CFO Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

Chief financial officers 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 out your responses in anticipation, you’ll have a better chance at success. In this article, we cover CFO interview questions that you’ll likely encounter during your interview, along with some example answers to help you get ready.

General questions

Even though your interview will start out with conversation and getting to know the interviewer, the common interview questions you’ll likely encounter may vary because of your level of leadership and management experience. For instance, the interviewer will likely be looking for personality traits and strong skill sets that will be an asset to the company. Here are several example questions to prepare for:

  • 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?

  • Do you have any questions about the job or our company?

Questions about background and experience

As you get into the conversation about your experience, the interviewer will want to evaluate your past work performance, how you’ve make contributions to your past company’s success and other insight into your work ethic, financial knowledge and ability to direct and lead a team or entire department. The following example questions can give you an idea of what to expect:

  • 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 was your most important contribution to your past company?

  • Have you ever disagreed with your company’s stakeholders? How did you resolve the issue?

In-depth questions

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 examples to help you prepare in advance:

  • 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?

  • How do you apply risk mitigation strategies?

CFO interview questions and sample answers

The following CFO interview questions and example answers can give you an idea of what to expect during your interview:

What do you feel 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 to this question should include examples from your prior experience implementing 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 kinds of 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 experience.

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, and 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 will want 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.

This is another accounting and finance principle that you should know and understand as a CFO. The interviewer will want to 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.”

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