Business Consulting

Finding The Perfect CFO: 3 Steps

The role of CFO (chief financial officer) has been expanding in recent years at a rather rapid rate. The modern CFO is more than the company bean counter, he or she is a partner to the CEO, a strategic advisor to the company’s operations, and an analytics-driven leader for the entire organization.

Strong financial leadership is crucial to every business. In order to be competitive, you’ll need a strategic, analytics-driven CFO at the helm. The modern CFO is one that is very much a part of not only accounting and budgeting, but also operations, hiring, and analysis.

The needs of businesses are evolving rapidly. It’s increasing difficult to find the right fit for your company as the traditional role of CFO is being challenged. The needs of startups (as well as large corporations) change, and they each need a C-suite proven to be responsive to that change.

How do you find the perfect CFO for your organization? Here are 3 steps to find and identify the right fit:

  1. Evaluate your financial leadership

Before you delve into the process of finding a suitable CFO for your company, you’ll need to know what your needs are.

The first, and most obvious question is whether or not you actually require the services of a CFO. A CFO differs from a controller or bookkeeper in a number of ways. You’ll want to make sure you’re hiring the right role. While it’s definitely important for every company to have some form of financial leadership, hiring a CFO may not yet be necessary for a young company.

Below are a few questions to answer to see if hiring a CFO is right for your company at this juncture:

  • Do you need strong financial leadership to help steer the direction of your business?
  • Are you or your employees consistently tasked with finance-related tasks outside of day-to-day operations?
  • Are you falling short of your financial goals?

If you believe the answer is yes to the questions above, it is likely you will need to bring a CFO as soon as possible. If your situation is especially dire, or if you have suddenly lost leadership, you may even want to consider bringing on an interim CFO.

  1. Define the CFO role clearly

The modern CFO role is a diverse one. Often its definition is molded by the organization itself. Once you have evaluated your needs, you can draw up a specific set of expectations for the ideal CFO.

Do you want a CFO that challenges operations? How closely do you want your CFO to work with the CEO? Will the CFO be in charge of hiring decisions? What resources will he or she need to use to get the job done? These are questions that must be addressed and the answers should be tailored to the needs of your organization.

Once you’ve set these expectations, make it clear to CFO candidates. If you’re unsure about what you need, communicate this to potential hires and emphasize leadership.

  1. Prepare interview questions with passion in mind

Interviewing is often the trickiest part of the hiring process. When hiring an important position, like CFO, it’s important to get it right the first time. Missteps in hiring can be costly and time consuming. Luckily, as long as you set clear expectations and create a general Q-and-A script beforehand, you should be able to get reasonable results.

After building a rapport with your candidate, you should dive into the hard-hitting questions. You’ll want to get a sense of their experience, their expertise, and, most importantly, their passion for your organization.

Ask them questions that address their work history, their preferred company culture, and their knowledge of your industry:

  • Do you have experience working in my industry?
  • What is an accomplishment you are proud of?
  • What’s the first step to improving a budget?
  • How can you help us accomplish our financial goals?
  • Do you have the leadership qualities necessary to fulfill this role?
  • What experience do you have with mentorship?
  • Do you use analytics to back up your decisions?
  • What makes you excited about my company?


In order to find the perfect strategic CFO for your organization, you will need to do the hard work of identifying your own needs. Identify what it is that your company lacks in terms of financial leadership. If you are failing to reach your financial goals without one, you should most definitely consider bringing one on.

After you’ve evaluated your needs, you’ll need to set clear expectations. How a CFO fits into your company is completely up to you — as such, you’ll need to steer your candidates in the right direction. How involved will they be in operations? How much authority will they have? Be sure to address these questions before you begin your search.

With clear expectations ready, you’ll be prepared to venture into the interviewing process. Dive deep into their past work history. Do they have a proven track record? Are they passionate about your industry? Are they looking to advance the financial goals of your company?

Use these three steps to get closer to the ideal financial leadership in your company. If you remain realistic and stick to your definition of the CFO role, you should find a suitable candidate in a reasonable amount of time.

Ellie Martin

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Ellie Martin is co-founder of Startup Change group. Her works have been featured on Yahoo!, Wisebread, AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel.
Ellie Martin

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