan accordingly to minimize risks. If they fail to do so, performance improvement may not be achieved, and associated costs can be higher than expected.

What to listen for

  • Experience ensuring change initiatives meet objectives on time and on budget.
  • If the candidate has no prior experience with change management, probe for how they would ensure controls.

Why this matters

It’s hard to overstate the impact errors and fraud can have on your business. You want to be sure your next controller is dedicated to protecting your organization’s assets and preventing nefarious activities. Having a system of checks and balances is a requirement for anyone in this role.

What to listen for

  • References to tactics like password management, audit trails, and separation of duties are industry standards.
  • Strong candidates may know how to implement proven processes that prevent departures from expected results.

Why this matters

This question can help you assess whether your candidate is adaptable and forward-looking. From keeping up with technology to effectively navigating increased regulations and data breaches, every company needs an action plan. Ideally, you want to hire a finance leader who’s able to visualize a future-proof organization.

What to listen for

  • A thoughtful, informed response that demonstrates they keep one eye on the future.
  • Strong candidates won’t fear emerging technology like automation or artificial intelligence, but will embrace them for the good of the company.

Why this matters

Since a controller oversees the accounting processes for the entire company, maintaining good business partnerships is critical to their success. Top candidates will have experience collaborating with many departments, including IT, legal, HR, supply chain, and procurement. Operating in a silo is not an option.

What to listen for

  • Knowledge that a communicative and committed team is essential to fulfilling controllership responsibilities.
  • Self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and strong social skills.

Why this matters

Controllers should be innately curious and eager to advance their education. This includes maintaining industry certifications, as well as improving leadership and management skills. An enthusiasm for lifelong learning is likely to equate to a drive to help your business succeed—now and in the future.

What to listen for

  • An interest in discussing financial topics of the day, stock trends, and other industry specifics.
  • Great candidates may inquire whether the organization provides opportunities to continue their education or further their skills.