How to Prepare for a CFO Interview as a Financial Executive

August 19, 2014

Take your financial career to the next level.  As an aspiring financial executive, the ability to think ahead is a must-have trait. So why, on many occasions, do people attempting to take on a new financial leadership position wait until the night before an interview to prepare?

You wouldn’t prepare financial statements in 24 hours or less, you wouldn’t draw out your budget on notebook paper, and you should most certainly not wait until the last minute to prepare for your career move.

Top Personality Traits of a CFO


In addition to our four roles of a modern chief financial officer, CFO Magazine contributor Lisa Yoon offers even more advice on what recruiters and hiring managers look for from a CFO.

“I’m looking for someone who asks good questions, who is thoughtful, who is analytical. The best are those who have been confidants of the CEO and can tell stories of how they’ve helped solve business problems.”

Preparing for Your CFO Interview

You seek to be a leader of an organization.  Make the most of your time spent preparing—both mentally and physically—for your next interview with a recruiter or company board.  The Overture Group looks to share with you a brief guide on preparing for your interview.

ASAP: Understand the Position and How You Will Make it Better

You are looking to manage the financial operations of a company.  However, there is much more to the position than that.  Do you understand the culture, the leadership needs, or even the specific company requirements?  Even if your recruiter prepares you perfectly in the briefing calls that he or she makes to you, there are always more sources for information about the company and the industry as a whole.

Bring a Resume and Cover Letter to Life

So you got the interview by tailoring your resume and cover letter using our tips (Executive Cover Letter Example, Resume Example).  Now it’s time to bring these documents to life.  In “Interview like a CFO,” Forbes Contributor Ellevate shares tips to prepare for an interview:

  • What does it mean to be CFO at this company? At this level, it is assumed you have the skills. The interview is about your style and approach. Envision your style as a CFO, how do you lead? What perspective do you take? Formulate your talking points as if you are the job.
  • Prepare your key messages as 2 to 3 stories. Stories are highly engaging and bring people along with you. Create the top 2 or 3 stories that showcase your leadership style and perspective. Practice them until they flow easily and with passion. You should be able to use these to answer most interview questions.
  • Prepare your questions: Asking great questions is a sign of respect, knowledge and engagement in the business. Do your research and then formulate two relevant strategic questions that nail the space or take the business forward.

One Day to One Week Before: Pump Yourself Up

Days before the interview, you need to get as confident as possible.  Go find a ringer to play against you in golf (or whatever your sport), buy new interview attire, watch your favorite inspirational movie (or inspirational movie monologue)—anything to get prepared.

On the night before your interview, Forbes recommends the obvious ‘get a good night’s sleep,’ but also recommends this little hint to improve your focus and confidence:  Eat a steak.

Interview Day: Prepare to Win

Again, get your confidence going.  The minute you wake up, you are in need of a boost.  Get your coffee, and start visualizing success.  Read the company’s latest blog post to build rapport with the interviewer, check for news surrounding the company, and go for a run.  Getting any exercise the day of an interview will get your endorphins going and your blood flowing.

Watch that inspirational speech again.  Listen to some music to keep the blood flowing. Be nice to people.  When you are nice to people, you feel better and your day goes more smoothly. You are more optimistic and relaxed.  

Minutes Before: Center Yourself

It’s game time.  You come into this interview confident, well prepared, and ready to get the ball rolling.  You’re ready for this.  Take a few deep breaths, remember your rapport building topics and your prepared stories, and show the board what you can do.

Additional Resources for Winning the CFO Job

Of course there’s the next steps, including acing the interview itself and thanking the interviewer.  Be sure to follow these resources to make the most of the interview and the follow-up.

If you’re a senior executive looking to take the next step, please contact our recruiting professionals today.

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