CFO Interview Questions (With Example Answers)
Chief financial officers (CFOs) are integral to the financial activity and oversight of an organization. These professionals analyze financial data to determine profitable ventures, contribute to growth and achieve business goals. Preparing for an interview for a CFO position can be exciting, and when you plan your responses in anticipation, you'll have a better chance at success. In this article, we cover CFO interview questions you might encounter during your interview, along with some example answers to help you get ready.
Related: What Is a Chief Financial Officer?
Interviewers typically begin by asking you general questions to get to know you, such as:
What were some of your responsibilities in your prior role?
How has that experience prepared you for a position at our company?
Do you have previous knowledge of our company?
What do you know about our company's financial initiatives, success and goals?
What do you feel makes you capable of taking on the level of responsibility this role requires?
What are some unique strengths you'll bring to this company?
What are some of your accomplishments within the past several years?
How have you developed your leadership skills throughout your career?
Why are you looking for a new job opportunity?
If you weren’t a CFO, what do you think you would do to earn a living?
Do you have any questions about the job or our company?
Questions about background and experience
The interviewer will also likely want to evaluate your past work performance, contributions you’ve made as well as your work ethic, financial knowledge and ability to direct and lead a team or department. Here are several example questions:
How long have you worked in a financial leadership position?
Do you have prior experience as a chief financial officer?
Describe your education and training.
Describe your leadership style.
How has your approach to leadership helped your team succeed?
What is your approach to initiating new strategies with your team?
What is your experience with directing investment activities?
How do you manage the annual budget of your current company?
What is your experience with risk management?
What was your most important contribution to your past company?
In your most recent role, how did you foster ethical behavior in your team?
What have you done in the past to help a company like ours grow and/or scale?
Given what you know about this company, where do you think you could add value?
Have you ever disagreed with your company's stakeholders? How did you resolve the issue?
In-depth questions will focus on your finance and accounting skills, experience and your ability to carry out a high level of responsibility within the company. Additionally, the interviewer will most likely be looking for your hard skills as well as soft skills, such as your strategic planning, analytical thinking and decision-making skills. Here are some questions you might be asked:
What are your investment strategies for funding company departments during an annual budget cycle?
Can you tell me about a time when you initiated an organizational change, such as restructuring a department? How did you approach it?
How do you determine whether an organization should be making investments?
How do you apply financial strategies to solve business problems?
If you noticed the annual forecast projects a revenue decrease, how would you solve this problem?
What kinds of finance and accounting tools do you use on the job?
What resources will you need from the company to complete objectives effectively?
How do you measure ROI when making investments?
What is entity risk and why is it important in regards to financial activities?
Why are deferred tax liabilities created during merger and acquisition deals?
CFO interview questions and sample answers
The following CFO interview questions and example answers can help you prepare for your interview:
What are the most difficult decisions for a CFO to make?
CFOs take on a high level of responsibility, and many of these responsibilities involve making difficult decisions. Your answer should highlight your ability to analyze factors affecting your company's success and implement strategies that reduce risks to the enterprise while achieving results.
Example: "In my first financial management role, I found that making decisions about process changes to be the most challenging for me. This is mainly because the level of detail involved meant I was reaching out to some of our stakeholders across the globe, which almost risked our deadlines. Additionally, changing business processes across the entire organization involved all departments, which was another challenging aspect. Bringing everyone together to ensure we all understood what new initiatives were in place was part of that challenge, but we did so successfully."
How do you approach strategic workforce planning?
The interviewer will be looking for your ability to collaborate with your team and colleagues, apply analytical thinking and find ways to achieve business goals. Your answer should include examples from your experience where you implemented strategies that resulted in a beneficial outcome.
Example: "I first consider the overall goals of the company. Then, I analyze the current environment, such as the current talent, skill sets and other factors, before identifying where there may be gaps. In one case, during my initial development process, I noticed the sales team needed improvement in communication and sales techniques. This gap led me to develop a series of sales training sessions where our sales team participated in professional development. That resulted in a higher customer engagement rate, which increased our sales overall, directly benefiting the company and reducing marketing costs."
What financial initiatives have you introduced and how were they successful?
This type of question allows the interviewer to understand how motivated you are to help the entire organization achieve its business goals. Demonstrate your ability to plan strategically and accomplish objectives that lead to financial gains with examples from your previous work.
Example: "One initiative I introduced in my previous company was an investment strategy into high-yield, preferred stocks. This gave the firm an ROI of 12% during the first two years, which has led to much of the growth of the company. Since this initiative to investments was so successful, I have initiated other investment strategies that have aided in the profitability of the organization."
How would you determine the financial value of our company?
The interviewer wants to know what finance tools you'd use to determine a quick overview of the company's worth. Demonstrate your knowledge of essential financial principles by describing your process for evaluating a company's financial value.
Example: “I would do a quick evaluation of your company's financial standing using an EBITDA, which is the company's earnings before deducting interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. This is a nice, quick metric for getting an idea of the net income your company generates. The EBITDA is also efficient for quickly addressing the financial value of a company with its stakeholders."
Walk me through the process of a discounted cash flow (DCF).
This is another accounting and finance principle that you should know and understand as a CFO. The interviewer will evaluate your experience with following a DCF to determine a more accurate picture of the company's worth. Use your answer to describe the process and how you have used the process to direct financial activities in your last organization.
Example: "My first step in building a DCF model is to create a five-year financial forecast of the company's balance sheet, income statement and shareholder equity statement. This is all based on my business assumptions of your company's performance. After creating a forecast, I'd calculate the terminal values through a perpetual growth rate or an exit multiple. This allows me to discount the forecast time period and terminal values back to the present values, along with a discount rate, resulting in the overall financial value for the company.”
Related: CFO Resume Examples and Templates
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